Casino Gambling Guide

John Brokop's Gaming Column

Blackjack. What a crazy game! In spite of all the volumes that have been written about it, in spite of all the basic strategy instructions on how to play it, in spite of all the computer studies, blackjack at any given time can be very unpredictable.

There’s no doubt that playing blackjack using decisions based on basic strategy is the best call over the long run. It’s those hour or two sessions in the grand scope of time that we select to play the game that can create some mighty frustrating and comical situations for anyone who takes it seriously. How’s this for a story to try the soul of any student of the game:

While playing at a table with four other players, the dealer’s up card was a “stiff” (it happened to be a four). The first four players, including myself, didn’t take hits because we all had 2-card totals of 12 or better. The fifth player, seated at “third base”, had a 14 but for some reason scratched the felt for a hit! We all looked on in disbelief. Lo and behold, the dealer flipped a seven to the player to give him a 21. Then the dealer played out his hand.

He flipped over his hole card, which was a 10, then pulled an eight to bust. The whole table won, but only because the third baseman took a BAD hit! Had he not asked for a card, the dealer would have gotten that seven for a 21. All of us “smart” players just looked at each other, shook our heads, and smiled.

Here’s another strange tale from the blackjack tables. I was seated next to a player who had a pair of threes against the dealer’s up-card of 10. It was a situation that calls for a basic strategy decision of simply hitting the hand. This player opted to SPLIT his threes. On the first three he drew another three, so he split again. One card later the dealer flipped him yet another three. The net result is that the player wound up with four threes and four hands, one of which he doubled-down on. His totals on the hands were in the range of 15 to 18, hardly the hands you’d like to have with the dealer showing a 10. So, because he split, he had four bad hands instead of one. Can you guess what happened? The dealer pulled a six for a 16, then an eight to bust!

Our reckless friend won all four of his hands, including a double-down, and he just may have set it up for the dealer to break. It was one of those instances where you couldn’t help but shake your head.

Perhaps we’ve saved the best for last. It happened during a tournament. I was one of five players at my table for round one, four men and a woman in her twenties, who, by the luck of the draw, sat at “first base”. We guys knew we were in trouble when we saw the young woman nervously clutching a wallet-sized card explaining the moves of basic strategy. Our suspicions were confirmed after the first few hands of play. She didn’t know a thing about how to play blackjack!

Our dealer proceeded to be red hot. He never broke. He drew to high totals. All of the players at the table, with one notable exception, were making all the right moves and losing our tails! As each of our piles of chips began to dwindle, our friend at first base was on a winning streak.

She made bad hits and won. On at least two hands she drew a pair of aces. Instead of splitting them like you’re supposed to do, she HIT them! And would you believe she wound up winning those hands?

At the end of the 21 rounds of play, two of us, including myself, were broke. Another fellow had a lonely five dollar chip left. Still another had $25 left from his $100 buy-in. The table leader? The young woman who didn’t know how to play and who had made all the wrong moves. She wound up with $75. Go figure. 


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