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The In and Out of Blackjack Play

25 January 2015

By John Grochowski
QUESTION: I have played a lot of blackjack, with moderate success. I basically play the plastic card strategies and have read a few books as well.

What I never see covered in any detail is optimum settings. When should you get up and leave? You buy, make minimum bets to check the counts (if you can do that sort of thing). One hand goes by, and then two, three, and maybe up to 10 with ridiculous cards and a dealer that is making 4, 5, and 6-card 21's.

So how long do you play before you leave??

When people sit down dunk or don't know how to play that is the signal for me to get up and leave. Sometimes I see how much they buy in for maybe sit out a few hands. but basically that is a recipe for disaster.

Any other thoughts playing with people that just don't know what they are doing? I read in one book that others people play can only affect the game by not more than a few hands or a few percentage points.

ANSWER: To answer your second question first, of a bad player irritates you and breaks your concentration, then move. But another player’s bad decision is as likely to help you as it is to hurt you, though we tend to remember the times they cost us money and don’t even notice the times we win after a bad play takes a card that would have made the dealer’s hand.

As for your first question, there’s no one correct answer. If the dealer has won several hands in a row by pulling long strings of low cards – something we’ve all seen happen – it could mean there’s a higher concentration of high cards remaining in the deck, and that favors the player. But unless you’re counting cards, you don’t know for sure whether the odds have swung in your favor.

For average players and basic strategy players, who do not have an edge on the game, I suggest setting a loss limit based on your bankroll. If you have $200 to play with for the day, and you’ve lost a quick $50 at a $5 table, maybe it’s time to take a mental health break, take a little walk and change tables. The specific numbers are up to you, but have an idea of when you’re going to leave before you even start playing.

QUESTION Which is best to play, single-deck blackjack, six-deck manual shuffle, six-deck machine shuffle or continuous shuffle; which is the best to play?

Of the 4 types mentioned, is there a better place to sit and an optimum number of players?

In single deck, it seems maybe two or three players and positioned in the middle or third base is best. Six-deck, I haven’t found any good numbers or better positions, but with continuous shuffle maybe four players and mid-table seating.

ANSWER: For most players, position at the table makes no difference in the odds of the game. A card counter might want to sit toward the third-base end of the table to see more cards before decision time, but the difference is small and the card-counter has an overriding need to blend in with the crowd.

Let’s break the other part of your question into two parts. First, which is better, playing with one deck or multiple decks? If all rules are equal, the house edge is lower on a single-deck game than on a multideck game. In single-deck games, each card dealt has a greater effect on the composition of the remaining deck, you’re dealt blackjacks more often, and you get good draws on double downs more often.

However, rules at one-deck games almost always are tougher than those at multideck games. If, for example, rules are the same except that the multideck game pays 3-2 on blackjacks and the single-deck game pays only 6-5, then the multideck game has a lower house edge, and it’s not a close call. You need to weigh the house rules before choosing a game.

That leaves the issue of hand shuffle vs. machine shuffle vs. continuous shuffle. The worst situation for all players is a continous shuffle. It makes the game impossible to track for card counters. For other players, it speeds the game and maximizes exposure to the house edge.

Hand shuffle vs. non-continuous machine shuffle is a matter of speed. Machine shuffles bring more hands per hour, and that favors whoever has the edge on the game. Average players and basic strategy players are better off with the slower hand shuffle, while card counters are better off with the faster machine shuffle.

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at


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John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago, with podcasts at Look for John Grochowski on Facebook ( and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).

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