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Blackjack blues

20 April 2019

By Jerry Stickman
From Mike,

My wife and I go to the casino at the same time, play at the same $5 blackjack table for the same amount of time. We both use basic strategy but I also use the Speed Count and tell her what to do. She also sometimes bets on hunches – and wins. Last year, 2018, we were at the casinos and played about 150 times each. She ended up winning $ 198.00 and I lost $248.00.

I am not complaining about the win/loss because this is the way it turns out every year, small total losses or wins and we get thousands of dollars of food comps and gifts – up to now (see third item below). I just do not understand why I cannot be a winner. I have the blackjack expert on my computer and am always practicing and according to the status I am playing at 95% correct. How can it be that she wins and I lose a majority of the time?

Another problem is hitting 12 against a dealer 2 or 3. If one third of the deck is 10 value cards why is it that when I hit a 12 I get a 10 but when I hit an 11 I get anything but a 9 or 10? We were at the casino last night and out of 18 hands where I had a 12 and had to hit, I got a 10 on 14 of them sometimes with a majority of low cards left based on the count. The odds do not compute. This is a double deck game and they play about 1- 1/3 decks.

The third item is that since my wife and I always play together, we have always received the same table player comp benefits offers every month. It stopped this month. She received the offers and I didn’t. When I went to the Santa Fe Station Players Club, I was told I didn’t get the January offers, free bets, weekly gifts and free buffets because over the past 90 days I won too much. My wife got the offers because she didn’t win as much. You have always said they base their comps on my theoretical loss and winning shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

They told me over the past 90 days I won $657 and my wife won $61 so she got the offers. I keep track of every time we play and how much we win or lose. I showed them that I had only won $248 over the past 90 days and even the won/loss statement they sent me shows I only won $535 for the entire year. They wouldn’t listen and they are supposed to be the “Locals Friendly” casino.

It seems all the casinos are very tight and all they want to do is get as much of your money as fast as they can.

Mike S.


Mike,

Your questions are very good ones. You are certainly not alone in your thoughts and feelings. Let’s take them one at a time.

Why does your wife win and you lose? Let’s summarize what you said.

• You play $5 games.
• You played 150 times over the past year,
• You do not say how long each of those 150 sessions were.
• You do not give the number of decks the $5 games are, though you mention double deck games in the second paragraph.
• You do not give other rules for the blackjack games you play.
• You say you play 95% correct.
• Your wife plays hunches – and wins.

Based on this information, here are my observations:

The overall house edge is calculated over the long run. This means that you can expect to come close to the theoretical return only after hundreds of thousand or even millions of hands are played.

You play $5 tables. I suspect these tables are usually fairly full, meaning that the number of hands played per hour could be fairly small – maybe in the range of 40-60 hands. Let’s take 50 hands per hour as the average.

If each of your 150 sessions was four hours in length, you would have played 150 sessions times 4 hours times 50 hands per hour for a total of 30,000 hands. While this is a decent number of hands, it is nowhere near the number required to have an expectation of having a mathematically average return.

Variance in blackjack is a fact and can easily skew the results of a (paltry) 30,000 hand sample. It would take a minimum of 10 to 20 years of this play before the overall result could be somewhat reliably close to the mathematical return. The differences you mention are will within the normal fluctuations of the game.

While it doesn’t matter when comparing your results to your wife’s, your return cannot be properly calculated without knowing the rules and number of decks for the games you play. One also needs to know how you vary your bets based on the speed count in order to determine before the expected return can be determined. If you are playing a game with six or eight decks with not many player favorable rules, you could very well not have any edge. This is also true if you don’t bet properly when the count is high.

As far as your wife playing hunches and winning those hands, are you sure she wins more hands than she loses? It is a well-known fact that players tend to remember certain things – like the hands your wife wins when she plays hunches – and forget when things do not work as they should.

Most blackjack decisions are very close. Deviating the proper play on these close hands could end up winning even though it is not the proper play overall.

What does concern me, Mark, is that you say your play is only 95% correct. While close plays could win even if they are wrong, being wrong five percent of the time will definitely have a negative impact over time. If you cannot play at 100% accuracy for an hour or two at a time, my recommendation is to practice until you reach that level (or very, very close to it). However, if you feel the fun you have and the comps you receive from your 95% correct play is worth it, play on. It is your money you are risking.

In response to your second paragraph about getting the wrong card for your hand, I sincerely believe selective memory is to blame. Sure, in the situation you mentioned, the math doesn’t match real life. The sample is very small in the world of statistics, however. I suspect you conveniently forget when you get the card you want more than random would dictate.

When I was a newbie to craps, the math of the game didn’t seem to apply, much as you have indicated about blackjack. In scores of sessions I documented exactly what happened. Guess what? When everything was averaged out, the results closely matched the math of the game. Had I documented hundreds more sessions, I am sure it would have been even closer. Don’t let the times you miss your card cause you any stress. The math will prevail in the long run. Just make sure you have an adequate bankroll so the losing times don’t bother you.

Finally, your statements about comps is interesting. The exact same thing happened to me and others I know. Over the last few years casinos have gotten greedier. They no longer have the patience to ride through the times when fortune smiles on the player. They now want a certain amount every time you play. I also went to my casino host(s) and asked about the reduced comps for ever increasing play.

I was told that actual win-loss now factors into their comp decisions. While this is disappointing, the best advice is to play for the winnings and not the comps. There are only a few casinos that have games I consider worthy of risking my money, so I am not sure how pervasive this comp policy is. But it is definitely getting harder to get the same total return (winnings and comps) as it once ones. The casinos with good games look at your winnings and the casino with bad games take it from you as you play. Sorry I couldn’t be more optimistic, Mark, but your last sentence appears to be the case.

May all your wins be swift and large and all your losses slow and small.

Jerry “Stickman”

Jerry “Stickman” is an expert in craps, blackjack and video poker and advantage slot machine play. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. He authored the video poker section of "Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo, and Pai Gow Poker!" You can contact Jerry “Stickman” at stickmanjerry@aol.com.

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 fscobe@optonline.net.

 

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Jerry Stickman
Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in dice control at craps, blackjack, advantage slots and video poker. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. The "Stickman" is also a certified instructor for Golden Touch Craps dice control classes and Golden Touch Blackjack's advantage classes. He also teaches a course in advantage-play slots and video poker. For more information visit www.goldentouchcraps.com or www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 1-800-944-0406 for a free brochure. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at stickmanGTC@aol.com.

Jerry Stickman Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com
Jerry Stickman
Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in dice control at craps, blackjack, advantage slots and video poker. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. The "Stickman" is also a certified instructor for Golden Touch Craps dice control classes and Golden Touch Blackjack's advantage classes. He also teaches a course in advantage-play slots and video poker. For more information visit www.goldentouchcraps.com or www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 1-800-944-0406 for a free brochure. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at stickmanGTC@aol.com.

Jerry Stickman Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com