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Experts Can Be Annoying

7 May 2023

An actual face-to-face breakfast conversation with Blackjack Bob has been a rare treat the last few years. When we pulled our schedules together in mid-April, Bob got straight to the point.

"You know, we can be a pain in the rear sometimes."

I asked if he meant the two of us, humanity in general or some group in between.

"Blackjack players," he said. "Especially blackjack players who know enough about the game to want to share their wisdom."

There had to be a recent story attached, so I asked Bob what sparked the observation.

"I was one of five players at a pretty ordinary game. Six decks, dealer hits soft 17, double any first two cards, double after splits.

"One of the other four clearly hadn't played much. He was making all the basic rookie mistakes. On hard totals, he was just playing by feel. Sometimes he'd hit 15, sometimes he wouldn't, and it didn't seem to matter what the dealer had up."

I could see where this was headed, so I asked if one of the others berated the newbie.

"There's that, and more," Bob said. "Two players followed strict basic strategy. One was clearly basic-strategy-plus. I couldn't tell in a short time if she was counting cards or just making composition-dependent moves, but she made advanced plays."

I assumed Bob was counting cards.

"I was, and I became a target. So did the other plus-player. She was fine, she just played her cards and left it at that.

"One of the basic strategy players took it upon himself to be strategy overseer. Every time the newbie made a mistake, he was all over it.

"He'd say, 'You can't hit 14 when the dealer has a 5. You have to give the dealer a chance to bust.' Then the new guy would stand on 14 against a 10, the overseer would tell him he was wrong again, and the new guy would say, 'But you just told me to stand on 14.'"

I've seen this happen hundreds of times. In the short conversations you can have during a hand or between hands, trying to force-feed basic strategy just confuses someone trying to learn.

"Definitely," Bob said. "The rookie was getting frustrated and edgy. The basic strategy lord was getting frustrated and angry. Neither one of them was having a good time.

"The new player got frustrated enough to pick up his chips and leave. The basic player told him to use what he had left to buy a good blackjack book, and the response to that was a dirty look as the guy rushed off."

Did things quiet down after that?

"A little bit. You know, even when you're counting, plays that differ from basic strategy don't happen all that often. But when they did, Mr. Basic was all over the two of us.

"We had of 20 hands or more where every play by every player was basic. Then the only comments were along the lines of, 'That's what I like to see. Everything by the book.'

"Then on one hand, the other plus-player and I both stood on 16 against a 10. I thought he was going to blow a gasket."

Thing is, I said, your play is just as likely to help him as hurt him. There's no magic to card order. It's best to ignore the play of others.

"That's my philosophy," Bob said. "I know you tell the old story of someone saying of a play-by-the-book guy, 'I'd like to take that book and hit him with it.' I'm not a violent fellow, but I second that emotion."
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski