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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Wake Up! In Blackjack, the Order of the Cards Is Not Sacred

26 January 2003

Remember when you were a kid playing poker on your kitchen table for pennies? How did you feel when the dealer made a mistake, and you wound up getting something other than your correct cards? If you're anything like I was as a youngster, you probably felt jinxed.

Well, old beliefs die hard. In the casinos today when a new player steps up to the blackjack table in the middle of a shoe, somebody often asks if he would mind waiting until the shuffle. This person's curious request usually stems from that same old fear that the new player is going to corrupt the "sacred" order of three or four hundred randomly shuffled cards -- and that it's destined to work against the players.

What the heck is this fear based upon? If blindly changing the order of the cards can work against the player, couldn't it possibly work against the dealer too? Think about this. Suppose the dealer fanned out the next dozen cards in the shoe face-down and asked you to pick any two for your next hand. Which ones should you choose? Stumped?

Then how in the world could you ever prefer one face-down card over another? And why in tarnation should the card the player next to you would've gotten be good for him -- but bad for you if you end up getting it? Yes, when somebody suddenly jumps into the game or when another player puts in an extra hand, the cards will change. But will they change for the better, or for the worse?

When I play blackjack, even if I knew exactly which cards were left in the shoe, I still wouldn't know their order. So I would never know whether I preferred my own card, or the card of the player next to me. When I double down, it's because based on the overall odds taking exactly one more blind card is likely to make me a winning hand. But I don't know whether the very next card is any more likely to do it for me than the one after it. In fact, I really wouldn't care if the cocktail waitress leaned over and pulled it out from the middle of the shoe! I left that superstition at the kitchen table when I was a kid.

Most serious blackjack players only object to the order of the cards being changed when things are going well. This suggests that if you're winning, then the following cards in the shoe are stacked in your favor, and shouldn't be tampered with. Let me correct that. What it really means is if you're winning, then the previous cards in the shoe were stacked in your favor. That doesn't say diddley about the following cards!

You should know that scientific studies on this very question have been conducted. Using computers, millions of hands were dealt recording the outcomes of all "third" hands that immediately followed two consecutive wins. What percentage of those "third" hands were won? Virtually the same percentage as all the other hands! So then, what's sacred about the order of the cards? In that regard, every next hand is a brand new ball game.

It tickles me when somebody comes to the table and requests a "No Mid-Shoe Entry" sign. That means no new player may enter the game until the shuffle. Superstitious gamblers say it stops new players from jinxing the incumbents by changing the flow of the cards. If this player bets big enough, the house is likely to accommodate his request. Why? Because they know how silly that is! It does do one thing though. It pacifies high rolling losers into thinking they'll now be able to gain an edge by going with the "flow" of the cards. And if that makes him happy, then why not give him what he wants?

As for you, get over it! Don't get thrown off your game by somebody who barges in mid-shoe. You have enough to think about without being distracted over stuff that'll only wash out over time. Just stay focused on things you know can make a positive difference.


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

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:

> More Books By Fred Renzey