An eleemosynary dilemma

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Recently I went to play blackjack at a benefit event in my local area, but I backed away before beginning. Their game was $1 minimum, therefore much to my liking, until I learned that the house was claiming pushes (player-dealer ties, for the info of those who are unfamiliar with the game) as wins for the house.

I really wanted to play-but not THAT badly-so I asked whether I had misunderstood them. I had heard that this was the general rule long ago, I told them, but I added that I hadn’t seen that in any casinos I had played in since beginning to learn the game. I hated to give up so many hours of playing blackjack, since I love the game and I wanted to help their cause. But I will never allow any house to claim any bet of mine which they have not actually won, either by beating me outright or as a result of my busting on that hand! Given the hours that I know I would have played, and based on my past playing experience, I knew that I would see at least 15, maybe up to 25 pushes during the evening. Some pushes might also occur when I bet more than the minimum; i.e., in the middle of a hot streak. Mostly, though, my yen for neatness, fairness, and order would not permit me to sit at that game, benefit cause notwithstanding. Period!

Are there any places, anywhere, that still practice this house-takes-pushes rule? And would you tell me, please, your candid opinion in regard to my stance as a matter of principle? Mike G.

Generally, charity games, your church’s Night in Las Vegas, and even Polka Gambling Jamborees keep the pushes in blackjack. Casinos do not offer such a hard-line rule because players like you would never belly up to the table. There is one exception, though: Double Exposure blackjack. Here the biggest departure from conventional blackjack is that both dealer cards are dealt face-up. However, because you get to view both of the dealer’s up-cards, the playing rules are adjusted to favor the casino more than in standard blackjack.

So a clutch of stuff is not allowed: paying blackjacks at even money, doubling down on anything but 9, 10, or 11, insurance, re-splits, and surrender. Also, all tie hands result in a loss with the exception of a player’s blackjack, which still beats the dealer’s snapper. Because of these rule changes, Mike, Double Exposure is less rewarding than traditional casino blackjack. It is a game definitely worth avoiding. But your question is based on charity games, Mike, and we are talking about a measly buck. My unvarnished opinion is that the house gobbling up pushes is simply part of the cost of philanthropic entertainment in support of worthy causes.

The last thing a charitable organization needs is a card sharp emptying the tray, running over to the prize table and exchanging his chips for a gigantic stuffed hippopotamus that wouldn’t fit in a two-ton pick-up.

Of course, Mike, there is always option B: skip the charity blackjack and learn to polka instead.

Don’t you think you are wrong to advise players in roulette to play exclusively on single zero roulette games, especially when some of us players like to play the 00 as a number? Paul M.

If playing on a single zero (as opposed to a double zero) roulette table is wrong, I don’t want to be right. This columnist has compared the house edge on both games (5.25% versus 2.7%) plenty of times in this column. My advice to you, Paul, is to find roulette religion, or, if not, just save the time and effort and mail your money in.

Gambling thought of the week: “Although it may seem to be a contradiction in terms, gambling is as spiritual as praying. Both activities seek devine affirmation and reversal of fortune.” -Kathryn Gabriel

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