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|Player's hand||Actions to take|
|9||Double vs. 3-6, otherwise hit|
|10||Double vs. 2-9, otherwise hit|
|12||Stand vs. 4-6, otherwise hit|
|13-16||Stand vs. 2-6, otherwise hit|
|17 or more||Always stand|
|A-2, A-3||Double vs. 5 & 6, otherwise hit|
|A-4, A-5||Double vs. 4, 5, 6, otherwise hit|
|A-6||Double vs. 3 through 6, otherwise hit|
|A-7||Double vs. 2 through 6, stand vs. 7 & 8, otherwise hit|
|A-8, A-9||Always stand|
|2-2||Split vs. 2 through 7, otherwise hit|
|3-3||Split vs, 2 through 7, otherwise hit|
|4-4||Split vs. 5 & 6, otherwise hit|
|5-5||Never split; treat as '10'|
|6-6||Split vs. 2 through 6, otherwise hit|
|7-7||Split vs. 2 through 7, otherwise hit|
|9-9||Split vs. 2 through 9, except 7, o/w hit|
A good tip on exactly how to learn this through the use of flashcards can be found in my "GameMaster's Secrets" column called "The Best Blackjack Trick I Know."
Now remember that Basic Strategy alone will not overcome the casino's edge; in this game, the 'house' has a .63% advantage. That simply means that if you play 100 hands per hour and always bet $2 per hand, your expected loss will be $1.26 per hour. (I'll explain the difference between 'expectation' and reality in a bit). To do any better than that, you need to learn how to count cards and there are three lessons in the archive for that. Begin with "Learn to Count Cards" and finish with "The True Count". Believe me, it's easy; you don't need to memorize the cards which are played. Go ahead and do that.......I'll wait right here.
All finished? Good. Now that you play each hand properly and can count the cards, let's get into money management, which is primarily concerned with how you bet your $$$ at the Blackjack table. The lessons I have in the archives are worth reading, but I'm going to lay out a plan for those of you who have $300 to risk on a 3-day trip to the casino center of your choice. Let's make some assumptions here: you'll play 16 hours of Blackjack during the trip at a rate of about 75 hands per hour at a $2 table and your maximum bet will be $20. I'm also assuming that the casino where you're playing deals at least 4.5 of the 6 decks. I'll further assume that the aforementioned $300 is what you can lose on the trip without it affecting your lifestyle. In other words, this is pure 'risk' capital and not the rent money.
The first thing we need to do is establish a betting schedule based upon the True Count, so for this game, it will be as follows:
|True Count||Bet Size|
|1 or lower||$2|
|7 or higher||20|
To help you remember this schedule, describe it as "bet double the true count up to 4, then 2.5 times the true; top out at 7." (Yes, I know; it's not very easy. Maybe you can come up with something simpler.) If you're able to play on a $1 table, cut everything in half. That will also mean that your 'trip' bankroll need only be $150, so cut all the other numbers in half as well: expectation, possible results, etc. Just to stay consistent here, we'll assume a $300 trip bankroll and a $2-$20 spread. The big question: "How much can I make?" Now remember, that's not the reason we're doing this, but the 'expected' return is about a $1.80 an hour or 30 bucks for the trip. But. through the vagaries of chance (we 'experts' call it variance, you know it as luck), your result will fall somewhere between a loss of the entire $300 up to a win of $600 or so. There's about a 13% chance that you'll lose all your $$$ (a 5% chance that it'll happen in the first 4 hours of play) and a 50-50 chance that at some point in the trip you'll be up by $150. Pretty wild swings for a $2 Blackjack game, aren't they? That's why you should read my lesson entitled "Letter to an Ex-counter", because it explains a lot about the monetary swings in this game. So, can you depend upon that $300 to last 'forever'? Not likely; there's only a 33% chance that you'll start winning and won't have to look back; the 'risk of ruin' is a whopping 67%. It's only because you're playing for 16 hours that makes a $300 bankroll feasible. How will you probably do? Your final result will likely fall between a loss of $200 and a win of $200.
At the $2 level of play, you don't need to worry that the casino personnel will spend time trying to figure out whether or not you're a counter and you won't likely qualify for any comps, but you never know until you ask. Even though your 'action' is small, don't let it out that you're a counter (don't worry, it's legal) because I'm hoping you're going to like winning and you may want to get more involved some day. Don't blow your cover.
Now, where to play? Here's a list of casinos which, as of June, 1999, offered $2 games of the type I described above. To keep up to date on this, I recommend you subscribe to Stanford Wong's newsletter "Current Blackjack News" (CBN). Further information is available at his site www.bj21.com/. Just so you know, I'm the 'reporter' for CBN in the St. Louis, MO. area.
Las Vegas is not the only city in Nevada, you know. And in your search for a 'low-stakes' game, consider some of the outlying areas such as Beatty, Carson City, Elko (Elko isn't the end of the earth, but you can see the end of the earth from there), Fallon (nope, I don't know where it is, either) and Jean.
But most of you will go to Las Vegas and probably stay on the Strip. Try these casinos for $2 games, but remember that on weekends, most table minimums move up.
Gold Coast (By Rio)
Orleans (on Tropicana by the Interstate)
Slots 'O Fun
The 'Downtown' area of Las Vegas offers a lot of good $2 games, even in double-deck versions which you ought to play, if at all possible. Try these casinos:
Outlying areas of the Las Vegas metrocomplex (Henderson, North Las Vegas, etc.), have many casinos where your play will be welcomed. If you have a car, these are good spots to check out.
Laughlin is the 'bargain center' of Nevada, with cheap hotel rooms and bargains galore on food and other amenities. Surprisingly, there's not a bunch of low-stakes games available, but try these casinos:
Reno is a good spot for Blackjack, since their tradition is to deal single-deck games. But the multi-deck game I recommend you start with are also available; look in these casinos
Rail City (Sparks)
Other parts of the U.S. have $2 Blackjack available, but forget about Atlantic City. Iowa has some in Davenport (spent a week in Davenport one night), many of the Native American casinos in Michigan offer decent games, as do those in Minnesota and Wisconsin. You won't find a lot of $2 Blackjack in Tunica, Mississippi (try Hollywood) or the Gulf Coast; Copa in Gulfport is the only one I know.
Just a final note on the rules you may find at various casinos. A lot of the time, they won't offer double after split, and that requires a slightly different strategy. But don't worry about that at this point. Pairs are the rarest hands in the game, so if you play one wrong occasionally, it's no big deal. A more complicated matter is single- and double-deck games. These are dealt in a different way and so the counting procedures are different. Read my lessons on single-deck play to see how it's done. The most important variation in games you'll find is how deep the dealer goes into the decks before shuffling. You cannot expect to win if their penetration isn't at least 75%. See my lesson called "Evaluating Games" for more information.
See you here next time.
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