Weird rules that make some blackjack variations in California and elsewhere on the West Coast unprofitable for card counting do not destroy the edge available from player banking. But you have to learn the correct basic strategy to profit from banking these California and West Coast blackjack variations, and you have to bet less when you are not banking the game.
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Way-Out West Coast Blackjack

By Arnold Snyder
(First published in Card Player, April 1994)
© 1994 Arnold Snyder

Question from a Player:  Here in Oregon we have a five-dollar limit game. We have basic Nevada rules, with one exception. The dealer takes 17 pushes. What is your opinion on how this changes the odds?

Answer:  Stay away from this game (unless you’re the dealer!). If the dealer wins on tied 17s the house gains 1.7%.

My understanding of the Oregon games is that they are player banked. I haven't played blackjack in Oregon yet, but if this means that rotating players take turns being the house, you may find it beneficial to act as the house as frequently as possible. If it is possible to bank the game more than your “fair share,” i.e., because other players at the table do not want to bank the game, or cannot afford to bank the game, then you might find a rule like this to be very beneficial. At a crowded table, even with that $5 limit, you could earn a tidy little hourly income from such a game. Nor would you have to fear card counters since card counters would not be able to beat this rule without a fairly large spread — which is precluded by that $5 limit! In this case, it would probably be wise for you to learn the basic strategy changes for this rule (see Stanford Wong's Basic Blackjack) so that you can play as correctly as possible when you do not have the deal, if it is necessary for you to stay at the table and play in order to get your turn to bank again.

Your most profitable strategy in this game would be to look for a table where most of the players are betting the $5 maximum most of the time. When you are not dealing, bet the table minimum if you must stay and play until you get the deal again.

Another consideration, and a very important one, is whether or not the dealer/banker must follow a fixed strategy, as is commonly done in all normal house-banked casino blackjack games. Again, I am unfamiliar with Oregon’s rules. In some player-banked private games, dealers are not required to follow a fixed strategy. A game like this is very dangerous, and is really more akin to poker than to blackjack. The 1.7% house advantage for the dealer-takes-tied-17s rule is only applicable if the dealer must follow a traditional house blackjack strategy. If the dealer may play his hand however he chooses, then there is no fixed advantage or disadvantage for any rule variation.  ♠

For more information on blackjack variations and professional gambling opportunities on player banked games, see the Blackjack Forum Library.

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