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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Can't split a pair of 10s? So double instead!


There is little end to the ignorance and stupidity of poor blackjack players. You see a crazy play and think “can it get any worse than that??”. Well yes, it invariably can. I’ve long given up thinking that the latest display of wallet-annihilating insanity to which I am unhappy witness represents the most abject madness imaginable. Yes, there is always worse.

And worse.

And worse.

And worse.

At the table yesterday a woman sat down to my right, put her £2 bet out and received a twenty as her first hand. Twenty being the third best hand in the game, this was a nice start. She immediately put an extra bet out. Since the two ten-value cards her twenty was comprised of were not the same (one was a 10, the other a face card), and since this casino has a rule which allows splitting 10/10 only when the two 10 cards are of the same rank, the only possible action was to double. The dealer asked the player “you want to double??” and she replied “yes”. I realised instantly what had happened - the player saw two 10s and wanted to split, either forgetting or being unaware of the above rule; I dived in and tried to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, this would have taken a lengthy explanation and there was no time, so before I could get to the end of my garbled attempt to bring order to the chaos the dealer favoured the player with her requested double card, dealt her a 10 for what was possibly the first time that a player has bust with a score of thirty in the history of blackjack, and swept up both her bets.

I remonstrated with the dealer (why did I even bother?), to which he responded, quite correctly, that she’d asked to double. The player, who by now had apparently recovered what little grey matter she had come in with, realised what had happened and said “it doesn’t matter”.

“It doesn’t matter”. Think about that display of breathtaking indifference for a minute.

If you stand with 10/10 you average a profit of around 75%. If you double you lose around 170%. On a £2 bet the stand gains you approximately £1.50 and the double loses £3.50. That’s a difference £5. Playing correct basic strategy - something our heroine of the hour had obviously no knowledge of - you lose around £0.01, or one penny, per £2 bet. That one kamikaze double cost the player the house edge of fully five hundred initial bets, or a good five hours’ play.

Apparently, that “doesn’t matter”.

A dealer once told me that he’d seen a player double on 20, so this latest example of lobotomised asininity evidently is not unique. If there really is “the most idiotic play possible” on the blackjack table, I’m sure I haven't seen it yet. But doubling down on 20 must surely be a contender.



2 Previous Comments


Nothing surprises me any more . . . including dealers who think they're being smart and "professional", but in reality are just being c**tish. OK, some people do some silly things, but hitting a twenty . . . and the dealer's seen it done before? Yeah right.

By Blogger UK-21, at 4:58 pm  


Thanks for the anecdote....amusing!

By Anonymous Joseph, at 11:40 am  


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Saturday, November 05, 2016

The risk of overbetting and the tupsy-turvy logic thereof


I was watching a player the other day who was betting at levels he wasn’t comfortable with, between £75 and £150 per hand. How did I know he was uncomfortable? During the time I watched him he did not make a single double or split, and there were several occasions were even a typical non-optimal player would have put out the extra bet.

The confused rationale is easy enough to see: "I'm already betting outside my comfort zone; any more and I'll have way too much riding on this hand; I can't take the risk - I'm not doubling / splitting".

A little bit of analysis reveals the topsy-turvy confusion of this thinking: when you make a bet at that start of a round of blackjack the casino has an advantage to the tune of around 0.5%, assuming optimal strategy. At one hand in every 200 that's not a huge advantage, but it's still a losing proposition for the player. The double down, when correctly played, is a unique bet - it carries a player advantage. This is the one and only bet in the casino that you can make in the knowledge that it is you, not the casino, that profits. By simply hitting when doubling is optimal you still average a profit, but it is less than the double.

What almost invariably happens after the player has refused the double and concluded that round of play? He goes on to make another bet, usually exactly the same size as his last bet and, as such, no smaller than the double down wager he refused. The player plays on and on making initial bets that favour the casino, and every opportunity he gets to put out a bet no bigger than his initial one and where he has the advantage, he refuses it. He bets exclusively when the casino has the best of it, and never bets when he has. This is the precise, one hundred percent polar opposite of what is in his best interests. It's like walking along a street picking up stones, twigs and other worthless items, and every time you see a coin someone has dropped, you ignore it.

The same concept is at play with splits, although splitting often entails decreasing your disadvantage rather than betting into an advantage. But in any event, correct splitting always carries greater value for the player than not splitting.

Of course, almost no recreational player is able to articulate the exact reason for doubling, that of extracting greater profit value from the hand than is available from hitting alone. Most players just think of doubles as "a good bet", and can be forgiven to a degree for not appreciating the extremely counter-productive nature of the play described above. But it remains extraordinary when a player, over the course of making negative value initial wager after negative value initial wager, refuses any and all opportunities to make positive value bets.

The solution to the dilemma is to never bet so much that will cause you to baulk at the prospect of at least doubling your bet. In fact, you should confidently be able to have at least four bets on the felt at any one time, on those occasions where you split and are confronted with a double on each new hand.

More simply: train yourself to never deviate from basic strategy.



1 Previous Comments


Know the game. Know the math. Discipline discipline discipline. Not my thing haha.

By Blogger Sandracer, at 12:47 am  


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