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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

In Blackjack, the Cards Tell You How Much to Bet

28 March 2008

Do you know what the real problem is with your blackjack game? More than anything else, it's that you bet the wrong amounts at the wrong time. Here's what I mean.

Suppose you're sitting at the table with three other players. A new shoe is just about to begin. You place your usual starting bet, hoping for that one "big" shoe.

The three other players are all dealt 20 while you get blackjack. The dealer turns over a pat 19. So far, so good. On the next hand you get your second blackjack in a row, the other three players are again dealt 20 and the dealer's got another pat 19. That's a pretty nice start, isn't it?

So how much should you bet on the third hand? Could this be that elusive, big shoe you've been searching for? Before you answer, let me joggle your brain with this question.

What if we reversed your two hands with the dealer's, giving you the two 19s and the dealer two blackjacks? Now, you along with the other players have lost every hand so far, rather than won them. Should that make you bet any more or less on the third hand than in the original scenario? The typical blackjack player will answer, "Definitely yes". But the true odds of the game say, "Definitely not!"

You see, nearly all players gain confidence when they're winning and become more pessimistic when they're losing. They win a couple of hands, they bet more. They lose a few, they bet less. It's human nature. Noticing the particular cards that they won or lost with however, seems to sail right over their heads.

Well, if you hope to ever become a winner at blackjack, you'd better learn to believe this next sentence.

How much you should bet has nothing to do with whether you're winning or losing.

Whether you had the two blackjacks, or the two 19s in the above example, the exact same cards still came out of the shoe -– and that's what influences your chances on the upcoming hands.

That's because, in blackjack, high cards help the player and low cards help the dealer. The reason is the uneven rules of the game. You win 3-to-2 on your blackjack, the dealer wins even money on hers. You get to double your bet after having already seen your first two cards, the dealer can't. You can split a pair of Aces into two 11s, the dealer must hit a soft 12, etc. The more high cards there are, the more these rules help you.

On the other hand, the dealer must hit 16, even if you've already stood with 12. The more small cards there are, the more hands she'll make out of her "stiffs".

In the above shoe, the cards that got eliminated on those first two rounds has put the players at a serious disadvantage. Their win/lose outcomes were purely incidental and had nothing to do with that. What started out as a half percent built-in house edge has now soared to over 2%. Raising your bets here would be just plain ignorant.

So maybe you're not interested in becoming a professional card counter. For starters, at least stop sizing your bets according to your wins or losses, and get tuned into noticing when lots of high or low cards have hit the board. Then you'll be moving your bets up and down according to something that actually matters.

How hard is it to do? You saw the first two rounds of the above shoe, didn't you? How hard was it to notice that barrage of face-cards staring you in the face right there on the felt? That was your tipoff to leave the table –- or at least bet the minimum. It's easy if you know what you're looking for.

Here's another important thing you should know to look for. Whenever several players start taking multiple hits to their hands, then the dealer rips off a five- or six-card killer, it's no time to storm away in disgust. All those little cards out there have probably left a surplus of high ones in the shoe. This is the time to raise your bet!

Will simply reacting to obviously lopsided board layouts make you a net overall winner at blackjack? Probably not. But it'll definitely shrink that last half percent advantage the house holds over a basic strategy player.

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