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Tired Blackjack Play

11 December 2022

There was a time I really enjoyed marathon blackjack sessions.

At one session at the Four Queens in Las Vegas, I was ahead from the beginning, never reached huge profit territory but never fell behind, so I just stayed at the table for six hours straight. At a shift change, the supervisor told his replacement, "It's been quiet, but John here has been kind enough to keep us company through the shift."

My approach for the last 30 years or so has been different. I rarely play for more than an hour. I might come back to another table not long after, but short sessions and frequent breaks help avoid fatigue. And avoiding fatigue helps avoid mistakes.

I asked several veteran blackjack players their thoughts.

BOB: Oh, yeah. Of course. Fatigue and mistakes go hand in hand.

You know me. Basic strategy is automatic. Still, once in a blue moon, I'll find myself spacing out on a soft hand and hitting instead of doubling or doubling instead of hitting. When that happens, it's time to take a walk.

If I'm in one of the local casinos and I'm not ready to leave or one of my friends aren't ready to leave, I'll take a walk to a snack bar, get a drink and sit down away from the games. When I'm refreshed and ready, I'll go back to a table.

On trip to a casino hotel, I'll go to my room for a bit. Maybe I'm not ready for a nap, but I'll put the TV on or read and have a drink, maybe check email and texts.

I don't actually have to make a mistake to take myself out of action. If I even have to think about a play, it means I'm getting tired and my judgment isn't sharp. Those plays are automatic, like I said.

LOU: Some of my tired mistakes have been doozies.

Here's one that really sticks out. I had a pair of 4s, the dealer showed a Queen. A sane person hits had hopes for the best. He certainly doesn't split and risk twice as much money on bad hands.

So much for sanity. I was in such a daze that I read the 4s as Aces. If all you can see is the card corners, it's not that hard to misread 4s as A's. But these were face up on the table. You could see all of both cards. The four spots should have been a giveaway, but uh-uh.

It shocked the dealer. He called to the supervisor, "Splitting 4s vs. 10," and the supervisor came over to watch.

I should have said, wait, I don't want to do that, but I didn't. I took my double loss as a sign it was break time.

CINDY: Avoid fatigue, absolutely. But be careful with alcohol, too.

I'm no prude and I'm not saying not to have a drink if you want to. But nothing clouds judgment like alcohol, especially paired with fatigue.

I was never a big drinker, but the drinks were free. An extra glass of wine seemed just the ticket. After a couple of extra glasses, I find myself doubling down on a lot of hands where I shouldn't. I'd waver between too aggressive, like doubling on 12, and too cautious, like being afraid to bust 15 against 10.

After one session that really wasn't pretty, I told myself, "Self, you can have an extra wine or you can play blackjack, but you can't do both." So now, if I play, one drink is my limit, and if I want more than one drink, I don't play.
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