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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Bet You Didn't Know This About Blackjack

18 February 2001

When you sit down to play blackjack, do you really understand what's going on? Of course, you know when to hit, stand, double and split. Sure, you're aware that if you play right it's the best (banked) game in the house for the player. But do you truly comprehend exactly what your chances are -- and what they are not -- and how they're always changing?

Let me give you a little bit of blackjack potpourri that will show just how precarious things really are in the blackjack trenches. Suppose that, right off the top of a fresh shoe, you're dealt a total of 9 against the dealer's 3 up. Your correct play is to double down. Why? Because you're an 8-7 favorite to win that hand. It's not a very big edge, but you were a 101-100 underdog going in before any cards were dealt. Furthermore, on the majority of hands you receive you'll remain an underdog. So when you've had the good fortune to be dealt a hand on which you have the lead, you've gotta go for it!

Okay, so you do the right thing and double down -- catching a 7 to make 16. Ouch! You've just gone from a modest favorite to a 5-3 dog. Now the dealer turns over her hole card -- a 7, and you slip even further to a 10-3 longshot against her starting total of 10. However, her hit card is a 6 and you quickly swing back to an 8-5 favorite against her 16! Finally, she busts out and you win the hand just like you were supposed to in the first place.

This sort of thing happens with every hand you play. The odds keep oscillating back and forth until you either win or lose. Things are so changeable from hand to hand, day to day, and month to month that you have to play for a long time before you really know if you're a winning player or not.

Here's what I mean. The typical blackjack player (not a perfect basic strategy player) makes enough mistakes with his hands to give about a one-and-a-half percent edge to the house. So what's his chance of being a winner after playing, say, 4 hours every week for three months? Let me answer it this way.

According to mathematical probability, if six typical players did that, five of them would end up losers and there'd be one winner. The five losers would have a pretty good idea that they're never going to beat the game with their present set of skills. But what would that one winner think? He'll think he's one of the world's greatest blackjack players! Then three months later, he'll wonder what happened. That's why you need at least 1000 hours under your belt before you can consider your results somewhat reliable.

So don't let some short-term positive results fool you into thinking it's that special new betting system you've been trying out. In due time, you'll find out where you stand -- and if you're not playing the game with an outright advantage, they'll eventually get you.

And what about the casino? Why don't they ever lose for three months running? The answer is simple. There's a casino 30 minutes from my home that has 25 blackjack tables and they're open 22 hours a day, seven days a week. The place is mobbed morning, noon and night. They get in about four million hands of blackjack every month -- with an average edge of about one and a half percent on each. Because of that, every month is going to look just about like the last.

The house makes excellent use of their edge, virtually unlimited funds and unlimited trials to ensure their success. You and I have to grind it out at maybe 40,000 or 50,000 hands per year. That's why no two years look quite the same for us.


For more information about blackjack, we recommend:

Blackjack Bluebook: The Right Stuff for the Serious Player by Fred Renzey
Best Blackjack by Frank Scoblete
The Morons of Blackjack and Other Monsters! by Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Blackjack! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey