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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Nobody Wants to Play at an Empty Blackjack Table

13 March 2005

You see it all the time as you walk down the casino aisle -- rows and rows of crowded blackjack tables and then an empty one with the dealer standing there all by himself. People scurry to squeeze into crowded seats, but nobody wants to be that first player to sit down at the empty table. Why is this, anyway?

Do players feel outgunned if they're going heads up alone with the dealer? Is there more safety in numbers? Which way do you have a better chance to win? Let's look at the facts concerning these sensitive questions.

Fact #1: Percentagewise, the average player has exactly the same chance to win a given hand whether he's playing alone or at a seven-handed table.

Fact #2: A player has exactly the same chance to be dealt good hands regardless of what seat he's sitting in. Any concepts about certain seats taking the good cards or the decisive cards out of the shoe are sadly misunderstood.

From those two standpoints, the odds of the game do not change. A typical ham-n-egger will on average, fall one additional bet behind for every 65 hands he plays -- no matter how many gamblers are at his table and no matter where he sits. If he happens to be a skilled basic strategy player, he'll slip only one hand behind for every 200 hands played, on average. It depends not upon the crowd size or his seat number, but upon his skill alone along with Lady Luck in the short term.

There's more to that than what meets the immediate eye, however. You see, the speed of a blackjack game is directly dependent upon the number of players at the table. In a seven-handed game, each player will get in about 55 hands per hour. Playing alone with the dealer, you'll see about 230 hands in that same hour.

Although the percentages are identical both ways, you'll end up losing your money about four times as fast playing heads up (alone with the dealer) as you will at a jammed up table. So if you want to get some playing time for your money, there is indeed safety in numbers, but not for the reason that you probably thought.

Since your food comps and cash comps are based upon your average bet size and your hours played, rather than number of hands played, you get more value by playing s-l-o-w-l-y. Yet, there's still one more caveat to this tricky question.

All the above is absolutely true, assuming you're a losing player which 99% of the blackjack players are. But what if you're a winning player? I mean, suppose you're an honest-to-goodness winner at the overall game? Then -- everything is reversed!

That's because winners don't gradually fall behind in the game. They gradually pull ahead! Winners don't want to play slowly to make their chips last longer. They want to play quickly to make their chips grow in as short a time as possible.

A top-notch winning blackjack player can pull one extra bet ahead for every 125 hands he plays, on average. That can take him two hours at a crowded table or a half hour going heads up with the dealer. That's why blackjack pros like to play alone. It has nothing to do with bad players at 3rd base or any of that other voodoo nonsense.

So what kind of player is a winning player? I can tell you this. It has nothing to do with betting progressions, hitting and running, having a good player at 3rd base, hot tables or no mid-shoe entry signs.

It all has to do with used card awareness. You have to have some knowledge of what's been played and what's left -- and I don't mean a rough idea off the top of your head. You need some hard information that you can bet on. That'll take some extra effort and learning on your part but, I'm sorry, there's just no other way over the top.

If you're not ready to take your game to that level, then keep on playing at crowded tables and take your comps. There's nothing wrong with that either.

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