CasinoCityTimes.com

Gurus
News
Newsletter
Author Home Author Archives Author Books Send to a Friend Search Articles Subscribe
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
Best of Henry Tamburin

Gaming Guru

author's picture
 

A game plan for winning at blackjack

21 August 2000

It's been a long week on the job for Joe and he's looking forward to a weekend of rest, relaxation and lots of blackjack. He feels lucky and confident that he's going to win because Lady Luck was not kind to him on his last three casino visits. "The odds have to even out," he figures, so on this trip "I'm due to win."

As he confidently strolls into the crowded casino, he eyes an empty seat and quickly sits down. He pulls out a couple hundred bucks, places it on the layout, and asks the dealer for chips. The dealer smiles as she pushes the stack of red and green chips toward Joe. He places one red chip in the betting area and anxiously awaits the cards to be dealt by the dealer. "Sir, this is a $10 minimum bet table," says the dealer to Joe. Embarrassed, Joe looks around at the other blackjack tables but doesn't see any empty seats. He hadn't plan on betting at the $10 level, but what the hell, he came to play so he adds another red chip to his original bet and he's in the game.

Joe knows a little playing strategy but he generally plays based on the flow of the cards and intuition. And on this trip he can do no wrong. Every time he doubles down, he gets a picture card. Every time he takes insurance the dealer has a blackjack. And every time the dealer has a 16 and draws, she busts. Yes, this is going to be a very good weekend.

But unexpectedly he begins to lose. On one memorable hand he watched in disbelief as the dealer drew a 5-card 21 to beat his 20. On another, he loses because of a "bonehead" play made by the third base player. On still another, he watched in disbelief when the dealer gave him an ace on his 11 double down hand. And he thought for sure he was going to win a hand that he split and then doubled down on both splits with the dealer showing a 6 up card. Joe made good on his double downs on both hands and sat with a 19 and 20. The dealer showed a 6 and flipped over a 10 for a 16. Joe couldn't remember the last time the dealer broke, so she was long overdue. His heart sank as she turned over a 5 for a 21.

His first $200 bankroll is history, so Joe pulls out a couple more hundred-dollar bills and throws them on the layout. There is no way this dealer can keep getting cards like that. Instead of betting $10 a hand, he now ups his betting level to $25 a hand. "After all," he thinks, "I'm due to start winning."

Where it took Joe maybe an hour or so to lose the first $200, it only takes him 30 minutes to lose the second $200. That's all the cash he allocated for gambling for the weekend, but he wasn't about to walk away a $400 loser. So he tells the dealer to hold his seat while he heads over to an ATM. Within seconds he has more cash. "This," he says, "will get him back even."

You probably know the ending to this horror story. By the time Joe drags his tired body away from the blackjack tables, he's lost big time. What's worse is that he blames his losses on bad luck, the stupid play of other players and the unbelievable luck of the dealer. He can't wait for his next trip so he can get even.

There are plenty of Joes out there playing blackjack with virtually no chance of winning. Of course, once in a while they will get lucky and make a big score, but over time they will lose that plus a lot more. What's sad is that it doesn't have to be like this at all.

Blackjack is the one casino game where skilled players can cut the casino's advantage to zero or even swing the odds in their favor. At the minimum with just a little effort, you can cut the casino's edge to less than 1 percent. To accomplish this you need a game plan that includes a strategy of where to play, how to play, how much to bet and, most importantly, when to increase your bets.

If you want to be a winner instead of a loser like Joe, here are the key elements in a game plan for winning at blackjack.

Step 1. Learn Basic Strategy

Basic strategy is the cornerstone of winning blackjack. It's a set of computer-derived rules that tells you how you should play every hand dealt to you. For example, how would you play these five hands?

You have ace-7 (18) and the dealer shows a 9.
You have 8-4 (12) and the dealer shows a 3.
You have a pair of 8s and the dealer shows a 10.
You have ace-6 (17) and dealer shows a 6.
You have 2-4-ace-ace and dealer shows a 4.
You have 8-3 (11) and dealer shows a 10.

The correct basic strategy plays is hit, hit, split, double down, stand and double down, respectively. If you couldn't come up with the correct strategy within a few seconds, then you don't know the basic strategy. The latter is the optimum way to play each hand dealt to you depending upon the dealer's up card. Using the correct basic strategy play will not guarantee you will win every hand. But what basic strategy will do is allow you to make the play with the greatest expected return. Learn it cold, and you can reduce the casino's edge to about 0.5 percent in multiple-deck games and nearly zero in single-deck games.

Virtually every book on blackjack nowadays contains the basic strategy in the form of a chart or table to make learning easy (including my Blackjack: Take The Money & Run). There are also computer software programs that will help you learn the basic strategy with practice drills (Blackjack Trainer by Conjelco is a recommended program). You can even take a handheld strategy card with you on the table (a sort of cheat-sheet), so you'll always make the right play. There are no excuses for not learning the basic strategy.

Step 2. Pick Your Games

Not all blackjack games are created equal. The playing rules are often different between casinos and even within the same casino. Some playing rules help the house more than the player, while others are more player favorable. For example, rules that increase the casino's edge at the expense of the player include the dealer hitting soft 17 instead of standing and restricting player options in doubling down. Examples of player-favorable rules include being able to double down after pair splitting, having the option to surrender the hand, and being able to resplit aces. Also the casino's edge is lower in single-deck games compared to multiple-deck games.

Here are some examples of how a favorable mix of playing rules can result in a more favorable game for the basic strategy player. Most single-deck games nowadays require the dealer to hit soft 17, doubling after pair splitting is not allowed, and some casinos restrict a player to doubling only on 10 or 11. The casino's advantage in these games is about 0.15 to 0.40 percent. However, two casinos in Las Vegas offer single-deck games with rules that actually give the basic strategy player the edge over the casino without card counting (Slots-A-Fun where dealers stand on soft 17 and players can double after pair splitting and Westward Ho where dealers must stand on soft 17). Most 6-deck shoe games have a casino edge of 0.5 percent over the basic strategy player. In Las Vegas, for example, you can find 6-deck games in some casinos where the casino's advantage is cut almost in half to 0.26 percent, because they offer late surrender and resplit aces (Venetian, Luxor, Mirage and Golden Nugget casinos, to name just a few). In fact, the downtown Las Vegas Club has a 6-deck game with such favorable rules that the casino's edge is only 0.12 percent.

The point is that given a choice, you want to play in games that have the lowest casino advantage. By doing so you will be improving your chances of winning.

Step 3. Increase Your Bets Only When You Have the Edge.

Most gamblers increase their betting levels based on "feelings" that they are due to win the next hand or based on whether previous hands won or lost. None of these betting systems will change the casino's edge one iota. The only way to reduce the casino's edge is to bet more when you know you have the edge and the only way you'll know when you have the edge is by card counting.

The concept of card counting turns off most blackjack players because they feel they don't have the smarts to learn it. Nowadays there are simple, unbalanced card counting systems that are ideal for the casual player because they eliminate the most difficult part of card counting (mentally divided one number by another). If you can add positive numbers and negative numbers together (like you did in grammar school) you can card count with these systems. Three of the easiest unbalanced card counting systems that anyone reading this article can learn can be found in these books (Blackjack Bluebook by Fred Renzey, Knock-Out Blackjack by Olaf Vencura and Ken Fuchs, and Blackbelt in Blackjack by Arnold Snyder).

What will card counting get you? Card counting plus basic strategy will get you the advantage over the casinos. In other words, you will be able to turn the tables against the casino.

Step 4. Having Self-Control When You Play

Having control of your emotions when you play blackjack in a casino is what often separates the winners from the losers. Casinos provide an exciting atmosphere, free drinks, and easy credit for a reason. You've got to -- no, make that must -- keep your emotions under control at all times. Even the best professional blackjack players do not win every time they play blackjack. It's just the nature of the game that short term you could lose days, weeks, and even months on end, even though you have the edge. However, long term you will win more money than lose, but only if you follow your game plan.

There are a few more topics that you should master once you've started to develop your game plan for winning at blackjack. They include being properly bankrolled, taking advantage of casino comps, and varying some of the basic playing strategy based upon the strength of your count. But walk before you run and first master the above four steps of your game plan. Then you'll quickly see that winning at blackjack is not only easy but a heck of a lot more fun than losing.


For more information about blackjack:

Blackjack: Take the Money and Run by Henry Tamburin
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
Recent Articles
Best of Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

> More Books By Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

> More Books By Henry Tamburin