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THE FIVE DUMBEST MOVES IN BLACKJACK

by Basil Nestor

Basil Nestor is author of "The Smarter Bet Guide to Craps," "The Smarter Bet Guide to Blackjack," and other comprehensive gambling guides. Got a question? Visit SmarterBet.com and drop him a line.

These Moves Are Common, Tempting and Just Plain Dumb

After a bettor learns basic strategy and the rules of the game, if he sincerely follows them, then itís all improvement from there, right? Sadly, no. Experienced players make some of the dumbest moves. Here are the five worst.

Mistake #1: Using a stop-loss and betting too much per hand

Most people use a bankroll (money set aside specifically for wagering) as a simple stop-loss, that is, the gambling stops when the money is gone. It sounds practical, but this is actually a simplistic approach to budgeting that often contributes to a bankroll crisis. A stop-loss doesnít answer questions such as: How much should I bet? How long should my bankroll last if luck turns against me?

Keep in mind that a stop-loss is essentially the same strategy as "quitting when youíre ahead." Both tactics take you out of the game. Those are good plans when your goal is to not play, but otherwise theyíre useless.

Remember that your goal is to play and (hopefully) win.

One well-known tool of gambling professionals is the Kelly Criterion. Itís an excellent formula to help you determine optimum bet size and/or bankroll size, but it can be a bit complicated, so hereís an easier method.

Never sit down with less than 25 bets, with either chips or money in your pocket. With that amount at the beginning of your session, you have about 97% chance of reaching 100 decisions (about 90 minutes of play) without going broke. Moreover, 25 bets will last 80% of the time (4 out of 5 sessions) when you play to 300 decisions. Do you want to give yourself even more insurance? Make it 30 bets and youíll have 99% chance of surviving 100 decisions and 85% chance of reaching 300.

You canít win unless you play. If you sit down with less than 25 bets, youíre probably betting too much per hand.

Mistake #2: Surrendering to superstition

This usually manifests itself in a belief that the deck is following "trends" or that luck consciously changes itself to smooth everything out. In other words, if you lose seven times in a row, then a win is supposedly "due." On the other hand, sometimes people think that seven losses means the table is "cold" and more losses are coming. Which is it? Trend followers are never quite sure. Nevertheless, theyíre convinced that the past predicts the future, as if cards are self-aware and purposefully correcting or creating streaks.

Really, itís like seeing pictures in the clouds. A deck of cards canít say to itself, "Bob is losing a lot. He deserves a break." Likewise, cards donít tease you by thinking, "He lowered his bet. This is a good time to let him win so heíll regret being a cheapskate."

The past tells us nothing; unless it somehow changes the odds (like when tens exit the deck and increase the probability that the dealer will win future rounds). When odds change, then luck changes. Itís that simple.

Mistake #3: Drinking alcohol or being otherwise impaired

Yes, alcohol is fun, and itís free in most casinos. But really, is a free drink worth losing a $100 bet because you incorrectly stood on a soft 18?

In a similar vein, a person shouldnít play when heís tired, hungry, ill, drugged, or otherwise less than his best. Having a throbbing headache can be almost as debilitating as alcohol. Ditto for extreme fatigue. Itís best to stop, eat, rest, and recover. The casino isnít a limited-engagement movie that is leaving theatres next week. It will be there forever.

Mistake #4: Trying to get even

Sometime you will lose. It happens. If you want to keep playing and you have the money to do so, then go right ahead and play if that will please you. However, if youíre unhappy and in a rotten mood about losing, then your decisions may not be entirely reliable. This item is somewhat related to item #2 because the cards donít know if youíre up or down; the game will play the same either way, but you may apply strategy incorrectly if you pressure yourself to win back losses. Therefore, if you would leave with a win after playing two hours, then you should be equally willing to leave with a loss after playing two hours.

Of course, itís ok to stretch a session for pleasure, but donít do it just to chase losses.

Mistake #5: Yelling at the dealer

I never quite understood this one, but I see it all the time. People yell at a dealer as if this will somehow change the outcome of future hands. Usually, it just stops the game and sours the mood at the table. Occasionally, a loud player is ejected from the casino. I suppose this could be considered a smart move for some players because if they stayed then they would surely lose more money by continuing their angry play.

Obviously, if a dealer isnít doing his job correctly, then you should speak to him in a firm but friendly tone, and hopefully that will correct the situation. And if it doesnít, then call over a floor supervisor and offer a formal complaint in a calm and measured way. But going nuclear solves nothing. It lowers your credibility, and makes the dealer and the pit less likely to accommodate you when a borderline decision arises.

Whut Duznít Werk

All five mistakes are related to being careless and emotional (playing loose and being likely to go on tilt). Nobody likes to think of himself that way, but frankly, a long unlucky session of steady losing in public while other people are raking in chipsÖ that sort of bad experience can tilt even a very strong mind. Nobody is immune. Even professionals and world champions have bad runs, screw up sometimes, and make things worse.

Your goal is to be self-aware, to be familiar with these common mistakes, and thus avoid them.

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© copyright 2012 Basil Nestor

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