Are strategy cards reliable?

Aug 14, 2007 12:00 AM

As I began analyzing Four Card Poker a few years ago, I found the information card that was on the table from Shuffle Master, the game’s creator. Truth be told, I’m suspect of any strategy other than my own. That is not to say that I don’t believe a strategy devised by a reputable analyst, it just means I won’t rely on it professionally, unless I verify it.

When I completed my analysis of Four Card Poker, I found that the strategy on the card was very nearly a perfect strategy. Since it only claimed to be Basic Strategy and it only deviated by 0.2% from perfect strategy, I don’t think anyone would have a right to complain about the free advice on the information card.

This leads to the obvious question — why would the inventor of a game, or in turn the casino, offer up solid strategy tips to the player? Going one step further, why wouldn’t the casino purposefully offer up flawed strategy tips to the player to help increase their profits?

There are two distinctly different answers to these questions. For the latter, I’ll give the credit to the lawyers of America. I would imagine if a casino gave a course on blackjack which suggested that you should always split 10s, some innovative lawyer would likely sue them for some form of false advertising or fraud or the like.

This doesn’t explain why many casinos offer classes and so many new games offer solid strategy tips on information cards.

Players like to win, but they’ll accept some losing as long as it is not too fast. Some of the newer games (and even some older ones) require complex strategy. If you play by the seat of your pants, you’re likely to find out that you’re playing the game far below the theoretical payback.

As the newer games tend to have a large number of units wagered per hand, playing incorrectly can eat away at your bankroll very fast. Most casinos are quite content taking your bankroll a little at a time. In the long run, they figure they’ll get more of your bankroll this way.

So, the casinos don’t mind turning the worst players into decent players. They know that they can run classes 24 hours per day and hand out strategy cards and still only a relatively small percentage of players will use the strategy.

The casino also knows that with the exception of some hard to find video pokers, casino games have a house advantage. This doesn’t mean everyone will lose. It means that while some people will win, more people will lose.

The casino can all but guarantee that when they are looking at the entire casino floor over a period of time, the theory will prove to be the reality and the casino will have its profits.

Thus, a primary goal for the casino is to keep players in the seats, not take their money as fast as possible. Don’t get me wrong; the casino does NOT want an army full of expert players sitting in every seat at every table. They’ll still make money, but far less of it.

So, what is today’s lesson? First, the casino is not likely to purposefully give you bad advice. Second, the advice the casino gives you will be sound, but likely far from perfect in many cases — especially for simple games.

Third, you’re not going to be an expert at most games if you sit in a class for an hour or two, or read an information card with some basic strategy. Four, advice from a dealer is not advice from an expert.

I’ve heard dealers give some awful strategy tips to players. I’m sure it is not on purpose, but it has been awful nonetheless. Most likely, someone who knows what they are doing created the strategy tips on information cards. Come to think of it, it’s very likely, they were created by me!