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Best of Walter Thomason

Gaming Guru

 

Bonehead Blackjack

16 October 1999

Blackjack is one of the few casino games that can have "positive player expectation," meaning that with perfect basic strategy, card counting, and the best game rules, the player will win more than he loses in the long run. Even without counting cards, the smart player gives up only a percent or so to the "house."

Unfortunately, a lot of players don't understand or choose to ignore the benefits of Basic Strategy, allowing the casino an overall advantage approaching 10%. That's an average of $100 lost for every $1,000 wagered, and that's serious money!

Let's look at some of the more serious "bonehead" plays that many players make:

  • "Mimic the Dealer." Some players figure that if they follow the same rules as the dealer -- hit on 16 or under, stand on 17 or over, never double-down or split -- then the game should be an even match between the player and the dealer, right? Wrong! Wrong, primarily for one reason: The player completes play before the dealer, and if he busts, he loses even if the dealer busts. So the game isn't even, is it? And the house gains an edge of about 5%.
  • "Never bust" is a strategy that some players use to "correct" the problems with the "mimic the dealer" strategy. If the player doesn't bust, he's got a good chance of winning, right? Wrong again. Wrong, because the dealer only busts about 28% of the time -- he makes 17 or better about 72% of the time, and ends up with a 5% advantage.
  • "Always take insurance." Some players take insurance on every hand (even weak ones) when the dealer shows Ace, on the assumption that the worst that they can do is lose half the wager, right? Wrong again, because 10-point cards only make up about 31% of the deck, so there's a 69% chance that the dealer does not have a Blackjack. If you insure a weak hand and end up going bust, and the dealer doesn't have Blackjack (the more likely possibility), you lose both the insurance wager and the original bet. Even if you have Blackjack, don't take insurance; you'll make more money in the long run because of the 3 to 2 payoff.

Aside from incorrect strategies, many players make "bonehead" decisions on how to play specific hands, usually caused by faulty logic on their part. A few of the worst examples are explained below, along with the actual dollar amount these mistakes will cost in the long run.

  • Stand on 16 vs. a dealer Ace. The dealer will make 17 or better nearly 80% of the time when he shows a 7 or better. When the dealer shows an Ace, you will lose an average of $665 per $1,000 wagered if you stand on 16, compared to losing only $515 per $1,000 when you hit the 16. That's a $150 savings per $1,000 wagered -- not a winner, but not as much of a loss.
  • Split 10s. Stand with a pair of 10-point cards and you'll win $703 per $1,000 wagered, compared to winning $567 per $1,000 when you split them. Why give up $136 more in profit?
  • Stand on 12 against a 2. If the player stands on 12, he loses about $286 per $1,000 wagered, compared to only $254 per $1,000 when he hits the hand. It's only $32 per $1,000, but it adds up!

These are just a few of the common -- and expensive -- mistakes that some players make. Other costly errors in play, such as incorrectly doubling-down or splitting, not hitting soft totals, or incorrect play on "stiff" hands, all lead to the casino's edge over the bonehead player.

The bottom line is this: Play smart -- learn and apply basic strategy -- and have a good chance of winning. Or be a bonehead, play against the odds, and pay the price.

Good luck, and remember -- Play smarter, not harder!

Copyright 1997. Walter Thomason


For more information about blackjack, we recommend:

Twenty-First Century Blackjack: New Strategies for a New Millennium by Walter Thomason
The Ultimate Blackjack Book by Walter Thomason
Best Blackjack by Frank Scoblete
The Morons of Blackjack and Other Monsters! by Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Blackjack! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
Walter Thomason
Walter Thomason is the best-selling author of Blackjack for the Clueless and the editor of The Experts’ Guide to Casino Games and The Ultimate Blackjack Book.

A long-time casino gaming enthusiast, he is a frequent contributor to
The New Chance and Circumstance, Midwest Gaming & Travel, and Heartland Casino News.

His new book is
21st Century Blackjack: A New Strategy for a New Millenium. He can be reached
at PO Box 550068, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33355.

Books by Walter Thomason:

> More Books By Walter Thomason

Walter Thomason
Walter Thomason is the best-selling author of Blackjack for the Clueless and the editor of The Experts’ Guide to Casino Games and The Ultimate Blackjack Book.

A long-time casino gaming enthusiast, he is a frequent contributor to
The New Chance and Circumstance, Midwest Gaming & Travel, and Heartland Casino News.

His new book is
21st Century Blackjack: A New Strategy for a New Millenium. He can be reached
at PO Box 550068, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33355.

Books by Walter Thomason:

> More Books By Walter Thomason