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Best of John Grochowski

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Learning blackjack basic strategy

18 December 2014

Learning basic strategy is worth your time and effort if you’re going to play much blackjack. An average player faces a house edge of roughly 2 percent, while a basic strategy player cuts that edge to roughly half a percent in a six-deck game — a few tenths more or less, depending on how generous the casino is with the house rules.

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.
Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
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. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski

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. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski