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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Don't Let an Increased Table Limit Force You to Bet too High

17 April 1995

sinos in some jurisdictions have a ritual. "Changing table minimum." It involves posting a notice and telling players that the lowest bet accepted at a game will jump to a certain level in a half hour.

Why do casinos do it? Partly to vary the mix of limits offered to players, corresponding to traffic on the floor. Partly to optimize revenues by balancing numbers of players against income from different size bets. Were patronage relatively constant, mixes of limits could be fixed and changes wouldn't be needed. But crowds swell and shrink, and the casinos tune operations in response.

Some high rollers love having limits raised; it chases away riff-raff. Others bet above the minimum anyway; they don't care what lower limits are set. But most solid citizens dislike having limits raised during a game. These players may only be able to justify wagers near the minimum at which they started. They might press their bets under favorable conditions but resent having to do so just to stay in the game. Especially if they're behind.

Say you're comfortable with a certain minimum bet and would be uneasy risking more. While there's no guarantee that limits on your table won't be raised once you've begun, some precautions may help you avoid getting into a bind.

1) A few casinos have a a rule letting players already at a table keep the old limit even if the minimum changes while they are there. Casinos don't usually advertise features like this, so you'll have to ask if this option is offered.

2) Some casinos maintain low-limit games longer than others. If there's a sign saying "$5 craps" or "$5 blackjack" or whatever, be sure to ask the tables on which the rule applies before hunkering down for a game. In general, the casinos with the most tables keep low limit games running the longest.

3) Before commencing play, check the placard giving table limits for an attached slip of paper stating that the minimum may be changed at a certain time. If you see none, ask a pit supervisor about plans to raise limits during the next few hours. When pit people know, they'll tell you. When they don't know, they may venture educated guesses, although no guarantees, based on experience under similar circumstances.

4) Avoid playing during or just before peak periods. A casino may open four $5 craps games at 11:00 am on the Sunday of a three-day weekend when the floor's still empty. By 2:00 pm, the joint will be jumping and even $10 tables may be history.

Say you're playing with limits you can handle. The dealer gives a half hour notice of a minimum that would make you sweat. This changes the game because it imposes a time constraint.

1) If you're even or ahead, leave right away or follow your usual quitting procedure such as betting as long as you win, and stopping after your first loss.

2) If you're behind, look for a point to quit before the new limits take effect. Perhaps you normally play until you exceed a win goal and start dropping, or hit a loss limit. But a time restriction isn't normal play. Moderate your downside limit; then if your luck doesn't improve quickly, you may still be able to walk with enough money to start a new game at a minimum you can swing. Trim your upside goal as well, even if it means just cutting your losses or settling for a reasonable upswing.

3) Don't pretend a half hour is a long time. Don't imagine the pit boss will forget the scheduled change, or skip it since half the players already left. And, above all, don't stay at a table you can't afford.

Good gamblers, mulling over minimum modification, meditate mightily the mantra of Sumner A Ingmark, the bettor's balladeer:

Press your bets at moments propitious,
Not because the pit boss so wishes.

Alan Krigman

Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.
Alan Krigman
Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.