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Best of Henry Tamburin

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More reader questions on blackjack

1 February 2002

I observed a blackjack player make a bet on fellow player's hand. Is this common and will the casinos allow this?

I wouldn't say this is a common practice and as far as I know casinos permit this as long as the player approves of someone else betting on his hand. I've actually made bets on another player's hand if I see a player hesitating to double down on an obvious double down play. I just ask him if I could make the double down bet. And in most cases the player will say OK (only once has a player refused my request to do so). Fred Renzey, author of Blackjack Bluebook, has developed a name for this technique -- "Hand Interaction" -- and has an article on this site about how to use this technique to your advantage. Fred describes advantageous situations that arise when players double down for less, or don't want to pair split, or when they take even money for a blackjack. If you want to learn more about Hand Interaction, I encourage you to check out his excellent article.

If you have to leave the table for a bathroom break, should you leave your chips on the table and ask the dealer to watch them?

Lots of players do this but I prefer for security reasons to take my chips with me if I have to take a break. If you need to leave the table for a few minutes, just ask the dealer if she can hold the spot for you. Usually the dealer will place a plastic button in the betting circle to indicate that the playing spot is reserved. However, don't abuse the privilege. Usually casinos will reserve a playing spot for up to 10 minutes and after that they can and usually will allow another player to play that spot if you don't return (especially if the casino is crowded).

Are you allowed to use a cell phone while you play blackjack?

Most casinos have regulations that forbid players to use electronic devices including cell phones while they play blackjack. However, most players who must make a call while they are playing (for example, a player gets a page), can do so by just stepping away from the table and then using their cell phone. By the way, this turns out to be a technique used by some pros to avoid betting in a negative shoe. They fake getting a page when the count goes south, make some excuse that they need to me a call, and then wait until the shoe is over before returning to the table.

I was told that the basic playing strategy that you read in books is not correct because it is based on a complete random shuffle when in fact in the real world of the casino the cards come out in a non-random way. Should I stop playing the basic strategy?

If what you say is correct then casinos would go to great lengths to create non-random shuffles. The facts are: 1) non-random shuffles can help or hurt the player equally, and 2) casinos go to great lengths to shuffle the cards in a manner to create as close to a random shuffle as possible. In fact some casinos have resorted to using mechanical shuffling devices (Continuous Shuffling Machines), which their manufacturers claim will give complete random shuffling of the cards. I wouldn't give up on the basic playing strategy.

I am a floor supervisor in a casino in Canada and my Pit Manager asked me how we could increase the table game occupancy at blackjack. Do you have any ideas?

How about this for starters: do away with CSMs so the game becomes theoretically beatable ("don't kill the golden goose"); have several dedicated "learning tables" to teach new players how to play with low table minimums and dealers that have been trained to instruct players on the correct plays; also offer "beginner's tables" with low minimums and the rule that any player who intimidates another player is booted from the table; encourage players on the learner's table to play on the regular tables by giving them match play chips that they can only use on the regular or beginners tables; more no smoking areas (not just tables) in the casino; better rules, especially having the dealer stand on soft 17 rather than hit; give players more opportunities for comps and cash back; welcome card counters with table limits that have max betting limit of $300 (i.e., $5 to $300); give players accurate strategy cards; fire unfriendly and intimidating dealers; do away with side bets; absolutely no 7 player tables; don't be afraid to "pay the table" if a dispute arises; offer slot players blackjack match play chips to play on beginner tables; more single-deck games; deal deeper for more hands per hour; have respected blackjack authors give "how to play seminars" to new and experienced players; offer more blackjack tournaments aimed at the average player. Enough ideas?

I perfectly understand how counting cards helps to adapt decisions from the basic strategy. But I don't see how it helps to determine the starting bet (the theory is to bet more on a positive count). From what I know, a positive count gives the dealer the same probability as you to get a good hand. Can you comment on this?

Even though the probability of your and the dealer's getting high cards when the count is positive is the same, you gain more because the rules of the game are not the same for player and dealer. You get paid 1.5 to 1 on a blackjack but the casino only wins 1 to 1 if the dealer gets a blackjack. You can double down on 10s and 11s in high counts and have a good shot at winning twice the initial bet (the dealer can't do this). The dealer must hit 16 or less even in high counts but you can stand on stiff hands on high counts. Many pair splitting opportunities for the player are more favorable in high counts (e.g., splitting 7s through 9s and aces). Also you can take insurance, which becomes a profitable bet in high counts. The player has more opportunity to take advantage of a high-count situation than the dealer and these extra monetary gains shifts the player's expectation positive rather than negative.

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