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TOP EIGHT BLACKJACK QUESTIONS

by Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin is the author of the "Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide," (www.888casino.com/blog/blackjack-strategy-guide/), editor of the Blackjack Insider Newsletter, and host of www.smartgaming.com. He also teaches blackjack and video poker courses in Las Vegas.

How many questions do I get on blackjack? Glad you asked. I figure about five a month, on average, so that's 60 a year, or roughly 2700 over the past 45 years that I've been a blackjack writer (whew). And what were the most asked questions? Here they are, slightly paraphrased, and in no particular order.

  1. Do clueless players negatively affect my chances of winning?
  2. There you are with a big bet on the felt and the dealer gives you a lousy 10-5 while she shows a 6 upcard. You stand just as the books tell you to do, hoping she breaks. The third-base player holds a 10-6 and he acts next. Surely he will stand. You cringe in disbelief when Mr. Clueless gives the hit signal and, sure enough, gets the dealer's potential bust card. You just know what's going to unfold next. The dealer flips over a ten for 16, draws a five for 21 and you and everyone else on the table loses.

    But did that clueless player really cause you and everyone else to lose? Did he know, or you know, or anyone know for that matter, what the order of the cards was in the shoe before that hand was dealt? The third-base player could have gotten the five and the dealer the bust card just as easily. The point is that the poor play of other players really has no effect on your expectation of winning or losing in the long run (if it were true that clueless players cause other players to lose, wouldn't casinos hire them to play?).

  3. The house always wins so why not follow the playing strategy that the dealer uses?
  4. The house has the edge in blackjack, not because of the playing strategy used by the dealer, but because if you go over 21 and the dealer goes over 21, you still lose. In fact, if you follow the dealer's strategy of always hitting on 16 or less and standing on 17 or more, you will lose big time (in the long run). It's a lousy strategy and should never be used.

  5. Why can't you win at blackjack by betting more when the dealer is cold and less when she's hot?
  6. Great idea. Now tell me how are you going to know beforehand when the dealer is going to get cold? That's the point. You don't know when the dealer is "cold" until after it happens. And even if you found a "cold dealer" and sat down to play, what's to say she won't turn hot? Dealers get cold and hot and there is no way to predict when it's going to happen. Betting more when the dealer is cold is not a way to win at blackjack.

  7. My chances of winning a hand are about 50-50 so if I lose five hands in a row, aren't I due to win and, therefore, shouldn't I bet more?
  8. Your chances of winning any hand are not 50%. It's roughly 48%. And you are not more likely to win the next hand just because you lost the five previous hands. In the short term, losing five hands in a row can and will happen and it's not a good predictor of your chances of winning the next hand.

  9. Shouldn't I always take even money when I have a blackjack and the dealer shows an ace?
  10. It's tempting to take the even money because you can't lose even if the dealer winds up with a blackjack. But, did you ever think why casinos would offer players the opportunity to win even money to begin with? It's because they are paying you off on a hand that has the potential to earn a player slightly more than even money on average. In other words, by declining the even money you will end up winning about 4% more in the long run than if you always accepted the even money. Surprise the casinos the next time you play, and decline the even money.

  11. Is blackjack card counting legal?

    Blackjack card counting is legal if you are just using your brain to decide how to play and bet.

  12. How can you count cards in a casino when they use six decks of cards?
  13. Card counting doesn't involve memorizing every card that has been played. You are just adding and subtracting tags that card counters assign to specific cards in the deck. The common tags are "plus one" for small cards and "minus one" for big cards. Card counters mentally add these card tags as the hands are played, in effect, netting the results by keeping a running tally. The number of decks of cards doesn't change the methodology of adding and subtracting the tags. Card counting is not all that much more difficult with six decks as it is with one deck.

  14. How can the casinos get away with barring card counters?

    Under the ancient common law right, a property owner could eject from his premises any person, for any reason, or even without a reason. The courts, at least in Nevada, have ruled that casinos are technically a private property and under the above ancient law can exclude card counters (or any player for that matter). But don't let this concern you. There are many successful card counters that do not get excluded when they play.

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