As far as casinos are concerned, how important is it for players to play the right strategy? Most of my columns look at this aspect only from a player’s perspective.
I put it in the hourly loss rate to players. I turned this into the overall impact on the player’s bankroll during a week-long trip to Vegas. Today, I want to look at strategy on a completely different level. I will see how it has changed the gambling landscape in the world.
If you go back, not too far, to around 1980, there was actually only one game in the casino with a real strategy – blackjack. I ignore the poker rooms because the casino doesn’t really care who wins or loses there. They only care that someone is playing and as long as they are at it, they take a rake and are happy.
In 1980, most of the casino floor was covered with craps, roulette, blackjack and slots. Slots clearly lack strategy. In roulette, there are some bets that have a lower return than others, but that’s it.
Most of the bets have the same return and what you can do is avoid some of the lower bets. Craps are somewhat similar to roulette. There are some prop bets to avoid and you could argue that this strategy lays down the maximum true odds you can, but it’s not really a “strategy. That leaves blackjack. A game in which the refund to the player is largely determined by the hit / stick strategy the player uses.
Over the last 30-40 years, I think casinos have noticed a huge increase in the quality of play by players – a lot of the disadvantages of casinos. Thanks to the home computer players can practice at home and the right strategy can be disseminated much more quickly. The result is that casinos in casinos have plummeted due to blackjack. Some casinos were able to push back by changing the payouts on blackjack from 3 to 2, to 6 to 5. Blackjack rewards were reduced by 2% +, which is a great way of saying house profits grew by over 400%.
In my opinion, as storage space decreases, casinos become much better equipped to accept the new table games that are being created. It started with Caribbean Stud and Let It Ride, but exploded with Three Card Poker. There is little strategy in this game, but the return, even for a perfect play, is around 98%, which gives the casino a little more breathing room. Also, the betting average isn’t just 1.15 blackjack units, but the average is much higher than this.
In a bizarre way, the fact that players learned proper blackjack strategy led to a proliferation of other games. Casino profits increase and players prosper by gaining access to new, more entertaining games. While casinos are willing to try something new on the home table side, they are also willing to try something new on the slot floor.
Video poker machines made their debut too. But, while early table games had a strategy that was easier to learn than their predecessors (blackjack), the converse is true for video poker. Video poker strategy is as complex as blackjack and it seeks to take up space where the game is completely devoid of strategy.
I can’t help but wonder if video poker would have survived if a strategy wasn’t developed for them. Maybe they will because even by playing in the trouser chair one is leaving the paying video poker machines as well as the average slot machines.