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Best of Walter Thomason

Gaming Guru

 

The Best of Blackjack Times, The Worst of Blackjack Times

22 June 2000

I’ve been a casino gambler for over 25 years. I’ve written several books and many articles about my hobby. My game of choice is blackjack, because it’s one of the few games where the long-term financial gain or loss is directly affected by the intellectual and emotional capabilities of the player.

By intellect, I refer to knowledge that a blackjack player must possess to have a reasonable chance of winning, a comprehensive understanding of the rules of the game, adherence to the fundamental and unalterable principles of basic strategy, and a strict adherence to bankroll and money-management techniques that allow smart players to withstand the short-term volatility of the game. I’ve also learned to recognize "tells," physically observable actions by the dealer that might help reveal the identity of his hole card, and apply other tactics learned from intensive analysis of the game.

Yet, the emotional aspects of the game are of equal importance. I’ve learned to ignore the faulty play of others, since their actions have no long-term effect on my outcome. I’ve learned to control my personal reactions to the game; I don’t blame the dealer or the casino when I lose.

I’ve learned to leave the table when the cards are running against me, and to press my bets when I’m on a winning streak. I’ve also learned to control my superficial reactions, and accept the inevitability of fluctuations in the probability of winning or losing during short periods of play. In other words, I’m a better than average blackjack player.

With this in mind, let’s address the best of times and the worst of times that every blackjack player must eventually experience.

Here’s the bad news by way of a personal example:

Last week I experienced the worst losing session of blackjack that I have ever played. I was on my favorite casino cruise ship that departs from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida several nights each week. Gaming sessions last about four hours and I bring a cash bankroll that is 60 times my initial wager. To make a sad story short:

  1. I drew an unusually high number of stiff hands against the dealer’s face cards and busted almost every single time.
  2. My splits and double-downs lost practically every time.
  3. The dealer consistently beat my hard hands by one or two points.
  4. I drew only two blackjacks in over four hours of play!
  5. I never won more than two consecutive hands.
  6. In the midst of all this, I took breaks from the blackjack action, played a little craps, even played some video poker, then went back to blackjack -- and the pattern above continued.

By the end of the session -- when the casino discontinued play and returned to port -- I had lost my entire bankroll, plus additional cash that I had not intended to use for gambling purposes. Had this been my first gaming experience, I would have never played blackjack again! I would have thought that people must be crazy to throw away money like that.

Eventually I recovered from my temporary despondency by recalling some of the best of times that I’ve spent playing this game.

Early in my casino gaming career, I won 20 consecutive hands at blackjack. I was flat betting five dollars per hand and $100 ahead at the end of the shoe, having never lost nor pushed a hand.

I once played a five-hour session on a turnaround flight to the Bahamas and never had a losing shoe. I sat at one table, won consistently, and left with a profit that was ten times the size of my session bankroll.

My most memorable "best of times" occurred on the same casino ship that recently caused me such consternation. I played two hands, head-to-head against the dealer, and never lost a hand through the entire six-deck shoe. I was using a progressive betting system, and my initial investment of $30 netted me $1,900 in profit in a mere 15 minutes.

Occasionally, the best and the worst of times occur during the same gaming session. On many occasions, I’ve lost most of my bankroll, then hit a hot streak near the end of the session, which lead to breaking even or winning.

I’ve also made a few large wagers at the end of a session, lost the hands, and wiped out the profits of several hours of play. On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I spent eight hours at the tables to win back the money I had lost in my first hour at the tables.

Having now recounted some of the best and the worst of times, there are two important facts that every blackjack player should consider:

  1. Blackjack is a highly volatile game. In spite of the long-term probability that a skilled player is only giving up an approximately one-half percent edge to the casino, or that a card counter might actually gain a small advantage over the house, almost anything can and does happen during short periods of play. My personal experiences of the best and the worst certainly verify this fact.
  2. Don’t make the same mistakes that I made! Learn to accept losing a little and be happy when you win a little. Quit playing, and I mean really quit playing, if you exhaust your session bankroll. Also, learn to appreciate a small profit, and don’t blow four or five hours of winnings on one or two hands.

As with all casino gamblers, blackjack players have two personal demons -- greed and pride. Our personal enemies are not the dealers and the casinos, but those voices in our heads that tell us to go for one more hand, one big score. If we are going to play this wonderful game of blackjack, it must be viewed as a lifelong affair, much like marriage, raising kids or playing golf. The day-to-day fluctuations can drive us nuts, but by practicing good money management and personal self-control, the overall experience can be very rewarding. Savor the best times, accept the worst times, and look forward to your next session of play.


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:

Blackjack for the Clueless

> 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