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11 May 2013
By Henry Tamburin
To say I’ve answered many questions from blackjack players over the past 38 years is an understatement. I figure I answered, on average, about five questions a month, so that’s 60 a year, or roughly 2300 over the past 38 years that I’ve been a blackjack writer (whew!). Here’s a list of what I consider to be some of the most often asked questions, including several dealing with card counting (slightly paraphrased and in no particular order).
Do clueless players negatively affect my chances of winning?
ANSWER: There you are with a big bet on the felt and the dealer gives you a lousy 10-5 while she shows a 6 up-card. You stand, just as the books tell you, hoping she breaks. The third base player holds a 10-6 and he acts next. Surely he will stand. You cringe in disbelief when Mr. Clueless gives the hit signal and, sure enough, he gets the dealer’s potential bust card. You just know what’s going to unfold next. The dealer flips over a ten for 16, draws a five for 21 and you and everyone else on the table loses.
But did that clueless player really cause you and everyone else to lose? Did he know, or you know, or anyone know for that matter, what the order of the cards was in the shoe before that hand was dealt? The third base player could have gotten the five and the dealer the bust card, just as easily. The point is that the poor play of other players really has no long-term effect on your expectation of winning or losing. If it were true that clueless players cause other players to lose, wouldn’t casinos hire them to play?
The house always wins so why not follow the playing strategy that the dealer uses?
ANSWER: The house has the edge in blackjack, not because of the playing strategy used by the dealer, but because of the fact that if you go over 21 and the dealer goes over 21, you still lose. In fact, if you follow the dealer’s strategy of always hitting on 16 or less and standing on 17 or more, you will lose big time in the long run. It’s a losing strategy and should never be used.
If I follow a progressive betting system, won’t I win?
ANSWER: A progressive betting system is a predetermined way to bet based on the result of past decisions. For example, if you win a hand you increase your bet on the subsequent hand (say, from $5 to $10). Many blackjack players use some type of progressive betting system that they believe will improve their chances of winning. However, it has been proven mathematically, beyond any doubt, that progressive betting systems alone cannot alter your long-term expectation of winning at blackjack. In other words, progressive betting systems might be fun to use and they can increase the amount you could win (or lose) in each session compared to betting the same amount on every hand, but they don’t alter the house edge one iota and they don’t improve your chances of winning in the long run.
Why can’t you win at blackjack by betting more when the dealer is cold and less when she’s hot?
ANSWER: Great idea. Now tell me how are you going to know beforehand when the dealer is going to get cold? That’s the point. You don’t know when the dealer is “cold” until after it happens. And even if you found a “cold dealer” and sat down to play, what’s to say she won’t turn hot? Dealers get cold and hot and there is no way to predict when it’s going to happen. Betting more when the dealer is cold is not a way to win at blackjack.
My chances of winning a hand are about 50-50 so if I lose five hands in a row, aren’t I due to win and, therefore, shouldn’t I bet more?
ANSWER: You are not more likely to win the next hand just because you lost the five previous hands. Yes, eventually you will win about 48% of the hands played (discarding ties) but eventually is a long time. In the short term, losing five hands in a row can and will happen and it is not a good predictor of your chances of winning the next hand. I was at a blackjack table once when Frank Scoblete lost 22 hands in a row.
Henry Tamburin is a blackjack and video poker expert. He is the host of the smartgaming.com website and the editor of the Blackjack Insider newsletter.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at email@example.com.
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