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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Taking Blackjack To Its Highest Plateau

16 December 1999

As we have discovered, casino executives have gone to extraordinary measures to stifle blackjack players from beating them at their own game. They're not worried about people who don't know how to play the game (but still do). Such folks are welcomed to the tables with open arms. They don't even concern themselves with basic strategy players. Both groups are by far the majority of people who play blackjack, and it's the main reason the game exists.

Mention "card counter", however, and it's very possible you'll detect a slight grimace or even an eye tic. Casinos know that in spite of the proliferation of multi-deck games, shallow cuts, and frequent shuffle-ups, it's still possible to get a far bigger edge on the game than they'd like to see you get if you use a mental system of keeping track of the cards that have been dealt.

Being labeled a "card counter" may be a dirty word if you're a casino operator, but if you're a player, a card counter should rightly be regarded as one of the true heroes of gaming. It takes a great deal of study, practice, and concentration to track cards. If you're willing to invest the time and effort, it's well worth your while.

Systems to keep mental track of the cards (remember, you cannot bring paper, pencil, or any type of counting device with you to the table) can get mighty complicated. Throw in the added skill of what has become known as "shuffle tracking" and you're talking about a major investment of time which pays off only if you play blackjack with frequency and for high stakes.

Today we're going to examine a couple of simpler, relatively easy-to-learn tracking techniques. They don't have the accuracy of the real scientific methods of running counts, but some form of tracking is better than none at all. It can only help make you a better player.

One way to get started is to become an interactive blackjack player instead of a passive one. Don't just sit there and pay attention only 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 couple of deals out of the shoe.

At least for starters, if you don't keep track of anything else, watch for the number of lower-value cards, especially the fours, fives, and sixes, to come out of the shoe. Such cards are powerful ones for the dealer because they make him draw to big hands. The more of them to come out of the shoe, the better. If you detect an inordinate number of them have been played out and there are still a few deals left in the shoe, you could have a situation that's in the player's favor.

If you get ambitious, keep a side count of the aces. One of the big advantages players have in the game is the fact they are paid 3-2 for a blackjack. But the only possible way to get a blackjack is with an ace. If a majority of the aces have been played out, the chances are less likely you'll get a blackjack and it may not be a good time to make a bigger than normal bet.

If you're a five-dollar player and consistently make five-dollar bets, the casino will "grind" your money from you no matter how good a player you are or no matter how much short-term luck you may have. If you sit there for any length of time and play five dollars a hand, the game is structured in such a way you're either going to wind up losing, wining a little, or simply breaking even.

If you keep some mental track of the cards and know when the shoe is somewhat depleted of lower-value cards and is rich in 10-value cards and aces, it may be to your advantage to increase your bet to $10, $15, $20, or even $25 once in a while. Afterall, you're not just playing a hunch. You're taking a calculated risk based on knowledge that few players bother to take the time to learn!

Supervisors won't be bothered if they see a five-dollar player push a $25 bet out there once in a while. It's the real sharpies who increase their five-dollar bet to $100 that'll catch their attention!

Capitalizing on playing situations that may have tilted in the player's favor is unique to the game of blackjack. Take advantage of it.


For more information about blackjack, we recommend:

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
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