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by Ariande

Ariadne has over 15 years of experience dealing and supervising casino games in multiple states for diverse companies. He offers his observations of how most players misplay their hands at blackjack.

I saw a discussion about the most commonly misplayed hands on the Internet, so I thought it was about time to go even further by answering this question...

"What is the stupidest thing you've ever seen someone do?"

Let the above question reverberate for a few moments. Dozens of memories are sure to surface. Strictly speaking, I immediately recall who deserves my dubious crown for the most idiotic play. I was dealing on a $500 minimum blackjack table when some affluent young men sat down and bought in for $5,000 to $10,000 apiece. It wasn't two shoes before the event occurred that forever changed my understanding with expendable wealth. One of the young players received a hard 16 against a 10. The particular casino where I was wodealing did not offer surrender, so cross that option off. The expected value (EV) for hitting is -53.98% versus standing at -54.40%. No matter how you play this hand, you're going to lose more than half your money which is (why surrender is the lesser evil and the better play if it is offered). I'll also assume the count was even.

Of course the young man didn't hit is 16. Instead he says ... are you ready for this ... "DOUBLE DOWN!" with an EV of -107.96%. (The EV seems strange here, over 100%, but it factors in having 2 units up, so max loss would be -200.) What was happening? What did this young man's money ever do to him to make him hate it so much? Not too far away there was a perfectly good ocean that he could have thrown his bankroll into, causing gold doubloons to wash up onto the shore.

"Are you sure you want to double? This is one of the worst hands in the game." There is a fine line between genius and insanity. Would you really buy that scratch-off or lottery ticket if you calculated what it was really worth?

He answered me confidently, "I came to gamble. Don't $#@%ing tell me how you think I should play my money. You can't play this money!"

He was right. I couldn't play that kind of money. I was a $4/hour employee depending on tips to pay a mortgage, car payment, student loans, etc. But I could call out "Doubling a hard 16!" give him a $#@%ing 10 and make the cards and money disappear immediately.

Often when the village idiot does the worst thing you can fathom, he or she seems to be rewarded. You can tell yourself that "God takes care of the poor, the blind, the stupid..." and muse further the deity rarely intervene for the true degenerates. So often, you'll see all the right moves get repeatedly punished. What can I say? That's gambling. Small data sets contain negative fluctuations.

This anecdote illustrates something about the verb "gamble" that requires examination...

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