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Learning blackjack basic strategy18 December 2014
To put that in dollars and cents, if you play 100 hands at $10 a hand in a couple of hours at a crowded seven-player table, you risk $1,000. The average loss is $20 for an average player, but only $5 for a basic strategy player.
It does take some diligence and practice to memorize basic strategy so the plays come automatically. I learned in the days before home computers, dealing myself blackjack hands, then checking my plays against a basic strategy chart in a book.
That’s an approach few would use anymore. I asked some acquaintances who play basic strategy how they learned:
Tom: I did just what you did, and dealt myself cards. I knew the rules of blackjack. My sister and I played without betting since we were kids and learned from some cousins. But all I knew was the mechanics, how to hit, stand, double down, split pairs, and that you weren’t supposed to go over 21. The first time I played in a casino, I came away feeling like I was missing something big.
I wasn’t ready to buy a whole book on blackjack, though later on, I bought every one I could find. But I had a Las Vegas travel guide that had a strategy chart in it, so that’s what I used. I dealt the cards, made a play, then checked the play against the chart.
I practiced for hours and hours. My wife and I would be watching TV together, and I’d be dealing cards at the same time. When we went back to Vegas the next year, I was a lot more relaxed at the table, had an idea of what I was doing, didn’t lose any money and had a lot more fun.
Carl: You know me. I’m a stubborn old cuss. I was bound and determined to figure out this game. I had mostly deduced the basic concepts.
One day, a guy at the table pulled a strategy card out of his shirt pocket and checked some of the hands. I asked him about it, and he said they had it in the casino gift shop. I bought one that day, and tried to memorize it. It corrected me on a lot of fine points, like hitting 12 when the dealer has a 2 or 3. I used it at the tables for a little while, and gradually it all sunk in.
Kevin: Computer all the way. I’d seen a review of software, and I ordered it. Worked like a charm. It would deal practice hands, I’d make the strategy choice, and it would flash a warning every time I made a mistake. It didn’t even play out the rest of the hand — I made the strategy decision, it told me if I was wrong, and then it dealt a new hand.
I made A LOT of mistakes, too, in the beginning. I got past those in a hurry. You play a lot of hands really fast, far more than you could ever play in the casino in a given time frame, so I went from novice to experienced in making strategy choices in a hurry.
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