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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Why do some casinos make you wait until after a shuffle to enter a blackjack game?

11 March 2013

Question: At some blackjack tables, players aren't allowed to enter the game except during the first round after the cards are shuffled. Why do the casinos do this?

Answer: Casinos with "no mid-shoe entry" policies normally have this rule at some or all of their highest-limit tables. The purpose is two-fold.

First, the casino is protecting itself from players who "back-count" or "Wong." That is, bettors who keep track of what's been dealt since the shuffle, and jump into the game when the balance of the shoe is rich in high cards. Mathematically, this is a condition under which players have a small edge over the house.

Second, many experienced blackjack buffs dislike games in which players jump in and out of the action. Some seasoned bettors simply appreciate a fast, steady pace -- and find the interruptions caused by new participants annoying. Others believe that adding or removing active positions "changes the flow of the cards" -- always for the worst, of course; this is a totally-unfounded myth, but it doesn't cost an enlightened casino anything to keep superstitious gamblers happy.

So, if you sit down at a blackjack table and the dealer won't sell you chips or book your bet, saying you have to wait "for the shuffle" or "until the next shoe," don't take it as a personal insult. Just watch for a few minutes. Maybe order your coffee from the hostess. You'll be in the thick of things soon enough.
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.