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  • I know it’s not something that would occur often, but there is another additional hand that’s a (late) surrender if the dealer hits soft 17: A pair of eights against an Ace.

    (As a side-note, something clever I’ve inferred when comparing S17 vs. H17 strategy is there are no differences with upcards of 7-10 because it’s impossible for the dealer to reach a soft 17 in those cases – hence why all those additional H17 surrenders are against an Ace.)

  • I’ve been playing blackjack for a while and counting for about 5 years. I recently (about a year ago) decided to up my game a bit and learn how and when to deviate from basic strategy as dictated by the count.

    I believe it’s Stanford Wong’s book that said that although there are about 50 variations from basic strategy the only 3 of any importance and significance in winning are: (1) taking insurance when the count is +3 or more; (2) stay on 16 vs. dealer 10 when the count is 0 or higher and (3) stay on 15 vs. dealer 10 when the count is +4 or higher.

    I’m embarrassed to say that I also just discovered that there are some basic strategy variations depending on whether or not the dealer stays on 17 or hits. A player mentioned that to me and I wasn’t sure if I should believe him or not because I thought that I had researched this before and couldn’t find any difference or even find mention of a difference. I decided to research it again and discovered your website. With the ability to plug in the casino rules (# of decks, hit or stay on soft 17, etc.) on your site I learned that in fact there is a difference.

    Then I dove deeper into your sight and started going through your course. This is where I have been devastated. I discovered that my whole method of money management was wrong.

    I don’t know where I learned it from but I’m quite sure that I didn’t just make it up. I would multiply my bet by the true count. If I’m playing $25 and the count was +4 I’d bet $100.

    Now I see that not only must you increase your bet by .38% of your bankroll but that percentage is based upon your current bankroll (so as you make lose money that bankroll changes and therefore that betting unit changes).

    I’m devastated! I worked my butt off to learn basic strategy. I learned to count and think that I’m quite good at it. I have the patience to grind it out at a table and play for hours and days at a time to enhance my odds. But: (1) I don’t think that I’m smart enough to calculate .38% of my bankroll as I’m playing and (2) I don’t have enough money to play based upon those guidelines.

    I usually take about $1,000 to play. Based upon that bankroll, unless I’m doing something wrong, the count has to get to +8 until I’m directed to even bet what is typically the minimum ($25) where I play (Maryland Live or Tropicana in AC). Even with a $3,000 bankroll the count has to get to +6 before you can even double your bet. To be able to double your bet when the count is +2 your bankroll has to be around $13,000.

    Please guide me:
    1. Am I now calculating the betting increment correctly?
    2. Am I correct in stating that you need a lot more than $1,000 when counting?
    3. Is there not an easier way to calculate the optimum bet?
    4. Is my method of multiplying my bet by the true count way off base (I suspect it is)?
    5. Is it correct that taking insurance at +3 or more, staying on 16 vs. 10 at 0 or more and staying on 15 vs. 10 at +4 or more are the only variations from basic strategy while counting that make any significant difference in your winning?

    • First, relax! It’s not as bad as you think. But there is both good news and bad news.

      I’ll start with this 0.38% thing… It comes from the GameMaster’s Blackjack School lesson 8, located here:

      The GameMaster School is an excellent resource (that’s why I host it here with his permission!), but I do have my quibbles with it.
      And in my opinion, the approach he uses to teach how to size your bets is confusing and intimidating. His “exact” table of how to figure an optimal bet goes into too much detail for someone just learning to count. I understand that he wants to put real numbers to the concepts, but he really should put a warning above that first table that says “Don’t worry about all these crazy exact numbers… We’ll round them off for easier actual bet sizes in a moment.”

      And indeed, that’s exactly what he does further down the page. He used all that math to arrive at an actual betting spread of $5/$10/$20/$40/$50/$60, as the true count increases from +1 up to +6.

      Now the bad news, about bankroll concerns. The edge in card counting is small, so that means you need a big bankroll to handle the inevitable losing streaks.
      You say that you usually take about $1000 to play, which is probably your trip bankroll, not a lifetime bankroll. You should use a total, or lifetime, bankroll to decide how much you can afford to bet, with the realization that a run of bad luck will put you out of commission until you can raise another trip stake.

      But there is no doubt that $1000, even as just a trip bankroll, is insufficient to safely play a game with a $25 minimum bet. You need to find a lower minimum game. Unfortunately that often means worse conditions and rules. It’s a trade-off. You may have to backcount worse shoe games that have a $5 minimum to find a viable opportunity.

      A little more good news: It is not necessary to readjust your bet sizings constantly. In fact, you can reasonably decide your betting limits for a trip before you go, and don’t worry about them after that. If you’re unlucky, yes, you may run out of money for the trip. But we’re talking trip bankroll here, and your bet sizing should really be based on your total bankroll, which should not see dramatic percentage changes in a single session.

      As for your question 4, about multiplying your bet by the true count, that’s not a bad approach, and it actually is not much different than the GameMaster’s bet ramp from $5 to $60. Can your linear ramp be tweaked for slightly better performance? Probably, but it’s not worth stressing over. Your approach has the benefit of simplicity, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it.

      Now, on to strategy variations… The three index numbers you mention are by far the most important. Once you are ready to expand your game and use more indexes, search for “Illustrious 18”, and you’ll find the 18 most important numbers. The “I-18” will get you at least 80% of the value of strategy variations. If you want to go further yet, consider my indexes available on these strategy cards:
      (If any readers aren’t sure what I’m talking about, that last link has a brief intro as well.)

      So, the bottom line is… It takes a bigger bankroll to safely tackle the $25 minimum games you are currently playing. You are almost certain to encounter a losing streak in the multiple thousands of dollars occasionally at this game. If you’ve been lucky enough to build that big a cushion first, your bankroll may never look back. If not, well, you’ll be back to raising another stake. The problem with moving down to lower stakes is twofold: One, the games are usually worse, requiring more discipline and bigger spreads. Two, the profit potential is lower in the smaller games, and it’s hard to stay motivated when your hourly earn rate is so low.

      So, it’s time to decide whether you’re willing to down-shift in games, and spend a lot of time grinding for small stakes to build up a bank, or take a risky stab at the higher earning games with the knowledge that any losing streak may wipe you out. As long as you understand the choice, there are good reasons to make either decision.

  • Michael:

    “Ive studied card counting for 8 months. I can count through an entire 6 decks every time. Vary the bet using the Kelly method etc”.

    Be that as it may, you are still a raw neophite. I know this because:

    “The dealer at the MGM uses a mirror to see her down card then starts telling me how I should play. This is bullshit”.

    No, it isn’t, and there is nothing wrong about this, and it’s been around for a very long time. Using that mirror prevents Spooking. If the dealer never lifts the hole card off the table to see if the hand is a blackjack, then other people can’t see it either.

    “An Asian women kept talking to me and was rubbing my leg with her leg and arm. I know Asian women want white guys but Im not interested. This behavior was making me nervous. I lost the count and started losing}”.

    Why did you start losing? If you aren’t comfortable playing there, then move. It’s not like the MGM has the only blackjack tables in town, now is it?

    “The pit boss knew I was counting. He walked up and gave me an intimidating look. The dealer was rude and could not even speak English”.

    I highly doubt that. Most pit bosses don’t count, don’t know Basic, and have a lot more tables and players to watch than little ol’ you. If you didn’t like the dealer, then why didn’t you move?

    “I lost $3,000.00 in a matter of minutes. It was no fun. It was a complete waste. The dealer got 14 blackjacks. They were winning every hand. NOBODY plays that good!”

    Vera Variance can be a real bitch at times. It happens, and if you stick around card tables long enough you will see some of the god-damnedest things happen that defy belief. They will happen to you and it ain’t no fun when it does. Been there; done that.

    “Card counting is bullshit”.

    No, it isn’t. It’s a helluva hard way to make some easy money, and there will be occasions where it’ll look that way. You have to ride out the dry spells, give the slim edge you get from counting time enough to make up for them. It will happen. However, it won’t happen if you don’t watch the ‘tude. It takes a certain equanimity to play this game, and bad attitudes will ruin your ‘roll faster than if you played like a casual gambler. To add insult to injury, the pit crew will gladly let you steam it off, and back you off the instant it looks like you’ve come to your senses.

    “I started getting a major attitude with the stupid rude dealer who cannot speak English!”

    Then leave. No one’s holding a gun to your head, forcing you to play.

    “This guys comes over and stares me down. When I asked about comps he puts the card on my table like fuck you and walks away”.

    Maybe “this guy” woke up to find that his kid is flunking out of college, his wife filed for divorce, and his dog got run over? If he’s having a bad day and taking it out on you, you can always play somewhere else.

    That’s another thing: don’t sweat the pit crew. They probably don’t know you’re a counter. If you’re backed off, then worry about it. Don’t figure that they’re gonna nail you this time. If it happens, it happens, then you deal with it.

  • This is confirmation bias again. Everyone wants to complain when Third Base takes the dealer’s bust card and the table gets swept. They forget all those times when it went the other way. Gamblers are a superstitious lot who haven’t the vaguest idea as to what they’re doing.

    Ask a dozen Roulette players the odds of hitting “red” or “black” is and you’ll get twelve wrong answers.

    Ask a dozen Craps players how many ways a seven can fall, and it’s “DUHHHH…”

    As for Blackjack, the most popular strategy is the Whudidowiddishand non-strategy strategy. The 50th anniversary of _Beat the Dealer_ has come and gone. For most of these people, it’s 1961 all over again.

  • Sam R. said:
    (Posted to: 16vT: RS WTF?!)

    I’m a bit new, and I realize the author clearly states to stand on any 3 card 16 against a dealer 10 but I wanted to make sure that would include the specific hand where the player hits A,5 against a dealer 10 and gets a 10 for A,5,10 or 16. Thank you for the article.

  • MKK said:
    (Posted to: 16vT: RS WTF?!)

    ok thank you very much, and in this Special Situation: i have hard 12 against a Dealers 3 and there are many 9s and 8s out of the shoe, always hit or is it possibile to stay in this Situation??

  • In regards to Michael losing $3k in a matter of minutes @ the MGM, how much was he betting $1000 a hand? I am no card counter but I have played Black Jack since 1978 in Vegas and many casinos around the country. Michael had a lot of complaints and when you lose everything is wrong or bothering you.

    I see as everyone else that most people do not know how to play much less know how to bet. Blackjack is a game of patience you have to start with a “base bet” every single time and build up from there on your winning streaks. I see players betting $25 or $50 lose 5 or 6 in a row and then bet $300 and lose again now what’s your next bet $600? a quick way to go down. Or the player who after losing 5 in a row is now winning play after play but does not raise their bet, how will you get your money back or get a big win if you do not build on your base bet? or the player who has won several stacked bets in a row and 5 or 6 hands later reduces the bet to table minimum anticipating a loss.

    As for the green or chicken players who make mistakes non stop, your hand can go either way, I do not give advice at the table or correct people’s mistakes because the next time they play it right we may lose again! I do like a “no mid shoe” table overall.

  • Saito Atsushi said:
    (Posted to: 16vT: RS WTF?!)

    6decks,S17,DAS,Late Surrender,No Peek

    Your strategy chart shows us 16vsT and 16vsA are SR.
    I know it. Why are pair of 8’s vsT and pair of 8’s vsA H?
    Basic strategy charts of other sites show us SR.
    I’m sorry, my English is not good.

    • Grrr. I made a small change in the logic of how the No Peek chart displays its results back in August, and I broke this.
      I simply MUST restructure this code so it is easier to work with without causing problems.
      I’ll correct this within the next few days.

      But, yes, in the 6D LS No Peek game, you should surrender 88vT and 88vA.
      Sorry for the trouble.

  • Don’t believe you can get cruise costs comped. Haven’t tried it, but as you have to prepay…Cruise lines are also famously selfish about giving anything away