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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Can Bad Players Screw Up Your Game?

4 December 1999

It's a dreaded phobia that festers in the hearts of most blackjack players, the fear that the stranger at third base will misplay his hand, causing you to lose in the process. This belief that bad players hurt a good player's chances is so widespread that many die-hard "21" buffs refuse to play in the company of novices! But what does it all amount to in the big picture? Zippo, Nada, Gottz! Furthermore, I believe I can prove it to you if you'll just follow along with me.

Suppose you were playing blackjack with only one other person at the table. You are at first base and he is at third. The dealer has a deuce up. You are both dealt a 15. Acting first, you make the correct play and stand. Now it's the third baseman's turn. How do you want him to play his hand?

If you said that you wanted him to sand, can you in logical terms explain why? Are you afraid that if he makes a mistake and hits, it will be bad luck for you? This is a common paranoia with no logical basis. But where does this paranoia come from? It comes from the fear of what can happen amidst threatening uncertainty. First, there's the threatening uncertainty of what the dealer has in the hole. Then there's the threatening uncertainty of what the next card out of the shoe might be -- or the one after it. Put that all together and most people wish the third baseman would just "play it by the book" and stand. Does that sound like you?

Well then, let's supply some answers to all this uncertainty. Look at the scenario below.

Dealer's Hand
2 - 10
5 - 10 10 - 5
3rd Base You
9 - 10
Next 2 cards

Let's just have a little peak at the dealer's hole card, shall we? As you can see, it's a 10 giving him 12. But let's not stop there. You see, I've just bribed the dealer into flashing us a glimpse of the next two cards in the shoe? They're a 9 and a 10, but he flashed them so quickly that we couldn't tell which card was first and which was second.

Now you know everything there is to know except for the final outcome. So, I ask you again. How do you want the third baseman to play his hand? Notice that if he hits, no matter which card comes first, he loses. And if he stands, he's got a 50-50 shot at winning. So, obviously, hitting would be a horrible play -- for him. But how does that affect your chances?

If the third baseman stands like you probably want him to, and the 9 is first out of the shoe, the dealer makes 21. But if the 10 comes first, the dealer busts. Now, instead, what happens if the third baseman hits? Well, when the 9 comes first, the dealer gets the 10 and busts. But if the 10 is the first card out, the dealer makes 21 with the 9. Now, I'm going to ask you one last time. How do you want the third baseman to play his hand?

Can you see that while hitting his hand is the wrong play for Mr. 3rd Base, your odds to win remain the same no matter what he does? That's absolutely true because your chance to win really doesn't depend upon whether the 3rd baseman plays his hand right or wrong but upon which card is first out of the shoe. Many times it won't matter whether the dealer gets the first or the second card –- they'll either both make him or break him. But when it does matter, you never know which blind card you want him to get. Therefore, being all hung up over whether the 3rd baseman stands or hits is just plain silly.

Now, your immediate response to the above scenario may be that it only works this way because of the particular hypothetical situation that I've set up. Well then, go ahead and replace the dealer's hole card with any other you wish. Also replace the next two cards in the shoe with any others, as well. You'll find that whenever it makes any difference at all, it always come down to that same question of whether the first or second card out of the shoe is better for the dealer. And if you think you know the answer to that question in advance, then I want to gamble against you all day long!


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