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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Silly blackjack quirks abound at the tables

27 July 2007

I walked up to a blackjack table about one deck into a six-deck shoe and attempted to buy in. The player on my right who was betting strictly black chips asked if I could please "wait a little bit".

"I'll wait a couple of hands", I replied, and he thanked me. Playing devil's advocate, I asked, "Will that help?"

"I dunno," he responded.

"Will it hurt, then?" I inquired.

Again he replied, "I dunno".

So I popped the inevitable question, "Why wait then?"

Growing irritated, the gentleman barked, "Sir, I just asked nicely if you would mind waiting."

"And I asked nicely if waiting would do any good", I retorted.

He defended with, "You're asking questions that can't be answered".

That was the very point I was trying to get him to see, and said, "You're exactly right. So then what's the sense in waiting?"

"Alright, go ahead and just jump right in", he blurted in frustration.

"No -- I'll wait 'til you say so." I said, then added, "I just wanted to give you that little something to think about."

He concluded with, "I try not to think. Whenever I start thinking, I usually get myself in trouble."

On the very next hand, the gentleman doubled down with 10 against a 4 and caught a baby. The dealer took three hits and ended up with 19 or 20 and the gentleman waved me on in.

What started out as a modestly rocky player-to-player relationship quickly smoothed out as we both made several good hands and the dealer accommodated with a few busts of her own. Soon, we were congratulating each other with, "Nice hit!", etc., and a good shoe was had by all. When I stood up to leave, I touched the gentleman's shoulder and said, "Nice playing with you, sir." I think he may have nodded in return.

So what's the purpose of relating this little interchange between two blackjack players at the table? It's to highlight, and hopefully dispel, one prominent superstitious belief that most blackjack players harbor. It's the belief that the shuffled cards are best suited to the exact number of players that were there at the beginning of the shoe. And that changing the number of players during the shoe has to work in favor of the dealer.

Playing devil's advocate again, let me ask you this question. Which is more likely, that adding a player during the shoe will help the dealer or help the players? The staunchest purists will insist that it always helps the dealer. Others will say that adding a player will help the dealer if things have been going well, but will help the players if things are going badly.

What's the real answer? If things have been going well for the players, it means exactly that, no more, no less. The cards in the shoe happened to be arranged in such a way as to cause the players to win – up to that point. But those cards are gone now as we proceed to a further area of the shoe. There is absolutely no predisposition for second half of the shoe to run the same as the first half.

Streak gamblers believe that what's been happening is likely to keep happening. But math and scientific research say that what's been happening doesn't mean doo-doo.

A blackjack dealer recently advised me that pressing up your bets one extra unit with each win was the only way to beat the game. After I had won three hands in a row and kept my bet the same, he said, "What are you doing? You gotta' press it up!" He went on to explain, "See, if you win four straight, you gain 10 units – and if you lose four straight, you drop only 4 units." But he didn't go into what happens when you win two and lose two, which by the way, will occur six times as often as going 4 and 0. Notice that going W, L, W, L will actually cost you two units with that progression, even though you won just as many hands as you lost. Add up the results of every possible win/lose sequence for four hands, and you'll see that his progression offers no overall advantage whatsoever.

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