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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Can You Play Basic Strategy Blackjack with No House Edge?

11 April 2008

Typical blackjack players give about a 1.5% advantage to the house due to the mistakes they make playing their hands. But even those who get their entire basic strategy down cold still have a 0.5% disadvantage in the typical multi-deck game.

So then, is a perfect basic strategy player doomed to end up a loser if he doesn't become a card counter? Probably not –- if he uses his table smarts. But he'll have to really minimize the negatives and maximize the positives. Here's what I mean.

A $25-a-hand basic strategist loses a long term average of about 12 cents per hand. His disadvantage actually accumulates by the hand, not by the hour or by the visit. The more crowded the table is -- the better off he is. Period.

There are at least three reasons for this, but the biggest one is:

Game Speed: A seven-handed blackjack game moves along at an average pace of about 55 rounds per hour. But when you're alone with the dealer, it's not hard to get in 220 hands during that same time period. So the slower the game, the less money a basic strategist loses. At a full table, he drops maybe $7 per hour on average. Playing heads up, it's about 28 bucks. Comprende?

Another good reason for a basic strategist to play at a full table is:

Hand Interaction: This consists mainly of capping off other players' double downs when they double for less than the max, or going partners on their advantageous splits. Scavenging these plays brings an outright advantage, usually between 5% and 10% of the money one puts up. If you're not playing your own game with an outright advantage, hand interaction becomes a vital part of your strategy.

When you're playing alone with the dealer, hand interaction is not an option for you. But if the table is full, somebody else will have a doubling hand or a pair split every round-and-a-half, on average. It's surprising how many of them you can get a piece of if you keep your focus in that direction.

Hand Interaction is of the greatest value to a player when he's betting the table minimum. This allows him to gain healthy advantages on many bets larger than his own, thereby multiplying their positive effect.

Still another advantage to playing at full tables when you're not an outright advantage player is:

High/Low Layouts: Even though a basic strategy player doesn't count cards, per se, he certainly should be able to recognize an occasional blitz of high or low cards lying right there on the table.

Playing heads up, he'll see only five or six cards in a round. That's no help to speak of. But at a full table, he'll see 20 or more cards laid out in plain view on the board. That many cards can swing his chances on the following hands either way by as much as a full percentage point.

So when a glaring flock of Aces and Faces hits the board at a full table, save your spot, and go somewhere else for the rest of the shoe. Also, triple your bet whenever you see a board that contains at least 8 more low cards (2s thru 6s) than high ones (10s and Aces).

Summary: So how much can a $25 basic strategy player help his game at a crowded $25 minimum table?

  1. The slow pace keeps his own long term hourly loss down to about $7.
  2. Each hour, the other players should have about 35 doubles/splits. If he gets in on just 2 of them for $30 apiece, it should earn him back about $4.
  3. He walks away from one shoe per hour where a heavily painted board layout would've increased his disadvantage, saving him about $1.
  4. He triples his bet for the rest of the shoe once an hour when he notices a qualifying flurry of small cards on board, earning him another $1 or $2.

These projections are somewhat elastic. Still, they should illustrate that it's entirely feasible to capitalize on these opportunities enough to eradicate that last 0.5% edge the house holds over you. And that's not counting your comps.

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