Dear Mark: I would like to know how you would have handled this blackjack scenario.

I made my biggest bet of the evening ($100), and the dealer proceeded to deal two cards to each player on the table. Before the first hand was played, the player in the middle position informed the dealer that he only had one card.

The dealer called over the pit boss, and she decided to give that player the option of calling his hand dead or taking the next card. Not to be a whiner, but what about me? Wouldn’t what happened be considered a misdeal?

Since I was sitting third base, my cards would have been different, and not the 16 that I received and eventually busted on. – Dale L.


I begin by saying that all players should expect the occasional mistake from a dealer.

Dealers deal 300 hands an hour, six hours a day, five shifts weekly, equating to approximately a half million hands of pitching, counting, and paying and taking per year. No one can do something roughly 500,000 times error free.

Now, Dale, playing referee, I would have handled your circumstance in the following manner, based, of course, on the rules in the multiple casinos where I had worked.

First, the player in the middle position slighted a card would be given the option of either receiving the next card or being allowed to fold his hand.

Then, with the cards being “out of order,” everyone else would also be given the opportunity of staying in with the two cards they were dealt or calling their hand dead.

What you seldom see in any casino is the cards backed up, nor do you hear the use of the word misdeal. Misdeals in a casino do happen, but they are typically related to a poker room when cards are dealt without being cut or when cards are dealt out of order, but not on a blackjack table. Where you can have a legitimate beef is if different pit bosses, even in the same pit, make contrary decisions.

Calling a particular hand differently confuses players, and that is why most casinos have inch-thick table game manuals with rules and regulations covering every possible situation.

At the particular casino where you played, it’s debatable if you were given a fair shake; it depends if you were given the option to call your hand dead. Their rules and regulations are obviously different from my experiences.

Or possibly, Dale, the size of your wager ($100) not being closer to the table minimum was the deciding factor. I’ve seen this played both ways, based more on the fear of players being in cahoots with each other than over a dealer error.

Nevertheless, the joints where I worked allowed some leeway when it came to a scenario such as yours. My approach was to always try to render a solution in the player’s favor, figuring, Dale, that the casino would most likely recoup any player’s winnings within a hand or two.


Dear Mark: I have always been curious as to how often the dealer busts. What is the average amount of times that it happens? – Skip B.

How often the dealer busts, Skip, is dependent on his or her up-card. Excluding having a “natural 21,” if the dealer is showing a seven through an ace, he or she will bust 17 percent of the time.

If the up-card is a two through a six, then the dealer will bust approximately 42 percent of the time.

Overall, the dealer will bust about 28 percent of the time considering all possible dealer up-cards.


Gambling Wisdom of the Month: “Chronic numbers players ... see clues to their fortune in the most minute and insignificant phenomena, in clouds, on passing trucks and subway cars, in creams, comic strips, the shape of dog-luck fouled on pavements.” – Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)


Mark Pilarski is a recognized authority on casino gambling, having survived 18 years in the casino trenches. Pilarski is the creator of the bestselling, award-winning audio book series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.

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