By Yancy Howard
Anyone knowledgeable of casino games knows that the two games that can be beaten consistently are blackjack and poker. The reason being, that if you play other games that have a negative expectation, you will go broke in the long run. This is not to say you can’t have a short run of luck and make a profit at any game where the house has an edge. Notice the key word here is luck, and luck is what you’ll need to make a score no matter how large or small, if the house has an edge.
Although these two games theoretically can show long term profits, careful game selection techniques must be adhered to in either case. Just because you are good card counter, doesn’t mean you are going to have that 1% to 1.5% advantage in all blackjack games. Neither does it mean you will come out ahead in any poker game just because you are a good poker player. There are many factors that come into play that control winning and losing and the most control you have is choosing the proper game to put your money at risk! No matter what you gain from this article, that last sentence is the most important.
There are many factors that come into play
that control winning and losing and the most
control you have is choosing the proper
game to put your money at risk!
Aside from having to put on a good act while playing blackjack for high stakes, if you are good enough to win, you have to play the game like a machine. You are essentially a robot while keeping the count, making the proper strategy decisions, sizing your bets correctly and ensuring the payoff is correct.
Poker, on the other hand, is not played like a machine. Yes, you have to be able to keep track of the cards that have been folded and the ones that are still out, so you know what your hand is worth. In blackjack you know at all times what your hand is worth. All you have to do is look in the betting circle. It’s worth either 1/2, even money, 1 1/2 times, double, or nothing if you lose, and you still have what is in the circle if you push. With a poker hand, you either lose what you have invested in the pot, possibly split some percentage of it or win it all.
Now, winning the entire pot is much different because the contents of the pot is going to be worth what you are able to sell your hand for. You are collecting money from all of the players that are in the pot after all the cards are turned over. In blackjack you are playing against the dealer, thus, you take no money from the other players. It makes no difference how good or bad the other players are.
Both (games) take a lot of time to master,
and one of the problems is that you
can waste much of your time by studying
the wrong material, and lose a lot of money
before you get your hands on the right material.
Unlike blackjack, one of the problems in poker is that it takes so long to become proficient at any one game because many of them are so complex, and if you are playing in a dealers choice home game, you have to be proficient in more than one game. Once you know the game of blackjack, your decisions are cut and dry for the type of counting system you use. Poker requires much more thought. In many cases, deep thought! You may know your counting system well enough to joke with the other players at the table, chat with the dealer, and still make the proper decisions at the blackjack table. In a poker hand, figuring pot odds, effective odds, implied odds, whether to check, call, bet, fold, check raise, raise or re-raise isn’t found on some chart in any book for all situations.
Discipline is one of the keys in both games. Knowing when, and how much, or how little to bet is a drastic decision. By little, I sometimes mean, no bet at all. For instance, say you are in a poker game with a few weak players and you have a poor hand. Would you try to steal the pot by raising? Of course not, no more than you would make a big bet at the blackjack table in a high negative count. Now, the blackjack example is concrete. (Barring the possibility that you were an excellent shuffle tracker and were coming up on a large clump of 10-value cards.)
Poker requires much more thought.
In many cases, deep thought!
The poker example, however, is not concrete. If you were in a very tight game with good solid players, certainly there would be times that you would attempt to steal the pot. Everyone knows that you just don’t try to bluff poor players in a poker game, as some of them will surely call you. As you can see, poker lends itself to a lot more maneuvering by the solid player. The blackjack dealer is nothing more than a mechanized dealing device, as he is bound by a given set of rules, so it’s robot vs robot.
In selecting a blackjack game you look for the best rules, the deepest cut, the fastest dealer that makes mistakes, and the largest bet spread you can get away with. In poker you look for a game with lots of weak, loose players that play like maniacs and call lots of bets. There are many other things that you look for in both games, that we will get into in another article.
I thoroughly enjoy both games, and have found each to be very rewarding. Both take a lot of time to master, and one of the problems is that you can waste much of your time by studying the wrong material, and lose a lot of money before you get your hands on the right material.
Any text or article written by the following authors in their respective fields was the best information you could purchase in the 1990s. Today, there are many more new rising stars which I will leave you to discover.
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[ This article was originally published in the Spring 1994 issue of Blackjack Review magazine. ]