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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Blackjack Players Can Capitalize on Others' Superstitions

13 December 2004

I hope you know that playing every one of your hands correctly in blackjack will not be quite enough to make you an overall winner at the game. Even though blackjack is just about the best game in the house, playing perfect "basic strategy" will still leave you as an underdog to the house by a slim 1/2% in a typical multi-deck game. That's awfully close – but no cigar.

Without having -- and then using -- some knowledge of what cards are left in the shoe, I'm afraid there's no other straightforward way to get over that hump. Ahh, but it appears there just might be some not-so-straightforward perfectly legal ways to eat up that last 1/2% -- and more!

In recent weeks, we've discussed "hand interaction" and making "side-bets" with other players at the table to help your own odds. Hand interaction gleans its edge primarily from partaking in other players' double downs when they leave part or all of it unfilled. Good examples are when another player doubles down for less than the max with 11 against a 10, or doesn't double at all with Ace/6 against a 3. Many other interactive doubles also present themselves repeatedly at the table.

Side-bets give you an edge when you bet a player that he'll win a hand that looks like a loser to most, but in fact is an odds-on favorite to win. Examples of this are when he holds 19 against a playable 10 -- or 10 against a playable Ace. Betting another player that he'll win these hands gives him the opportunity to "hedge" his bet in a scary situation.

Now comes a yet another "outside-the-box" way to trim the house edge at blackjack without counting cards. A poster on one of the internet chat lines gave away this gem of a move for improving his percentage when he plays. This chum is a plain basic strategy player, always sits at 3rd base and makes sure that he's the smallest bettor at the table. If it's a $10 table, be bets a flat $10 per hand.

Now, about once every 35 hands a player is dealt 12 against a 3, 4, 5 or 6. Even though it's proper to hit the 12 against a 3, most players don't believe that, and they know full well that you should stand against the 4, 5 or 6.

So adamant are most players in standing with all four of these hands that they never, ever want to see anybody else hit them -– particularly the player at 3rd base. That's because most players believe the 3rd baseman decides the ultimate fate of the whole table by virtue of his taking a card or not. Furthermore, it is superstitiously believed that if 3rd base hits or stands incorrectly, it not only hurts the 3rd baseman's odds, but everybody's at the table. This, of course, is all hogwash.

That's where our friend capitalizes on everyone else's silly superstitions. When he sits down at 3rd base he announces, "Just so everybody knows, I hit all my 12's against a small card". Later, when he's finally dealt one of these hands, he again warns the table, "I'm gonna hit this, folks. Anybody got a problem with that?" Almost invariably, somebody with a larger bet up says something like, "No, man. Don't take the dealer's "bust-card!"

Our hero then comes back with, "I always hit this hand. But if you don't want me to, then you can buy it from me and play it any way you like." What often happens is that since his bet is the table minimum, one or two larger bettors will chip in together and buy our hero's 12 to stop him from "jinxing the table with his bad play".

Now, when you have 12 and the dealer's got a 3 through 6 up, your average loss on the hand is around 20% of the amount bet. Since it comes about once every 35 hands, if he can squirm out of it every time he'll save 0.60% of all his action. That more than covers the house edge on a basic strategy player!

Now I'm sure there are many times when our hero has to just play his own 12 out. But if you can creatively mix hand interaction with side-bets, and then sell some of your 12's, you just might be able to turn blackjack into a winning game without card counting.

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:

> More Books By Fred Renzey