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Dear Mark: Is video blackjack the same as a live game? Is each new hand dealt a new game? Is the strategy the same as live blackjack? I have tried playing the casino's blackjack machines and I don't seem to do very well. Dave S.

Your problem, Dave, is that the rules of the video blackjack machine in the casino where you play might have one little deviation that will definitely turn a winning visit into a losing one: what you get paid for a blackjack.

Most video blackjack machines that you will find in a casino pay even money on natural 21s instead of the true value of a blackjack (3 for 2). Because you can expect a blackjack every 21 hands, the loss of that bonus will cost you an additional 2.3%.

Considering that blackjack has a house advantage of less than .5% to a knowledgeable player – which possibly, Dave, could be another problem you have – your losses are more than likely tied to this tricky rule change. With an even money payout on blackjack, you are giving away the farm here.

Other video blackjack machines round down on blackjack payoffs. If you do happen to locate a machine that does pay the bonus for a blackjack, make your bets in even amounts so that you can get the maximum value of a blackjack (a payoff of $3 for every $2 wagered). With a $1 bet and rounding down, the theoretical payout of $1.50 for a blackjack would be rounded down to just $1!

Additionally, Dave, you are probably playing more hands per hour on a video blackjack machine than you would on a live table game. With any casino game that has a built-in advantage, and blackjack even with perfect play is certainly one of them, the more hands you are exposed to, the more the machine will eat away at your bankroll.

As to your other two questions, yes, each hand is dealt randomly from a newly shuffled virtual deck. Also, the basic strategy on a video game is comparatively the same as that of a live game, so, Dave, don't forget your blackjack strategy card to use as a reference for those hands that you are not quite sure of.

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