Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Blackjack Betting

There are two aspects to playing blackjack "well".  Playing strategy and betting strategy.  There are many guides to both.  Wikipedia actually has a great matrix of what do based on what you have and what the dealer is showing.  The very short form of the playing strategy is you generally assume the hole card is a 10.  Therefore you should hit until your hand total is higher than whatever the dealer has showing.  So if the dealer is showing a 7, then you assume he/she has a 17 and therefore you should hit up to 17 or bust trying since the dealer is likely to beat you anyway.  There's more to it than this and I would encourage you to read up on the full strategy--or sit down with me sometime as I explain it.

Betting strategy is something I don't see as often, but I'm sure it is out there.  My research is all based on no actual money--just a very realistic simulated environment.  In class, I would "buy in" for $200-$300 and play all night trying to only work with that initial buy in.  Most nights I made it last for 3 hours with little to nothing left over, but there were a couple of nights where I ended very up.  My record was $3800, but I did get over $1000 more than a few times.  I wouldn't encourage real gambling unless you really can afford it, but playing with a good poker set is most of the same fun.

My betting strategy uses two hands on a $5 table.  To play 2 hands you have to double the minimal bet to $10.  So Bet 1 gets $10 and Bet 2 gets $10.  From this you have fundamentally 3 outcomes.  2 winning hands, 1 win / 1 loss, and 2 losses.  1 win / 1 loss happens the most often and it results in a wash.  You win $10 and lose $10.  You take the $10 you won and move it over to the bet that lost and keep playing as is.  You just having fun for free at this point.

If both bets win, then you get $20 in pay out.  Add $5 to each bet and pull back $10.  Now you have $30 on the table--two bets of $15.  Just play normally.  Chances are you'll get the 1/1 result and you can keep moving the $15 winning bet over to the loss and you're still playing for free.  As long as you're winning or getting 1/1 you keep up the same pattern of adding $5 from winning bets or just moving over bets.  

If you lose both hands you basically start over at $10 bets and build up again.  If you're lucky you will have built up some winnings from pulling back winning bets.  If you want to play more aggressively, then double your starting bets to $20 and $20.  If you lose again, then double again to $40 and $40.  If you are applying good blackjack strategy then the odds of winning remain about 1 in 3 so you're bound to win back what you've lost if you can keep doubling the bet on the losses.  However... this is a game of a chance.  If this is real money, then it is your real $160 on the table to win or lose based on a 30 second blackjack hand.  Obviously, some people dig that.  Some don't.  Don't bet what you can't lose.

Overall this strategy allows you to stretch out play time.  It does require that you know your blackjack playing strategy.  While it isn't really possible for most folks to count cards in their head, you can keep a casual track of things.  There are 96 Ten cards and 24 Aces. If you're most of the way through a full 6-deck "shoe" then the percentage of 10's / Aces has likely altered.  Good playing strategy requires using Double Down and Split bets effectively in well timed ways.

Again, this is just my personal observation.  I make no claim about this strategy as likely to win you actual money.  All casino gambling favours the house.  My observations are my own and do not reflect the recommendations of any agency public or private.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Blackjack... a relatively simple game.  I've spent the last month playing about 4 hours a day, 5 days a week in training to be a dealer at a local casino.  I've always wanted to be a better blackjack player--it feels a bit "James Bond" even if his game was baccarat.  You know the basics.  You start with 2 cards and total the pips of each card to get as close to 21 as you can without going over.  All suited cards count as 10 except the Ace which can be either 1 or 11.  Simple enough with a few extra bits to remember.

You're playing against the dealer and only the dealer.  There may be 7 people at your table, but the only hand you have to beat is the dealer (me).  In this regard I am entirely a machine, the dealer can make no decisions about his/her hand.  My casino must hit on all hands "soft 17" or lower and must NOT hit on any hand of "hard 17" or higher.  Thus if I have an Ace and a 6, then I have a a soft 17 and must take another card.  If I have an Ace and a 7, then I have a soft 18 and must NOT take a card.  The dealer has only one card visible when you (the player) must decide if you want additional cards or not.  The hidden card (or hole card) is what you're betting against.  If your hand totals higher than mine or if I bust (go over 21) then you win and I match your bet.  If I beat your hand or you bust, then I take your bet. If you get a true "blackjack" hand (one 10 card of any sort and one Ace on your first two cards), then I pay 3:2 or 1.5 times your bet.

That's the basics of it.  Most of the class was more about handling the cheques(chips) than anything else.  You see casinos rarely lose money from players, but apparently employees cost them money all the time. Everything on a blackjack table is watch by multiple cameras.  They can count the cheques on the table--probably better than I can standing at the table.  So everything I do as a dealer must be very transparent to the cameras.

Now a public service announcement.  DEALERS ARE PAID ON TIPS!  The hourly rate of an American casino dealer is making less than minimum wage like any waitress or bartender.  There are a variety of ways to tip a dealer.  A popular route is to place a dealer bet next to your own on the table.  If you win, then the dealer wins that portion of your bet.  Certainly this is fun, but don't feel shy about just giving the tip (a cheque/chip) straight to the dealer.  You see if your hand loses, then the tip is lost as well.  The casino doesn't give the lost tip bet to the dealers...  Every dealer needs to make about $15 per hour in tips to make a good wage.  That's not very hard to do at a table of even 3 players.  Consider giving $5 per hour to the dealer as a general rule.  However, if you did just score big on a $500 bet, tipping a $25 is just fine!  This reflects only my opinion of tipping dealers.  You stick to whatever mechanism feels right for you.  My opinion is not a reflection of any organization or casino.

There is no "trick" to blackjack.  There is no magic formula to win consistently even if you are a master player.  It is a casino game of chance which has to take in more than it pays out in order to work.  That said, you can definitely hedge the odds a bit.  Generally, one hand in three is going to win.  Each hand has one of 3 outcomes, win, lose, or draw (called a push).  If you win, you get double your money. If you lose, you lose your bet.  If you push, then you neither win nor lose any money.  As with all things based on chance, you can get a string of 10 losses or 10 wins.  The odds just say what is likely to happen, not what will happen.  Again, no system can turn blackjack in to a consistently winning game, but it's fun to play and get lucky.  If you have the means to spend the money, enjoy yourself in a casino, and like to smoke and drink inside... then blackjack is a pretty enjoyable hobby.  Most people won't walk away "winners"... but a few will.