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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Poor Blackjack Strategy Fattens Up Casino Profits

17 May 2006

It's a well known fact in gambling circles that blackjack players who adhere to the principles of basic strategy can keep the house advantage on the game to under two percent, making it one of the best games to play. Then how does one account for the fact that "hold" (casino win) on blackjack tables as reported by state gaming commissions in their monthly reports is much higher, generally four times to as much as seven times the house edge?

The answer to that question is that there is a big difference between the house advantage (the built in mathematical advantage that casinos enjoy) on table games and the hold percentage (the money retained by the casino as adjusted gross revenue).

It is important to understand, for example, that a table game's hold percentage is not comparable to a slot machine's payback percentage. An expert basic strategy blackjack player is always playing against less than a two percent edge even though that player's losses and wins will vary.

A casino's hold on blackjack represents the percentage of money retained as winnings from the total "drop" (cash buy-ins).

If you're a basic strategy player, just because the mathematics say you're going to keep the house edge to less than two percent doesn't mean you're always guaranteed to lose only about two dollars for every one hundred dollars you play. Sometimes you'll lose it all in half an hour, other times you'll double it.

Blackjack hold figures are, however, indicative of the number of players who don' play the game correctly. If everyone played using basic strategy, or better yet, employed a card tracking technique, there wouldn't be any blackjack tables in casinos. The greatest percentage of profits the game yields come from poor players and reckless money managers.

The basic strategy of blackjack is pretty much cut and dried. Entire sections of books about blackjack are devoted to it, yet when you get right down to it, all the pertinent information can be printed on a credit card size chart to which you can refer for decision-making advice even while seated at the table.

If you're a five-dollar-a-hand player and consistently make five dollar bets, chances are the casino will "grind" your money from you no matter how good a player you are. If you play for any length of time consistently wagering five dollars a hand, the game is structured in such a way that you'll be fortunate to break even.

The key to making money playing blackjack is recognizing opportunities to increase and/or double your wager to take advantage of favorable playing situations. The only way to do this is to know the principles of basic strategy and, even better, keep some mental track of the cards that have already been dealt.

One way to get started is to become an interactive blackjack player instead of a passive one. Don't just pay attention to your hand. All the cards are out there on the table face up for you to observe. It can be a big advantage, especially when it gets down to the last few deals out of the shoe.

If your observations tell you the shoe is somewhat depleted of lower value cards and rich in 10-value cards and aces, a bet increase may be in order. You're not just playing a hunch. You're taking a calculated risk based on knowledge that few players take the time to learn.

Any game worth playing is worth playing correctly. Playing blackjack using correct strategy combined with sound money management will not only increase your chances of winning, it'll cut into the profits casinos generate at the tables.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp