Don’t be upgraded, unless you want to!

Mar 11, 2003 4:20 AM

The casinos have a unique way of upgrading the size of player bets which often results in large losses to unsuspecting players.

A beginner at blackjack often seeks out the lowest minimum bet blackjack game. The player starts out betting the table minimum, for example, $5 a hand. Suppose the player wins a hand and lets the $5 winning chip ride. The player now has a $10 bet and is dealt a hand that requires a double down bet. A win at this point would require a payoff of four red chips. Sometimes, dealers will pay off with four red $5 chips; other times, they may give the player a green $25 chip and take away one of the red $5 chips as change. This latter transaction is known as coloring up and it effectively reduces the supply of the player’s lower denomination chips and replaces them with chips of a higher denomination.

So far, there is no damage done. But suppose the player runs out of red chips and has only green $25 chips left to bet with. What the player should do is ask the dealer for "check change" and convert a $25 chip into five red ones so he can make a $5 bet. However, most novice players do not ask for check change and make the mistake of betting the green $25 chip.

Sometimes, the player will get lucky and win the $25 bet. Other times, he may lose the $25 bet. And conceivably, he could lose a lot more than one $25 chip. How? Suppose the hand dealt required the player to split. This would require another $25 bet. And in the extreme case, he may be dealt cards to each split hand that require a double down bet. He conceivably could have four green chips on the table. Given this scenario, the player who came to the $5 minimum blackjack table, fully intent on betting $5 a hand, may now have a total of $100 bet on the hand. If the player gets lucky and wins the hand, he’ll win big. However, if he loses, he is out $100 which is probably all or even much more than he expected to lose. Mind you, this is a beginner who originally sat down intending to bet only $5 a hand.

You are probably thinking, who in their right mind would be throwing out $25 chips with a limited bankroll. Trust me, I see this happen more times than I care to remember. The player hasn’t been doing too well, and when he bets the $25 and is dealt a favorable double down or pair split hand, he believes that, by doubling the bet and winning, it will recoup all his losses. If you remember anything from this article, remember this: Even when basic strategy calls for a double down or pair split play, it does not guarantee you will win the hand. Yes, you have the edge over the dealer in these situations which means you will win more money than you will lose over the long haul by following the basic strategy. But you could lose the hand, and if it occurs when you overbet, you are setting yourself up for a disaster.

As a player in a casino, it’s important you don’t get trapped into thinking those chips you wager are nothing but clay discs. They actually represent your hard-earned money. Casinos use the term "black" for $100 chips, "green or quarter" for $25 chips, and "nickels" for $5 chips. Again, this is part of their psychology to make players forget it is actually real money that is being wagered.

To prevent yourself from overbetting, always ask the dealer for "check change" whenever you want to convert a higher denomination chip to ones of lesser value. Casino dealers almost always ask players who are leaving the table to have their chips colored up. That’s okay since it’s more convenient for the player to carry a couple of higher denomination chips than to try to carry a whole pile of smaller denomination chips. However, if you leave a table with higher denomination chips and you decide to play at another table, always ask the dealer for check change so you will have lower denomination chips to bet with.

Always make bets in a casino based on what you can afford and don’t get trapped into overbetting. If you can’t afford a big loss, then don’t bet big. It’s that simple.