Why Play Video Blackjack?

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A tragedy happened last Tuesday night when a long-time friend of mine lost his life in a senseless automobile accident. This article is written for and dedicated to the memory of Gino Scaglione, who was an honest man, a good friend, and quite possibly the best craps dealer this town has ever known.

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I used to deal craps with Gino at a favorite locals casino many years ago. Much like me, he enjoyed a few cocktails and a little light gaming from time to time after work. Often we would go out together after our shift was over since we worked the same hours.

Gino’s game of choice was video blackjack. This always surprised me because of the odds on the game. Much like real blackjack, video blackjack is essentially an even-money game. If you want to win $20, then you must bet $20. Of course there are double-down and split opportunities even in the video version of the game, but often the rules are much more in favor of the house than they are on live blackjack.

For instance, you can’t split more than once for a total of two hands on video blackjack. You are limited to only being able to double-down on hands of 10 or 11 on most versions of the game, and it is often set to pay only even money for a blackjack.

So why would he play a game where the odds were strongly against him and the only opportunity to win big would be to risk losing just as much? I found out one night when we went out and he got particularly lucky. His reason for playing video blackjack was all because of a little red button on the bottom of the screen marked “Let it Ride.”

The let it ride button becomes available on many machines after you win a hand of video blackjack. Press it and you let your previous bet and winnings ride, essentially doubling your bet. If, like Gino, you have absolutely no fear, you can keep hitting the let it ride button over and over again, doubling your bet each time you win. Lose once though, and it’s all gone.

If, however, you don’t lose a hand during a rather long streak of letting it ride, the results can be quite profitable. On this night, Gino had started with a $10 bet and never looked back. He let it ride again and again, with his bet doubling each time to $20, $40, $80, $160, $320 and eventually $640.

Gino had won six hands in a row and in the process had turned a $10 bet into $640. I was right next to him witnessing every hand in utter disbelief. Even more unbelievable, his hand was hovering over the let it ride button once again. He was actually thinking about betting $640 on one hand of video blackjack under rules that would make any experienced blackjack player cringe!

That’s when I did the wrong thing; I gave him my unsolicited advice. “Dude, that’s enough. You would be crazy to let that ride again. Cash out already!”

Gino looked at me, smirked a bit, and then he hit the let it ride button anyway. Had I not seen it with my own two eyes I would never have believed it, but the machine actually dealt him a blackjack on the hand; an even-money blackjack, of course, but still a big winner.

The machine said “Win $1,280” and locked up for a taxable payout, which did not please Gino at all. He was happy to have won the hand, but he had bet $640 to win $640. Wins under $1,200 on machines are not taxable, so his argument was that he shouldn’t have to pay taxes on it because he only actually won $640.

In live blackjack, bets are considered to be in escrow once the first card is dealt until the hand is complete. The bet is neither the player’s money nor the casino’s money until the hand has been decided. After the hand, the player either loses the bet or wins an amount equal to the bet.

With a machine, all credits bet are considered spent, not in escrow. Once the bet button is hit, the credits bet become property of the casino. This means Gino essentially lost $640 when he hit the let it ride button, then he won the taxable amount of $1,280 when he won the hand.

So while Gino won the hand, he lost the argument. He also added another reason to the list of why we should never play video blackjack – taxes. And then he cashed out $1,280 in spite of the odds. This would have shocked me far more if it had been anyone else, but Gino always had a way of pulling off the unthinkable.

Goodbye, Gino. Thanks for the lessons and for the crazy, fun times you shared with me and so many others throughout the years. You will be missed my friend, but you will never be forgotten.

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(Editor’s Note: Brad Fredella is general manager of Stetson’s Saloon and Casino in Henderson, Nevada.)


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