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Getting bent out of shape

Dear Mark,
I was listening to a radio talk show about casino gambling when a caller claimed he does well in blackjack by looking for warps. Well, the guest on the show didn't give a response because the host went to a commercial and they didn't come back to the subject. So, Mark, what is a warp? Rhonda A.

In the casino industry, we call it a "dealer tell," meaning, a dealer who gives away information that the casino believes players shouldn't possess. In this case, when a dealer checks the hole card under tens or aces, some inexperienced dealers will unknowingly bend those cards upwards. This will cause the tens and aces to have a different shape than the rest of the cards in the deck. With this information, the sharp-eyed player believes he knows the dealer's hole card by its disfigured state-which is known as "playing the warps."

But believe me, Rhonda, pit bosses who aren't asleep standing up are always on the lookout for dealers who hack their cards to death, and they'll correct this transgression. How effective is this type of play? Well, if you knew the hole card, it could be very lucrative, but it still comes down to casino management's ability to monitor their pit.

Dear Mark,
Besides card counters, have any other players ever been barred from playing blackjack based on certain strategies? Melvin D.

I really can't answer for every casino on why, or if, they would heave-ho a player based on playing strategies, Melvin, but how about being banned for having too much capital? It happened when Australian billionaire Kerry Packer beat the MGM in Las Vegas out of $26 million, most of it while playing blackjack. The casino finally barred him, not because he was a card counter but because he was more capitalized than the casino.
When you put together a lucky streak and a player with more financial resources than the house, you've got a possibility of casino closure-permanently.

Dear Mark,
What is the worst move a player can make with a hand while playing blackjack? Susan L.

Getting ridiculous here, Susan, it's actions like doubling down on a natural blackjack. Actually I've seen this done once with a $200 wager where alcohol got the best of this party animal. Now for the average player in the casino, it's standing on a pair of eights versus a dealer upcard of 7 instead of splitting them. A player making this basic strategy error will lose 70% of the time.

Susan, you are the type of player who always plays perfect basic strategy, right?

Dear Mark,
Last year when I went to see the dolphin exhibit at the Mirage in Las Vegas and it was just $3. Now they are asking more than triple that. What gives? Henry P.

I've got a sneaky suspicion that Steve Wynn, owner of Mirage Resorts, recently changed toothpaste's to one that contains those extra whitening ingredients. You need a cunning pearly white smile when you dupe patrons who once paid $3 to view the hotel's captive dolphins to now fork over ten bucks-although he threw in a few white tigers as a bonus. Whoopee!

The point I'm trying to make here is that if you're coming to Las Vegas, you better be prepared to spend moocho dinero. Bargain lodging and $2.49 prison chow buffets are becoming an endangered genera.

With more than 40% of the total revenues on the Strip now coming from non-casino sources-and growing five times as fast as the casino take-plan on casino operators reaching into your wallet for any, and every, thing they can.

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