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Bogus Blackjack26 November 2004
The most studied game in the casino is blackjack, by players, experts and bosses alike. Ever since Dr. Ed Thorp published his ground-breaking book, Beat the Dealer, in the early 1960s, blackjack has roared to the front and center of the casino table-game hierarchy, surpassing craps, the once and, perhaps, future king.
The reason for blackjack's success, for both the players and the casinos, is the fact that the players' decisions do have a real, quantifiable impact on the players' expectation. In the long run, how much a player wins or loses is largely up to the player. A good basic strategy player (basic strategy is the computer derived play of every player hand against every dealer upcard) can play against house edges of one-half to one-tenth of one percent.
Another reason for blackjack's popularity is the fact that with card counting, a skilled player can actually get an edge over the house. Once players found this out, they flocked to play the game and lost hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. The fact that a game can be beaten doesn't mean just anyone can do it. The fact that some people can play in the NBA or in the Major Leagues doesn't mean that every kid who ever put on a jersey or swung a bat is destined for the big show.
What has kept most people from enjoying low edges against them or gaining the edge for themselves? I asked this of Paul McKenna, a professional blackjack player, one of the elite of the field. His response was harsh but instructive. "The stupidity, laziness, bull-headedness, and arrogance of the ill-informed and the ill-educated thinking they know it all."
He went on, "We know from billions of computer runs and hundreds of studies and from math just what the right moves are for every hand, yet players obstinately insist on playing in an inferior manner - which just causes them to lose more than they otherwise would."
"Players have crazy ideas as to what constitutes good strategy too."
He then went on to list the most common "idiocies" as he calls them (the man doesn't mince words) that players make. He called their strategies and logic "bogus" and so I have dubbed the following plays Bogus Basic Blackjack.
McKenna: "This is one of the dumb moves. People think that there are more ten-values in the deck and that these will bust you. No, no, that isn't true. If you have a hand of 12, about two-thirds of the cards that can come out are not going to bust you. The computer says the optimum strategy is to hit, so you hit."
McKenna: "That 16 is a losing hand no matter what you do but on two cards you will lose slightly less if you hit than if you stand."
McKenna: "A hand of 18 is a losing hand in the long run for the player. When the dealer is in a weak position with those bust cards up, you want to get more money on the table and take advantage of it."
McKenna: "You have a losing hand with an 18, so you hit. Since you can't bust, you have a shot of improving your hand. The computer shows this clearly."
McKenna: "Never split fives. Two fives are a ten, period. You go for the double because you have a very good chance of winning twice your bet."
McKenna: "You are giving the casino a big edge when you insure your twenties and your blackjacks. Even superficial logic should show you that when you have two ten-valued cards, the dealer is less likely than normal to have blackjack. The house edge on insurers is around 5 percent, sometimes more. Never insure your hands!"
These are not the only hands that fall prey to Bogus Blackjack decisions but they are indicative of how many players think they are making a smart choice when, in fact, they are making the wrong choice. I'll let Mr. McKenna sum it up: "In blackjack, you either play smart or stupidly. There is no in-between."
The advice from the pro is - stay away from Bogus Blackjack.
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 email@example.com.
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