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In blackjack, try to slow it down

John Grochowski

John Grochowski

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Updated: January 8, 2013 6:12AM



Standard-sized blackjack tables seat seven players. So do tables at other casino card games.

But seven-spot tables aren’t the only options. The casino formerly known as Empress Joliet used to have tables with eight betting spots. And I’ve occasionally encountered five-spot tables.

Why would a casino vary from the standard table size? The biggest thing having fewer spots accomplishes is to speed up the game. It takes more time to deal a hand if you’re waiting for seven people to play than if you’re waiting for five people.

With any number of players, speed is variable, dependent on both the speed of the dealer and the speed of the players. Back in the mid-1990s, I attended a seminar given by casino consultant Jim Kilby, and his book, “Casino Operations Management,” estimates 52 hands per hour with seven players, 60 with six, 70 with five, 84 with four, 105 with three, 139 with two and 209 with one.

Let’s say you’re operating a casino with enough demand to keep 35 blackjack seats full. If you divide that among five traditional seven spot tables, each customer is playing 52 hands an hour, and the 35 players combine for 1,820 hands. With seven five-spot tables, each player averages 70 hands an hour, and the 35-player total is 2,450 hands.

By switching from five seven-spots to seven five-spots, the casino gets an extra 630 hands an hour. That makes it well worth paying an extra couple of dealers.

There’s a danger point for an operator if the customer base is too low. Most players like to play with others, and clustering three or four players at five five-spot tables with none at the other two is no faster than having three or four players at each of five seven-spots. But as long as the casino is busy, it gets more hands per hour with fewer spots at each table.

Speed isn’t something most players consider, but most are better off with a slower game. A speedier game favors whoever has the edge, and in most cases that’s the house. More hands per hour means more exposure to the house edge.

In the late 1990s, Harrah’s Las Vegas received favorable comments from players who said its five-spot tables were more comfortable. That’s a worthy consideration, but at any size table, understand that fewer players mean a faster game.

John Grochowski is a local freelance writer. Look for him on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44); Twitter (@GrochowskiJ) and at casinoanswerman.com.



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