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Best of John G. Brokopp
Getting Down to the Blackjack Nitty-Gritty29 September 1999
Today we look at what really separates the informed casual players from the scientific students of the game: Keeping mental track of the cards that have been played in order to make more informed playing decisions, both strategically and financially.
Let's face it. The basic strategy of blackjack is pretty much cut and dried. Its principles occupy a good number of the pages of most of the books written about the game, yet when you get right down to it, information about basic strategy can be contained in a chart small enough to keep in your shirt pocket.
Anyone can play blackjack according to the rules of basic strategy. Casinos will even allow you to refer to a basic strategy chart while you're seated at the table playing the game. For the little bit of extra time and effort it takes to learn basic strategy, you'll cut the house edge against you dramatically.
Yet no matter how proficient you are at basic strategy, the art of knowing when to increase and decrease your wagers is strictly a "crap shoot" unless you've been keeping a mental track of the cards that have been dealt out of any one shoe. Learning a form of card counting is the next crucial step to becoming a successful blackjack player.
For example, if you're playing five dollar hands for any length of time during a particular playing session, the casino is going to keep your profits to a minimum or even "grind" your money from you no matter how lucky you are. It's the very nature of the game of casino blackjack.
The key to making money playing blackjack is knowing when to increase your bet to take advantage of a situation that may have tilted in favor of the players. The only way to know this is if you've been keeping track of the cards that have already been dealt. To increase your bet on impulse or a "lucky feeling" may work some of the time, but it's just as likely to backfire.
Keeping track of the cards is no guarantee you'll win, either. If the shoe does become "rich" in 10-value cards and aces and there's a full table of players, it is simply unrealistic to believe that EVERYONE at the table is going to get 20 or 21 on the first two cards they're dealt. The dealer, for that matter, is just as likely to get a strong hand, too, the only difference being the dealer MUST play his or hand according to set rules, while the player is free to act in any manner.
But over the course of time, increasing you wagers based on an educated opinion does pay off. Keeping track of the cards, however, requires a lot of discipline and concentration. Furthermore, it takes a good deal of study and practice before you are even able to attempt it.
Whether or not you decide to become a counter depends on how seriously you wish to approach the game. You can make the game of blackjack as simple or as complex as you desire. Even if you become an expert at keeping track, it's no guarantee you'll win every time you play.
All of the work and effort required of you if you decide to count may pay off only once in a while. The situation may be ripe for you to push a larger bet out there and you'll wind up losing your hand. But over the long haul, you'll have a decided advantage that very few players have the inclination to capitalize on. If all people played the game according to optimum strategies, there probably wouldn't be any blackjack tables on casino floors. Most of the profits from blackjack tables are collected from people who don't play the game correctly or use poor money management.
Just how seriously you take counting is a matter of choice. It's possible to spend hours upon hours learning complicated systems, or even making a study of what has become known as "shuffle tracking" in this era of multiple deck games. But if you only play once in a while, and even then just to have some fun and hopefully make a little money, is it really worth your while?
For more information about blackjack: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
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best of John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp