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The worst blackjack player in the world: me


Thursday, June 29, 2017

The worst blackjack player in the world: me


Playing a session of low-stakes blackjack this evening a situation occurred for the duration of which my brain simply took a holiday. I'm at a loss to understand how I could have been so dumb.

I had 14 vs dealer ace. I called for a card, and got a 3. Now I've got 17. If I don't want any cards other than the initial two I'm dealt I give a slight shake of the head. If I'm asking for additional cards I'm usually tapping the table, accompanied by a nod if the dealer isn't sure. Assuming I don't bust, at the point where I'm happy with my total I sit back in my seat and pick my hand up off the table in sideways negative wave by way of indicating I want no more cards.

Accordingly, on this occasion my bodily antics were as follows: lean forward and tap the table for a card on my initial 10/4, followed by leaning back with a sideways wave after receiving the 3 for a pat total of 17. Things did not, however, go to plan. The dealer proceeded to deal me another card, an ace, giving me a new, improved total of 18. At this point I should have just realised things had gone my way and sat back quietly - if the dealer had bust my 17 with 5 or greater I could have remonstrated that I hadn't asked for another card, and I'd have had a good case - even bad players almost never hit on 17.

The pantomime that actually played out was somewhat different. I looked at my total and immediately squealed “I didn't want another card!!”. The dealer looked bemused - my 17 was now an improved 18; what was my problem? My howling caught the pit boss's eye, so he trotted over and asked what was up. Looking at my perfectly good 18, I said “I didn't want a card on 17!!”. The pit boss, an entirely amenable fellow, said “OK, you can either keep the ace or pass it to the dealer” - I was in last position and the dealer was next to play. I turned to the player to my right, who I'd noticed hadn't made any mistakes and was very much better than average, and said “do you want me to keep the ace or shall I let the dealer have it?”. Again, I was offering to worsen my hand by sacrificing the card that improved it. The player, who must also have wondered what was going on between my ears, said “no, you keep it”, which was pretty generous since the dealer was showing an ace himself and my ace would guarantee that he wouldn't make a blackjack.

At this point I started to wake up from my brain freeze and indicated that I'd keep the ace. The dealer dealt himself a 6 for soft 17, and my hand won. At this point, fully conscious again I turned to my playing companion and said “I have absolutely no idea what I was thinking there”. And I didn't.

There may be some discernable method to my madness. A score of 17 is one of the blackjack absolutes; it is never correct to take a card in the standard rules game. In the hard 17 game it's always correct to surrender 17 vs dealer ace if late surrender is on offer, and in “free bet blackjack”, where doubles and splits are free, it's actually correct to hit up to hard 18 on the “free” hand. But in the standard game with no quirky rules it is never correct to hit. And on this occasion, I hit. It was the dealer's mistaken interpretation of my hand gesture that caused the hit and not my decision, but hit I did. Having committed this egregious error, the actual circumstances of the moment didn't matter to me. I just wanted to rectify the situation and get back to I've-got-hard-17-so-I-stand territory. Once the automatic shock had worn off my brain started readjusting to the circumstances of the moment and I adjusted accordingly my play. I was briefly buffeted out of my comfort zone and took a moment to get things realigned.

On the other hand, and putting aside the snooty psychology, maybe I was just an idiot.

Interestingly, a bit later my playing companion received a 7 on his 12 with the dealer showing a 5. Since he had not made any mistakes for the time I'd been watching his play and hitting 12 vs 5 is incorrect, at the end of the round I hissed to him “did you ask for a hit?” and he quietly indicated that he hadn't. What he'd have done if he'd busted with a 10 I don't know, but in any event it worked out for him as well. This also happened to me some years ago at the same casino - with 12 vs 5 or 6 the dealer misread my gesture and bust me with a 10. On replaying the tape they decided that my gesture was sufficiently clear for my hand to be reinstated. If I'd received any card other than a 10 I would surely not have remonstrated, though my behaviour this evening casts a slight doubt over that.

In any event, the ability to reject a card that busts your hand is valuable to the player, and it's another dealer mistake to add to the bag of tricks you can use to help grind the casino advantage down to the minimum.



1 Previous Comments


You did take somewhat of a risk, as you said you had the chance to ensure the dealer did not have BJ with the ace! But all's well that ends well :)

By Anonymous Joseph, at 11:27 am  


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