The right way to play blackjack isn’t a matter of opinion
Interestingly, many blackjack players have read some articles or books here and there, and have pieced together strategies that are essentially correct—but they have backward notions about why these strategies are the best ones to use.
Some blackjack players believe that there isn’t one “correct” way to play the game; they prefer to play particular hands a certain way, regardless of what the books say. They believe it all washes out in the end. But the truth is, the only way it washes out is that those who play with proper strategy will lose far less than those who stubbornly stick with their own idiosyncratic strategies.
That is not an opinion. That is a fact. It is a pure, simple and true statement.
Interestingly, many blackjack players have read some articles or books here and there, and have pieced together strategies that are essentially correct—but they have backward notions about why these strategies are the best ones to use. Let’s take a look at one individual who sent me an e-mail about blackjack strategy. He asked some good questions, but they were based on wrong assumptions.
This person asked if high counts (or player-favorable counts), when there are more 10-valued cards remaining in the shoe than on average, mean you should stand on 16 or better against a dealer’s 10 up-card. And inversely, when the shoe has a low count, would you hit hands such as 17 or 18 against a dealer’s high card?
In all high counts, standing on a 16 versus a dealer’s up-card of 10 is the correct move. The inverse is not true. On rare (and I mean really rare) occasions, a card counter might hit his 17 against the dealer’s 10. Never will he hit an 18 against the dealer’s up-card of 10. That’s just throwing away money.
The player who wrote me the e-mail correctly understood that with so many high cards remaining in the shoe, the dealer was more likely to bust on his bust hands of 12 through 16—hands the dealer must hit, by the way, regardless of the count. However, he incorrectly assumed that the player would bust more as well, and that this meant high counts were a wash between the player and the dealer.
Not so. Yes, the player will bust more, but he will also play some hands differently to reduce the occasion of busting in high counts. For example, the player will not hit his 12 against a dealer’s up-card of 2. He will not hit his 16 against the dealer’s 10. He might double on an 8 against a dealer’s up-card of 6. He might double on an A-8 against a dealer’s up-card of 6 as well. The player will also take insurance in certain high counts, too. All these strategic decisions help the player, and these are just a few of the strategy changes that card counters can make in high counts.
However, the key ingredient in the player having an edge during high counts has to do with the fact that blackjacks pay 3 to 2. Even if the dealer and the player were to bust the exact same percentage of the time and every hand were equally distributed between dealer and player in the long run, the player still has the edge because he has a 3-to-2 payoff on blackjacks. When the dealer has a blackjack he only gets paid 1 to 1—which means he takes your losing bet as he does every time you lose. You can see the difference. In high counts, the player will get more blackjacks than in low counts, and that 3-to-2 payoff is a golden benefit of such counts.
And that, dear readers, is why you should never play blackjack games that pay 6 to 5; it takes away the power of the biggest and best hand you can get at the game.
The card-counting fellow who e-mailed me also wanted to know if changing the size of his bets, based on what cards were available in the shoe, would throw the casino off his scent. Well, that’s how casinos spot card counters. Jacking up the amount of your bets when the shoe has a high count, and dropping your bets when the count is low, is the most obvious indicator that you’re counting cards. In poker, this would be called a “tell.”
Next, my e-mailer wanted to know what cards a card counter should keep track of in order to get an edge over the house. This is an interesting question since there are many card-counting systems on the market, and the better ones will give the player a long-term advantage over the house.
Rarely will the 7, 8 or 9-valued cards be counted in any card-counting system, and these are usually considered neutral cards. Some systems count the 2 through 6 as low cards and the 10 and Aces as high cards. Some counts do not count the Ace.
The easiest card-counting method to learn is called Speed Count, created by Dan Pronovost, who also created the Optimum Basic Strategy that goes along with it. This is the count I now use, and the one I wrote about in my book Golden Touch Blackjack Revolution! There are, however, other excellent counting systems on the market. The most popular is probably Hi-Lo count, which is the count the casinos generally use when trying to ferret out card counters. There is no shortage of blackjack books on the market, and any book that deals with a legitimate counting system provides a good starting point for players who want to educate themselves.
A word to the wise: Stay away from betting systems that say card counting doesn’t work, or that progressive betting systems are the way to beat the game. Such betting schemes are a waste of your time and your money.
So what is the bottom line? If you play blackjack correctly, and make the right decisions at the right moments, this is indeed a game that gives players a real chance to take home the money.
Frank Scoblete is casino gambling’s number one best-selling writer. He just signed a four-book deal with Triumph Books, a division of Random House. Read Frank’s latest book The Virgin Kiss. For a free catalogue call 1-800-944-0406 or visit Frank’s Web site at www.goldentouchcraps.com.
Getting The Facts Straight in Blackjack.