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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

How Good Are Your Chances to Win at Blackjack?

6 January 2002

Even though there are over a half dozen varieties of casino table games, better than 60% of them are blackjack. It's by far the most popular table game on the floor. There's a very good reason for it. You have a better chance to walk away a winner from the blackjack table than just about anywhere else in the casino -- if you know how to play!

That last "if" is the stickler. You see, unlike most casino games, blackjack strategy has a pretty wide range of skill. You can give yourself an excellent chance to win, or you can shoot yourself down. Let me try to paint you a vivid picture of how this all works.

EASY MONEY CASINO

Let's say that the Easy Money Casino has 20 blackjack tables -- five tables in each of four pits. Pit #1 contains nothing but rank beginners at the game -- 25 of them. Oh, they might hit 14 against a 10 okay, and maybe they'll stand with that same 14 against a 6 just like they should. But they'll still gamble badly enough to misplay about every fifth hand.

Over in pit #2 are 25 of your average blackjack veterans. They've been around the block enough to play nine out of ten hands correctly. They think they play perfectly, but they don't (actually, most players fall into this category). Unbeknownst to them, they'll still misplay hands like A/7 against a 10 (you should hit), or 12 against a 3 (you should hit it too), or A/2 against a 4 (just hit it) or blackjack against an ace (ignore even money).

Now, pit #3 contains 25 basic strategy perfectionists. They really do play all 340 hands in this game exactly by the book.

Finally, pit #4 contains 25 card counters. Not only do they know perfect basic strategy, but they also know when not to play basic strategy because either too many high or low cards have come out. In addition, they size their bets based upon the cards that are left.

There you have it -- virtually every grade of blackjack player that is likely to set foot in a casino. So what are their respective chances to win?

PIT #1: Rank amateurs tend to give about a 3.5% edge to the house by virtue of their innocent, though ignorant mistakes. After three hours at the tables, mathematical probability says that 21 of these 25 players will be losers. Four will get lucky, win more hands than they rightfully should and be winners. Advantage? House: 21-4.

PIT #2: My computer simulations say that typical veterans of the game give about a 1.5% edge to the casino through their fairly good, but imperfect play. Statistical analysis says the house will grind down 17 of these 25 players after three hours, while eight of them will catch a break here and there, escaping with a win. Advantage? House: 17-8.

PIT #3: Those 25 players that took the trouble to master their basic strategy will give the house a tough run for its money. My statistical calculator says that 14 will succumb to their 0.5% house edge, while 11 players will connect on one or two extra double downs and make winners. Advantage? House: 14-11.

PIT #4: Here you have 25 qualified card counters. Sizing their bets and playing their hands according to the high/low composition of the remaining cards gives them a 0.75% advantage over the house. On average, that will make 14 of them winners after three hours of play. The other 11 will fall to fickle lady luck just like the mere mortals that they are. Advantage? Players: 14-11.

So then, out of 100 blackjack players how many winners did we have after three hours of hitting, standing, doubling and splitting? Let's see:

  Winners    Losers  
Beginners421
Veterans817
Basic Strategists1114
Card Counters1411
3763

Realistically, there would be a higher total percentage of losers. Why? Because perfect basic strategists and card counters make up far less than 50 out of 100 blackjack players, on average. I just wanted to give you a picture of what your own chances are depending upon which category you fall into.

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

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