Seek out blackjack tables with the most favorable rules.
Not all blackjack games are created equal. There’s a wide range of rule variations, some good for the player, and some designed to do nothing but pad the house advantage.
Among the rules that are good for the player: Dealer stands on all 17s; player may double-down on any first two cards; player may double down after splitting pairs; player may re split Aces; player may surrender (after his first two cards, the player may surrender half his bet in exchange for not having to play out the hand.)
Among the rules that are bad for the player: Dealer hits soft 17, double-downs are restricted to 9, 10, or 11; player may not double after splitting pairs; player may not re split pairs; player may not resplit Aces.
Do you see a pattern here? Player options rules that give the player the most room to make decisions-are good, provided the player knows how to use them. Rules that restrict player decisions are bad.
The number of decks also enters the picture. If all other rules are equal, fewer decks are better. The house edge is lowest with a single deck, makes its biggest jump in switching from one deck to two, and increases by lesser amounts with each deck added to the shoe.
Play at single-zero wheels where available.
A casino table games director once told me that he was thinking of putting a single-zero roulette wheel in his high-limit pit. “I probably won’t do it, though,” he told me. “It doesn’t seem to make any difference to the guests. Some even complain that there’s no double-zero. It’s their lucky number.”
In reality, zero and double-zero are the players’ unlucky numbers. The house edge is derived from their presence. Most payoffs at roulette are set so they would be even bets if there were 36 numbers on the wheel. But zero and double-zero make it 38 numbers. That leaves a house edge of 5.26% on almost every bet on the layout.
When there is only one zero and no double zero, there are only 37 numbers on the wheel, close enough to the 36 on which payoffs are based that the house edge is slashed nearly in half. On a single-zero wheel, instead of giving the house $5.26 per every $100 bet, players spot the house only $2.70 per $100.
That’s a difference worth the trouble of a little search.
Slow down, and play big bac instead of mini-bac. Mini-baccarat, played on a blackjack-size table, has the same rules as regular baccarat, which is played on a 14-player table. But big baccarat, traditionally a high-roller’s game, moves at a more stately pace than mini-bac. Many casinos retain some ceremony at big bac, passing the shoe and having players deal the cards. At mini-baccarat the games moves more rapidly, with dealers pushing out cards as quickly as they can.
In any game, speed compounds the house edge; The faster the game, the higher your expected loss per hour. You’ll usually find higher minimum bets at big baccarat tables, but if you’re going to bet enough to beat the minimum anyway, your money will go farther at the big, slower table.