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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Most blackjack players overreact to the small stuff

13 July 2007

Four of us were sitting at the blackjack table watching the dealer shuffle. At the completion, she called out, "Rolling", to the floor and offered the six-deck pack for a cut. First base cut the cards, the dealer put them in the shoe and then burned the first card.

First base instantly pointed at the discard tray and asked, "Can I see that card?" The dealer announced, "Showing the burn", as she displayed a 3 of clubs. First base seemed pleased with that and plopped an extra green chip on top of his original $25 bet.

Asking to see the burn card is a common request by pseudo-experts at the blackjack table, yet there's almost nothing a player could do with such little information in a shoe game. Before it would be worth increasing your first bet of the shoe, you'd have to see at least eight consecutive small burn cards! And there are very few hands you could be dealt that seeing the 3 should make you play differently.

Here's another typical scenario that is often overreacted to. One player has 4/2 against an 8 up, while the next player has 7/3. The 7/3 gets an extra bet ready to double down (the correct play), but meanwhile the 4/2 hits twice and busts with two straight 10s. Now the 7/3 figures that a small card must be "due", so he just hits rather than doubles.

Did the 7/3 do right? Of course not. Listen up. Before the player with the 4/2 caught two straight 10s, there were 167 Aces, 10s, 9s or 8s in the six deck shoe that the 7/3 could catch to make 18 or better. Take away those two 10s, and there are still 165. His chance of catching a good card has merely dropped from 54.5% down to 54%. That's not nearly enough to make him not double.

Now try this common idiosyncrasy on for size. You're in the middle of a shoe and decide to play two hands instead of just the one hand you've been playing up to now. Seeing this, another player who's been playing two hands quickly pulls one bet back. Why? He doesn't want to defile the "sacred" order of the cards. If there were four hands dealt at the table before, he wants to keep it at four hands.

This is usually the same kind of player who is paranoid that the dealer will make a great hand and beat the whole table if you hit your 12 against a 5. He thinks the cards are set just perfectly the way the dealer shuffled them, and if you go against "the book", the gambling gods will punish everybody.

Do you agree with this kind of thinking? Then you owe it to yourself to conduct a half hour experiment on your kitchen table. Shuffle two decks of cards together and give the dealer a 5 up. Now give yourself an 18, then set a 10/2 over at third base. Make third base stay on 12 and play the dealer's hand out, over and over, all the way through the pack. Do this five times and you should have about 200 hands. Chances are, your 18 will win about 120 and lose 80, counting pushes as a half win and a half loss (plus or minus 9 wins due to the "luck factor").

Next, make third base hit his 12 (God forbid!), and then play the dealer's hand out. Repeat this all the way through the pack also. You'll need to go about six times through to get 200 hands this time, because third base is taking cards out of the deck. But guess what. Chances are, you'll still go right around 120/80 (plus or minus those same 9 wins). Don't believe me? Try it. That should put an end to your paranoia over how other people play their hands.

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