I’m not an advantage player nowadays. I gamble recreationally, but my background as an advantage player gives me a perspective on gambling that I think is helpful to the average player.

I realize that there are several types of gamblers. One type of gambler is the person who goes into a casino and just wants to turn their brain off. They’ve brought a certain amount of money, and they want to enjoy their time gambling, drink their free drinks, and just get away from it all for a little bit. I can understand this perspective. My wife accuses me of seeing mindless movies, and my response is, ‘I just spent the whole day going over spreadsheets and documents, I just want to turn my brain off and enjoy the popcorn.’

I just want to be ‘stupid’ for a little bit.

I call these gamblers the ‘vacation’ gamblers because gambling to them is a little vacation.  They want to get away from the daily hustle, if just for a little bit.

There are more gamblers of this type than those gamblers care to admit. Those gamblers are sometimes shamed into the closet, but if my observations at the blackjack table are accurate, these type of ‘vacation’ gamblers are the majority of gamblers. I mean, how many times have we seen a person stand on a 14 to a dealers 10 or a person hit a hard 16 on a dealers 6 up?

There’s nothing wrong with gambling just to get away. Even at the worst play style, you might be at a 5% disadvantage against the house. Roulette is worse than that.

For these gamblers, giving advice such as, ‘get a basic strategy chart’ is not realistic. The advice must be the type of advice that requires almost no effort.

So in that spirit, I want to start a series of tips known as Stupidly Simple Tips that Require No Strategy.

The point of this series is to give genuine tips that are so absurdly simple that people rarely ever talk about them. They sort of overlook these tips because they’re so obvious, or actually, sometimes, they’re not so obvious because they’re right in front of your face and you looked past it.

So here we go…

Four Stupidly Simple Tips to Increase Your Chances of Winning at Blackjack That Require No Thinking

 

TIP 1: DO NOT EVER BET YOUR ENTIRE STACK, BET HALF

This is one I see quite often. Guy steams, and slams his entire stack into the betting circle. Then he gets an 11, or worse yet for him considering his predicament, a pair of aces.

So now he has a dilemma: either play the hand out and hit the 11 and the aces, try to sell off one of the aces, or pull out more money. Either way, he is giving up a huge advantage if he does the first two options.

The third option is more of a cost-benefit analysis type situation. I’m never a fan of pulling out more money at the table unless you go in with a strategy to do so. The problem with pulling out the extra money to double down is that if you lose the hand, you will almost surely play the rest of the money. It’s bad bankroll management. If it wasn’t your intention to play an extra buy-in, then you will have increased your hourly expected loss by playing an extra buy in. So before you pull out that extra bill, ask yourself honestly, ‘was I really going to buy in again?’

If you’re honest with yourself, you probably didn’t anticipate that happening, so whatever answer you give to yourself is irrelevant. Just don’t do it.

So let’s talk about the remaining two options, playing the hand out without a reload (meaning you don’t double down or split). The best option depends on the hand. If it’s a pair of aces, then you should ask someone at the table, ‘hey do you want to partner with me on this hand?’ You can agree that you will split the wins and losses equally, or you can each pick an ace to be your own. For example, say, so the Ace of diamonds is yours, the Ace of spades is mine. For something like a pair of aces, it’s practically guaranteed that someone will incorporate with you because everyone intuitively knows that a pair of aces is so powerful.

Actually, for something like a pair of aces, the advantage is so high that I might even go so far as to say, pull out that extra bill. But remember, be honest, you most likely are going to gamble that extra bill, if you lose.

If the hand is a double down hand, don’t incorporate. You derive no benefit from sharing with someone, but you lose the benefit of hitting again if you want to hit again.

TL;DR

All the above can be avoided if you just follow this tip: do not ever bet your entire stack; rather, bet half, so that you can double or split, if needed.

 

TIP 2: PLAY AT A FULL TABLE TO CUT YOUR EXPECTED HOURLY LOSS 

When it comes to gambling, in general, your statistically most probable result is a loss. Remember, you are playing a game that favors the house. You are at a disadvantage. So given enough trials – whether those trials be spins of the while, rolls of the dice, or hands dealt – you are more likely to meet the expected result, which is a negative result.

Each hand in blackjack, as per the average and common rules in the US, has a house advantage of .5%, if played with perfect basic strategy. Let’s say you play poorly and the house edge on you is 2%. While 2% sounds high for a blackjack game (it is), it’s still far better than many games on the gambling floor. So don’t feel bad. You’re still doing way better than that guy over there in the corner playing roulette perfectly.

At a 2% house edge, if you are betting $10 a hand, you are expected to lose 20 cents per hand. That’s less than a game of Spy Hunter at the arcades when I was a kid (for us older kids). So if you play 100 hands of blackjack, an hour, that’s going to cost you $20 an hour. If somehow you could slow down the game and play only 50 hands an hour, then that ‘free’ cocktail is only going to cost you $10 an hour. So would you like to pay $10 or $20? The obvious answer is to pay $10 an hour.

How do you slow down the game? By sitting at a full table. Since the dealer will have to contend with other players, it will take time to get to you.

This helps you win because not only do you pay less per hour but also because you have far fewer trials (hands) you have a greater probability of meeting the expected result, which is a loss.

TL;DR Play at a full table to slow the game down, resulting in a smaller expected hourly loss and a greater chance of winning.

 

TIP 3: PLAY AT A DOUBLE DECK GAME OVER A SIX DECK GAME AND ASK THIS ONE QUESTION THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO ASK

If given the choice, and given that the same or similar rules apply to a double deck versus a six-deck game, you want to play at a double deck game versus a six or eight deck game. The reason is that the more decks are involved, the greater the house edge.

In Las Vegas, the best double deck games are confined to the high limit rooms. Outside of Las Vegas, there are quite a few tables that have excellent rules.

So if you don’t want to think, then before you sit down at a blackjack table, first make sure that it’s a 3-2 game and not a 6-5 game, and then ask the dealer this one question: can I double after a split?

In my entire 30+ years of playing blackjack, I have never seen a bad double deck game where you were allowed to double after a split. Every double deck blackjack game where you can double after a split is a good blackjack game, assuming it’s a 3-2 game and not a 6-5 game.

TL;DR If you see a double deck blackjack game, ask the dealer, ‘can I double after a split?’ If the answer is yes, then it a great game.

TIP 4: IF YOU DON’T KNOW BASIC STRATEGY, YOU ARE BETTER OFF ASKING THE TABLE THAN GUESSING ON YOUR OWN

Have you ever watched an episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The guy in the hot seat gets stuck on a question, so he polls the audience. The audience will usually get the answer right; not always, but usually. Sometimes they’ll get it wrong, but it’s not debatable that the audience gets the answer correct more often than if the contestant guessed blindly.

This is known as crowdsourcing. When you do not know an answer, the crowd is generally going to be able to answer a question more accurately or more intelligently compared to you. The earliest observation on crowdsourcing was done by Francis Galton. Here is the Wikipedia entry on Francis Galton and crowdsourcing:

‘In 1906, visiting a livestock fair, he stumbled upon an intriguing contest. An ox was on display, and the villagers were invited to guess the animal’s weight after it was slaughtered and dressed. Nearly 800 participated, but not one person hit the exact mark: 1,198 pounds.

Galton stated that “the middlemost estimate expresses the vox populi, every other estimate being condemned as too low or too high by a majority of the voters”, and calculated this value (in modern terminology, the median) as 1,207 pounds. To his surprise, this was within 0.8% of the weight measured by the judges. Soon afterward, he acknowledged that the mean of the guesses, at 1,197 pounds, was even more accurate.’

 

In other words, when all the guesses were calculated and averaged, the average was more accurate than the individual guess.

Even the CIA has dabbled in crowdsourcing. If it’s good enough for the CIA, then it’s good enough for you. So when you don’t know the answer, be like the guy on Who Want to Be a Millionaire: poll the audience and ask the people at the table. Just ask, out loud, what should I do? People’s fear of you ‘taking the dealer’s bust card’ will compel them to answer (this topic is a future entry).

From my personal observations, the people at the table will not give you an answer that comports perfectly with basic strategy. Most of the time, they’ll actually be wrong. However, my second observation is that while people are generally wrong about basic strategy, they’re generally more correct than a person who has no idea of what they’re doing. So given a choice, you should ask for advice on what to do, rather than guessing blindly.

TL;DR The people at the table will generally be able to more accurately give you a correct decision than if you were to blindly guess what to do. So ask.

Again, here is a caveat because I know quite a few blackjack aficionados and experts are rolling their eyes. My objective here isn’t to get you to play perfect basic strategy; rather it’s to get you to do the least amount of damage to yourself at the table, which will then result in a greater chance of winning. There’s a lot of advice out there for people who are well versed in basic strategy. Many articles exist on how to extract the extra .01% out of a game. But from what I see at the blackjack table, the vast majority of people do not follow the basic strategy or any other type of optimal strategy. So for those players, much simpler advice is warranted and needed. These ‘vacation’ players – who want to take a break, turn off their brains, enjoy their free drinks, and chit-chat with their buddies – need much simpler advice. They’ve been ignored for too long.

I hope this guide helps you if you are that kind of player.

 

Posted in: Blackjack, Casino, Gambling

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