Should you play 6-5 blackjack?

You walk into your favorite casino and wander over to the blackjack pit. You notice that the tables have new felts. Some have a blue felt and some have a green felt. You decide that because blue is your favorite color, you’ll sit down at a blue table. Besides, there aren’t as many people playing at blue tables, but you don’t think much of this. When you sit down, and start to play, you notice that the felt tells you that blackjack pays only 6-to-5 instead of the traditional 3-to-2.

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You call the pit boss over to ask what is going on. When did the tables change to 6-to-5 on blackjack? The pit boss tells you that they were just changed, but don’t worry, only the blue tables are 6-to-5, the green ones are still 3-to-2. You think about switching tables, and then you say to yourself that it really doesn’t matter much, so you stay where you are.

Makes sense doesn’t it? Why should you get up and move to another table? It doesn’t matter if you play at a table that pays you less for each blackjack, does it? If you get the right cards, what does it matter?

Well, it is always nice to get the right cards, but given that you should get a blackjack about every 22 hands or so, why would you want to let the casino keep all those extra dollars? Sure, you might not get your fair share, but even if you get one, you are allowing the casino to pay you less than if you moved to another table that pays 3-to-2.

Those extra dollars add up — about 1.4 percent of the total payback of the game. Most good blackjack players won’t even play at tables that pays 6-to-5 because it turns a very close game (99.5 percent) into one that is rather ordinary (98.1 percent).

It’s too bad that video poker players are not always that discriminating. Many casinos offer a variety of paytables of the same variation of video poker. Why would anybody play a jacks or better machine paying 8 credits for a full house if nearby there is another paying 9 (and everything else is the same)?

I can’t come up with a good reason. It really is no different than our blackjack player who decides to stay at his blue table. Yet, I don’t know of too many casinos that offer both 6-to-5 and 3-to-2, with all other things being the same.

Every less unit of payback for a full house, flush or straight translates into about a 1.1 percent payback decrease for the entire game. Sure, you never know what hands you are going to get when you sit down at a machine.

But the reality is that there is no reason to expect that the lower paying machine will have ”˜better’ cards. So, why would you want to sit down at a machine that is going to keep an extra coin every time you wind up with a full house, flush or straight?

Now, if at the blackjack pit, the boss begins to notice that the blue tables are nearly empty, while the green tables have players waiting, how long do you suppose those blue tables are going to stay in the casinos? The same is true of video poker.

If the bosses notice that the machines with the lesser paytables are sitting idle, they’ll have no choice but to put in better paying machines. If on the other hand, you sit and play them anyway, why would they feel compelled to put in better paying machines? If you’re content letting them keep those extra coins, don’t expect the casino to make any changes.