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?

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