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Best advice from longtime players

By John Grochowski


When table players are first learning their games, they often receive advice – whether they want it or not. It seems as if veteran players who aren’t annoyed by the newbies want to help them with the wisdom they’ve acquired through years or decades of play.

Not all of the advice is good, of course, and for this edition of Table Talk longtime players were asked to think back to when they were beginners. What was the best advice they ever received? What was the worst?


I was playing poker with a bunch of guys from work. We’d all played in casinos, but I was sticking to card rooms while the others played blackjack, craps and some other games.

I just casually mentioned that craps looked interesting, and one guy told me he played craps all the time, and he’d fill me in on the best way to play.

We put off any serious craps talk until the card game was breaking up. Then he told me his method.

“The first thing you do, is you bet against the shooter,” he told me. “The house makes its money betting against the shooter. You want to be on the house side.”

Then he told me he bets on don’t pass and don’t come, and lays odds if the point is anything except 6 and 8. Those are the numbers that favor the shooter he told me, so you keep your bet small there.

It was all kind of a blur. I didn’t really know what he was talking about. But I tried to do what he said, and had so-so results. I won sometimes, and lost a little more.

Eventually, I learned what the game was about and how it worked by reading and talking to other players. The advice about playing the don’ts was OK. The odds are slightly better than pass or come. But his reasoning was wrong. The house makes money against those who bet both with AND against the shooter. The odds are slightly better than pass or come.

The advice about not laying odds on 6 and 8 was terrible. There’s no house edge on either taking or laying the odds no matter what the number is, and 6 an 8 aren’t shooters’ numbers. They lose to 7s more than they win.

Bottom line is that now I sometimes bet with and sometimes against the shooter, and I take odds on the do side and lay odds on the don’t know matter what the number is.


I’d love to go back in time and thank my uncle for teaching me what money management was all about.

I was young and headstrong. I knew I didn’t want to play slot ma-chines. I wanted to play blackjack because everybody said the odds were better.

For some reason, among the few people I talked to about casinos, money management was all the rage. I was absolutely convinced that if I just did this with my bankroll or bet in that pattern, I could win.

My uncle played blackjack, and I was telling him about all these theories, and he just listened quietly. I might have detected an eyeroll or two, but he seemed content to let me just talk myself out.

Finally, I ran out of steam and he said, “Kerri, you can’t change the odds of the game with money management. The odds are the odds. They do change with what cards are dealt and what cards are left, but your bets don’t change them.

“What money management can do is save you from yourself. You set a bankroll to play with and you don’t exceed it. You don’t bet too big a percentage of your bankroll on any one hand. When you lose a set percentage of your bankroll, you get out.

“That way you can have your fun, take a chance at winning, but you never leave flat broke. It takes some willpower and discipline, but you don’t go to the ATM, withdraw extra funds and risk money you need for something else.”

The part about not changing the odds with your bets really hit home. The casino gets lots of bets from lots of players. Why should my little bet change the odds?

I later learned how to count cards and raise and lower my bets as the odds change, but my uncle’s advice about not betting too much of my bankroll at once and cutting out if I lose too big a percentage is just fundamental.”


I suppose I’ve gotten the same bad advice every blackjack player has heard, and I’ve gotten both from dealers and other players.

You know what it is. “Always insure your blackjacks. It’s the only sure thing in the casino.”

It’s a terrible play. You make more money if you just play out your blackjacks, accept the pushes and take the wins when they come. But dealers always are telling me to take even money.

Another one, just recently. My wife and I were in a casino we’d never been before, and I went to check out the tables. I saw the placard that said blackjacks pay 6-5, and I said, “Nope, not for 6-5.” The dealer called out, “Come on, have a seat. How often do you get blackjacks anyway, and it’s not that big a difference.”

It IS that big a difference. I went with my wife to play video poker.


You know the best advice I ever got? It was from my husband when I tried roulette the first time and wondered if I should bet the numbers on the board or stay away from them.

He said, “They don’t matter anyway. Just have fun.”

And I did.


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