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Gaming Guru


Most Popular Blackjack Philosophies Don't Work

10 June 2000

By Fred Renzey

Every month the typical full-size casino averages tens of thousands of dollars in income from each of its blackjack tables. All this cash is coming from a game of skill that a truly good player can actually beat. The problem is, most blackjack players are far from being truly good ones.

In fact, you probably misplay plenty of your own hands, too. Want me to prove it to you? Okay, what do you do with these three holdings in a shoe game?

6/2/3/A vs. a 3
A/2/A/3/A vs. a 9
A/4 vs. a 3

The correct answers are — you should hit them all! If you answered all three right, you're better than the majority of players I see in the casinos. But it's what most of you do beyond playing your hands that ends up beating you. That's because the typical ham-'n'-egger just can't resist blending some of his own homespun gambling philosophy into his game plan. Here are just a few very popular, but useless tactics. If you practice any of these, you're either wasting your time or hurting yourself outright.

  1. Insure a 20
  2. Take even money on blackjack
  3. Change tables when the dealer is "hot"
  4. Play an extra spot to preserve the rotation of the cards
  5. Request a "No Mid-Shoe Entry" sign
  6. Try to avoid bad players
  7. Play two hands routinely
  8. Bet more when you're ahead
  9. Quit early to "lock up" a win

The first two points will cost you money outright. The next two will also end up costing you somewhere along the way. The last five are merely a waste of effort. Numbers 1 and 2 are wrong because Insurance is basically a bad bet. And it's an even worse bet if you hold any 10s in your hand, because that kills one or two of your possible Insurance wins.

Number 3) The dealer often seems to be running "hot" when she makes several four- and five-card hands in succession. It makes her appear "blessed." But the very act of taking all those small cards out of play shifts the odds over towards the players. This is when you should stay and bet more.

Number 4) Winning players raise their bets and play two hands when lots of high cards are left in the shoe. Later, when the high cards have been depleted, they drop back down to just one hand. The player next to the expert will often be spooked by this and now play two hands himself to preserve the rotation of the cards. What he's unwittingly doing is absorbing two hands when the odds favor the house and getting in only one when the players are favored.

Number 5) "No Mid-Shoe Entry" signs set the newly shuffled order of the cards in concrete. That's no more likely to be good early and good late, than good early and bad late. Preserving the order of the cards is a total crapshoot.

Number 6) Bad players can't hurt your odds since you never know which card you'd prefer the dealer to get as his or her hit card.

Number 7) People who routinely play two hands will simply reap exactly the same results as two separate players using identical strategies — no edge.

Number 8) Betting more when you're ahead might be fine if the cards only knew you were ahead, but they don't know and couldn't care less.

Number 9) Suppose you quit early for fear of blowing a small lead. When you come back to play tomorrow, will your chance to lose be any smaller than if you'd stayed and played yesterday? The answer is no. To the cards and the chips, it's just the next hand.

Please don't squander your energy on these useless foibles. You'll simply never get "over the hump" at blackjack without having some idea of the current supply of high cards versus low cards. That doesn't mean you have to memorize every card that plays. If you simply count up all the aces and 10s that come out in the first two decks of the shoe, then bet the rest of the shoe according to whether the remaining pack was "heavy" or "light," that will give you a lot of benefit with minimal effort.

It's not that hard. There's a legitimate strategy called the Ace/10 Front Count that does exactly that. A vividly illustrated rundown of how to play it is in the May issue of my Blackjack Mentor Tipsheet. You can get a copy for $5 from the address below.

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

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