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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Blackjack Experiment Shows Bad Players Don't Hurt You

4 May 2001

How'd you like to be at a blackjack table where the third baseman misplays every single hand? I mean, he's so terrible that he splits 10s every time he gets them, he hits a hard 19 and doubles down on a hard 18. His more typical mistakes of merely hitting 12 against a 5 and standing with 15 against a 9 pale by comparison. This is truly the worst blackjack player in the universe! What do you suppose your own chances to win would be when you're trapped at the table with a lunatic like this?

Here's why I ask. Most blackjack buffs are convinced that another player's bad play hurts their own chances to win. Many times I've asked players to explain why they believe this and they usually reply, "Because it just does, that's all".

Over the years in this column, I've presented several logical illustrations showing why another player's mistake has no affect on your odds to win your own hand. Oh yes, it may change your actual outcome, but not the odds of your outcome. That means over time, another player's mistake will actually help you as often as it hurts you.

Now I know that many of you reading this right now aren't buying it. But what if I produced something physical we could all grab onto?

THE TEST

In my home with my own six-deck shoe, I dealt 300 rounds of blackjack with me sitting at first base and the mythical blackjack player from hell at third. I played all my hands according to perfect basic strategy while third base misplayed every one of his hands, bar none. Even if he was dealt 16 against a deuce, he hit it. If he had 7 against a face card, he doubled down. He always split a pair of 5s and stood with 12 against an ace. Now there's a bad player for you!

After each hand was complete, I wrote down a "W", an "L" or a "P" (win, lose or push) for the result of my hand only. Then I reviewed the cards to see how I'd have done if third base had played his hand correctly and wrote my "woulda' been" result in an adjacent column. How's that for an acid test?

THE PUDDIN'

Now for the results. First, it's interesting to note that of all 300 hands, third base's incorrect play changed my own outcome on only 59 hands. The other 241 times there would have been no difference either way. But the real question is, what happened on those 59 pivotal hands?

Well, when third base played wrong, his bad play turned me from a winner into a loser 19 times and demoted 3 more of my "woulda' been" winners to a push. Now here comes the part you don't want to hear. Third base's mistake converted my "would be" loser into a winner 22 times and saved 4 other losers by turning them into a push. On the remaining 11 tell-tale hands, third base's bad play improved 8 of my "would be" pushes into a winner and torpedoed 3 "would be" pushes into a loser. So overall, third base's 300 mistakes actually improved my own results 34 times and hurt me 25 times.

I'd like to have told you that it all went 50-50, but 300 hands isn't a lifetime of blackjack either. If I'd dealt 3000 hands rather than 300, I think we'd have seen third base's influence on my hands come out much closer to 50-50. In any case, though, there was absolutely no indication that somebody else's bad play tends to hurt your chances to win your hand.

If you're wondering how my raw scores came out on those 300 hands including 3-2 blackjacks, double downs and pair splits, here they are. With third base butchering every hand, my record was:

win 157.5lose 152push 27

Had third base played all his hands correctly, I'd have slipped to:

win 150.5lose 155push 31

This is just one more small piece of evidence that should encourage you to get over this prevalent phobia and concentrate on your own play.


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