In Big Hand
Blackjack games aren’t typically this exciting. But if you’re going to play the games, have a strategy. GIF/Tenor Gif

Once again on Sunday, the South Point in far south Las Vegas was bustling. Crowded race and sports book. Busy poker room. Full table games. And a long line that seemed to barely budge for the buffet.

Was on my way out after a humdrum session in the poker room, wending my way down the casino pit and its assortment of craps games, blackjack games, roulette games and offbeat table games such as three-card poker.

So I stopped to briefly watch a $25 minimum blackjack game. A middle-age guy was studying his hand — a pair of eights. The dealer was showing a seven. After some thought, the player indicated he wished to split the eights.

That’s the correct play. Blackjack has basic strategy — that is, a minimum line of defense and the correct plays for all situations. You can study basic strategy or even buy a plastic “cheat” card in the gift shop. The house will still have an edge, maybe 1 percent or even less depending on the rules of the game. But at least you won’t be left clueless.

For the serious blackjack player, you can learn the count cards. You know, there’s one, there’s another one, and here’s one more. That makes three. No, seriously folks, card counters watch the cards that come out. In basic systems, tens, face cards and aces are plus one. Two through six are assigned minus one. Sevens, eights and nines are neutral. If you can keep a running count of where you stand vs. the remaining cards and make proper strategy adjustments, you might have a tiny edge over the house for a hand or two.

Of course, if you’re really, really good at counting cards, the casino might pick up on it too and politely or impolitely back you off and steer your business to other games. Some dealers even count cards.

But back to the middle-age guy with the split eights. He’s now made at least the correct basic strategy decision. Now the dealer is about to give him a card. She does. It’s a six. If you’re scoring at home, he now has 14 vs. the dealer’s seven.

He looks up at her with that deer-in-the-headlights look. She smiles and points to her face cards. She could have 17 of course, or she might have any random small card. You don’t know. Which is why blackjack is a profitable game for the casino. The players at the table wait for him to act.

Very tentatively, he motions for another hit. The dealer pitches him a two. He’s working his way up there, but loses his courage and decides to stand on 16 vs. a 17. (You don’t like it and will probably lose anyway, but you’ll lose less in the long term if you hit 16 vs. 17. Some card counters will stand on 16 vs. 17 if they know where they stand in the count.)

So after this painful exchange, it’s on to the next eight. He motions for a hit and catches another deuce. Now he flashes the deer-in-the-headlights look at the dealer again. The dealer shrugs, clutches the cards in this double-deck game, and points to the 7 as if to say, “Assume I have 17.”

Of course, the correct play is to double down on his 10. Very slowly, he produces a green chip and puts it next to his second hand. The dealer flips his double-down card on top of the eight and the two, face down. So after all this drama, the player has a grand total of $75 riding on this outcome. Hardly high stakes, but it’s probably a tank full of regular unleaded for the guy’s pickup.

She moves onto the player at third base, the far left of the table, who motions that she will stand on her 18.

So, she flips her up hole card. It’s face card. So the dealer stands on 17. The player loses on his 16, but did he catch a big card on his second hand? Perhaps a ten or an ace? She flips it up for him. It’s a six. He has another 16 and loses both hands.

Well, that’s life. The house has made another $75, the player is out $75. I continue walking on my way out, bobbing and weaving among the unruly post-afternoon NFL crowds. The games will go on, and people will continue to show up.

But if you’re going to play the games, have a plan. In blackjack, it’s basic strategy.

Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt