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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

What Separates a Top Blackjack Player from the Herd?

12 February 2006

Walk up and down the casino floor and look at all those people playing blackjack. You'd think they must know what they're doing to be gambling for so much money – right? Wrong!

The sad truth is, maybe 10 blackjack players out of 100 have a good handle on how to play all their hands correctly. And probably less than 1 in 100 really understands what it takes to win at the game overall.

The other day I was playing in the high limit room at a local casino. The table minimum was $50. I had Ace/7 and the dealer was showing a 9. I hit it three times and busted, then the player next to me remarked, "I don't understand how you could hit that hand? You had 18!"

Now you'd think anybody playing at these stakes would know that your best move with a soft 18 against a dealer's 9, 10 or Ace is to hit it. That's elementary. But no! He went on and on about how I "messed up the shoe" by taking cards that were "meant" for the dealer.

At another table in the same room, a woman was playing two hands. She had a 15 and an 11 against the dealer's 7 up. She said she'd normally hit the 15, but she wanted to "save the 10" for her 11. So she stood on the 15, then doubled down on the 11, catching a 3. Will somebody please tell me, what is it that makes people think the next card out of the shoe is supposed to be a 10? Fact is, the card after the next one is just as likely to be the 10.

The play that took the cake, though, was the man who had just lost all his chips and asked for a $1000 marker. He requested two purples ($500 chips) and tossed one of them into the betting circle. He was dealt a pair of 6s against the dealer's 6 up. Now, the right play there is to split, but this "steamer" was already betting way over his head. So he just waved the dealer off and she turned over an Ace in the hole for a pat 17 (the dealer stands on soft 17 in this particular house). If "Steamy" had split like he was supposed to, he'd have had a 50% chance to win with each 6 – rather than the 42% chance he had with 12. It's a classic example of how you can beat yourself by overbetting.

So how would the 10 better players out of 100 react in these situations? A good, solid player would automatically hit the soft 18 against a 9, 10 or Ace. A good player would never worry about what somebody else's play might do to the cards in the shoe. A good player wouldn't play so foolishly as to try to "save" the 10 for the hand that needed it. And a good player would never bet so much that he'd be intimidated into playing his hand incorrectly.

And what about that one really top player out of 100 -- the guy who books a winner at the end of most years? What would he do that the others don't?

You may have bumped into him here or there. But if you did, you probably thought he was "right off the wall". He's the guy whose play often doesn't make sense to everybody else. He's the jerk who'll hit 13 against a deuce, seemingly right out of the blue. He's the goof who won't take even money on blackjack when the dealer's got an Ace up, but will insure his 12 a half hour later. He's the lunatic who'll test your patience by doubling down on a soft 19. And yeah, he's the agitator who'll play one spot, then two spots, then drop back to one with no apparent rhyme or reason. All this he does because he's reacting to shoe conditions that 99% of the players are totally oblivious to. And when he leaves the table, you and the "also ran" next to you will chuckle over what an "idiot" that guy was.

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