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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

There's More Than One Way to Skin a Blackjack Cat

14 December 2003

A while back, I received an e-mail from a reader who said he wonders if he hasn't stumbled upon a way to beat casino blackjack without becoming a card counter. He says he's beaten the game over the course of several hundred hours this year simply by "loading up" on advantageous situations and asked me to evaluate his game plan.

These advantageous situations he describes are one of the facets of "Hand Interaction", a technique which I've discussed in print a few times over the past couple of years.

This fellow who has asked to remain nameless goes to the $10 tables, bets the minimum and plays all his hands according to perfect basic strategy. That, of course, we already know will leave him at a half percent disadvantage to the house. It's this next part of his game, however, which he believes has pushed him over the top.

He purposely plays at crowded tables and bets only $10 for two reasons. First, the big crowd slows down his own play, thereby keeping his "overhead" cost of playing pure basic strategy to a minimum. Next, having lots of other players at the table also gives him many opportunities to "load up" on those "advantage" plays.

What he does is watch intently for other players who miss any double down that carries an edge -- particularly those who are betting more than the table minimum. He'll then go out of his way to double on that hand, either in part or in its entirety with his own money.

Now, it's a given that doubling down on other players hands in advantageous situations is a definite benefit. But just how many OPD's (other players' doubles) would it take to completely wipe out the standard basic strategy half percent handicap and give that player the overall edge in the game?

Well, let's see. The $10 tables will have maybe six players at them most of the time. With that mix, each player should get in around 65 hands per hour. Betting the minimum then, a perfect basic strategist should expect to lose about $3.50 per hour in the long run (counting his own doubles and splits).

I guess that the "average" size bet at a $10 table might be $20 or $25. Each player will be dealt a legitimate doubling hand an average of once every 11 hands. So our OPD player will watch about 30 basic strategy doubling situations fall in front of the other players every hour. The most obvious ones will undoubtedly be taken by their owners. But there are plenty of good doubles that lots of players just won't make. Off the top of my hat, I'll say these are:

9 against a 3
10 against an 8 or a 9
11 against a 10
A/7 against a 3 or a 4

Together, these six doubles alone will show up eight times per hour among the other five players' hands. Furthermore, they carry an average edge of 9% apiece!

Suppose that half the players at our friend's table don't want to double these hands, but he convinces them they should should and then he goes halves with them on each one. This will give him roughly four extra double downs every hour. If the average initial bet was for, say, $22 and he gets $11 worth of extra action four times an hour with a 9% edge, that alone will earn him $4 an hour!

That would indeed wipe out his $3.50 expected basic strategy loss and replace it with a 50-cent net average hourly win. True, this is a net advantage of only around 0.06%, but if he can double some other hands as well, he'll increase that advantage!

So it seems our OPD player makes a heck of a good point. If you can make it your business to get in on at least four or five of somebody else's good doubles every hour, you'll have a net advantage in the game -- particularly if their "moneymaking" bets are bigger than your own "overhead" wagers.

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