Blackjack isn`t just a guessing game

I’m a bar-kind of a guy. When I’m not playing, you’ll find me nursing a glass, watching the world go by. Time was, I used to prop, but the knees are getting a little tired (along with the rest of the body), so now you’re more likely to find me on one of those high stools at the end of the bar. You get the best view of the room from there.

Not that I’m watching out for anyone — never borrowed any money from a loan shark and had to hide from the enforcers — I just find people endlessly fascinating. Of course, I’m really studying them, seeing how they act when they’re happy or sad, excited or calm. Watching lovers lie to each other about why they missed their last date together will teach you a lot about how much people give themselves away. It’s helped me a lot over the poker tables when you’re trying to work out the “tells”, those little signs of a bluff or a good hand.

So, yeah, I gamble a little, when I’m not at the bar.

Some of the most interesting people you meet are the ones who say they’re gamblers, suggesting they’re more professional than not, more knowledgeable than not, and certainly nothing less than than the biggest expert in the room. They’re the ones who talk the most. Offering tips on how to play, giving you the real inside information on how to be a winner.

These guys — they’re so transparent! They’re actually trying out their ideas on you, hoping to use you, get a little free education. They hope you’ll steer them in the right direction when they stray off course. Me? I’m from the old school.

Those as can, do; those as can’t, teach.

Guess I’m a doer. Never been much of a talker about anything.

So what do these apprentices in search of a master say that gives them away? They’re dismissive about blackjack, for one thing. They say things like, “Blackjack’s just a guessing game.”

They’ve not got a lick of sense, lumping all casino games together as guessing games.

With any blackjack hand, there’s a right way and a wrong way to play it. You’d better duck down ’cause I’m going to use some words from the big book now. For every hand, there’s a mathematically optimal blackjack strategy. I like these big words when they mean you’re gonna win more and lose less, not just some of the time, but on all hands averaged over time.

So the other week, this young guy comes over to me at the bar. He gives me his card. He says I’m kind of a legend in casino bars like this. Hard drinker, hard player. He was flattering me — it’s the standard ploy to draw you out — but I listened, we negotiated and here I am. Still not talking, but writing a little to share some of what I know.

He wants blackjack, so I’m gonna give him and all you folks, an insight into Basic Strategy. Notice the capital letters. We insiders call the optimal strategy “Basic Strategy”. It’s going to get quite tough fairly quickly but these clever folks who design web pages have a comment space below. If I’m not making sense, it means I need another drink. Promise me a drink the next time you see me and I’ll answer your questions.

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The principles of basic blackjack strategy

Most new players have two primary goals for their first session of blackjack: win money and avoid looking like a rookie at the table. But to become a successful blackjack player, you need to master the principles of basic strategy. And relying on Lady Luck or a rabbit’s foot isn’t a basic strategy that works in blackjack. Let’s simplify and condense basic strategy down to six bite-sized blocks – tactics that help you reduce the house edge to approximately 1 percent. If you want even better odds, then I suggest you skip this simplified version and learn regular basic strategy. Basic strategy for hard hands A hard hand doesn’t have an ace or, if it does, the ace counts as 1 rather than 11. Use the following strategies for hard hands: On 17 or more, always stand. On 12 through 16, hit if the dealer shows a 7 through an ace as his upcard, otherwise stand. If the dealer’s card is lower, stand. On 11 or less, always hit. (However, if your total is 10 or 11 on your first two cards, the double down options take precedence over hitting.) Basic strategy for soft hands A soft hand is a hand in which an ace counts as 11 rather than 1. Remember these two basic strategies for soft hands: On 18 or more, always stand. On 17 or less, always hit. Basic strategy for double downs Doubling down permits you to double your original bet but restricts you to receiving just one more card. The following are the best times to use this strategy: On 11, double if the dealer’s upcard is a 2 through 10; otherwise hit. On 10, double if the dealer’s upcard is a 2 through 9, otherwise hit. A starting total of 10 or 11 is the best time to double down because you have approximately a 30 percent chance of receiving a 10 or a face card. Basic strategy for pair splits When you hold two cards of equal value, you can split your cards and make two separate hands from the pair by matching your original bet. You play the hands out one at a time. Keep the following strategies in mind for pair splits: Always split aces and 8s. Aces are great to split because of the chance to make 21; you split 8s more for defensive reasons (16 is a poor starting hand). Never split 5s or 10s. Never split 5s and 10s because their totals (10 and 20, respectively) are great starting hands. Basic strategy for stiff hands Stiff hands are any hard totals between 12 and 16. Stiff hands are obviously your worst nightmare because any 10 busts your hand. Follow these strategies for stiff hands: Stand when the dealer is weakest (upcard of 2 through 6). Hit whenever the dealer is strong (upcard of 7 through ace). Basic strategy for pat hands Pat hands are any hard hands of 17 to 21. Because of their high starting total, pat […]

What’s in a name?

Whenever you go online, one of the most interesting decisions you have to take is whether to stay anonymous. For some purposes in a forum or wiki, you may decide that using a nickname is the safest and best way to travel. That way, you are free to contribute and not worry if you say something foolish (or worse, libellous). In other situations, you are expected to give your real world name. This may be because you are an “expert” and expected to give your opinion or it may be required for other social or commercial reasons. In sites like Facebook where you are looking for networking opportunities, being more honest about who you are is part of the price you pay for useful contacts. In Morocco recently, Fouad Mourtada was sentenced to three years imprisonment for opening an account in the name of Prince Moulay Rachid. Some governments and royalty are prone to anger if people take their names. In fact, Mourtada was released after serving only forty-three days of the sentence. Human rights activists from around the world put pressure on their governments to intervene. Morocco decided to accept a moderate line, but wherever you live, your real world names and usernames/nicknames are all part of what makes up an identity. Identity theft is increasingly an issue in the world of online gaming. More people are opening accounts at online casinos in the names of celebrities. This is not so much a problem. The fact that you may claim to be Tom Cruise is unlikely to deceive the casino into giving you any benefits if all you do is to play the free online blackjack. In any event, there is a routine for checking “high profile” names and, after time, most have been found to be fake. More interesting are those who register using the names of well-known high-rollers, presumably in the hope that they will be comped or receive other benefits by joining the casino. Suppose you research Sam Vaughn and get his real world address. You now complete the online application with an email address of svaughn@gmail/yahoo/etc. Most of the online casino operators deny ever being deceived, but potential fraudsters seem to keep on trying. Others are using famous nicknames like blackjack-king. This is rather like getting a customised licence plate for your car. It adds that personal touch to what may be an otherwise ordinary vehicle. Curiously, a new trade in these names is springing up in gaming forums with people prepared to pay increasingly large sums for the right to use these names on particular gaming sites. Thus, the identity of the person behind a gold-plated nick may change without the casino being aware of it. Again, the online casinos are not worried because most of the people play for fun using the free online blackjack games. The casinos collect and verify credit card details and that includes the billing address, so the risk of deception once payment is involved is slight. Nevertheless, casinos […]