Category Archives: Poker

Blackjack Versus Poker (Part 2)

AcesBy Yancy Howard 

In the last article we talked about choosing the right games at which to put your money at risk, discipline, good and bad players and how they affect your game, and thought processes that knowledgeable players use to maximize their expectation.

Game selection was the key factor discussed concerning your long term profits.  In the BJ example we talked about choosing a game that had the best rules, the deepest cut, the ability to get away with a large bet spread, and a fast robot, (that’s the dealer for those of you that didn’t read the last article) that hopefully makes a lot of mistakes. 

Now, say you find this game and start exploiting it.  Once you start taking a fair amount of checks from the dealers chip tray, what happens?  All of a sudden you seem to have taken on a burst of popularity.  The floorman comes over to your table.  First, he may introduce himself and ask you a few questions.  This usually depends on the size of your bets, but you can be sure that he will be particularly interested in your bet spread, and your reaction to his being there. 

In our poker example, if you remember, we were looking to get in a game with lots of technically weak, loose players that call a lot.  For the time being though, we are going to leave out the maniac who is constantly raising, sometimes with the “nuts” and sometimes with nothing.  We’ll deal with him later.

Again, you start amassing a lot of checks.  Do you think for a minute that the casino is going to send someone over to monitor your play?  Not unless they have a reason to believe you are cheating.  Because you are not in a position to hurt their bottom line, they have no reason to feel threatened.

“There aren’t many situations where
you are going to gain anything
by toking the poker Robot.”

Now back to the Robot situation.  There are different types of Robots.  Good ones, bad ones, fast ones, slow ones, honest ones, dishonest ones, careless ones, and some that can be manipulated through tokes to cut off less cards, raising your overall expectation, as long as you don’t toke excessively. 

There aren’t many situations where you are going to gain anything by toking the poker Robot.  I don’t mean that you shouldn’t toke after winning a pot, because that’s expected. 

Having a good act is a very important part of your BJ playing technique.  If you are betting big money, you have to make them think that you are anything but a knowledgeable player.  This is of the utmost importance if you are playing in a single deck game.  The count goes up and down so quickly that your method of disguise, and how good it is, will determine your longevity. 

The act in the game of poker is not important as far as the casino is concerned, because again, you are no threat to them.  Any of your Oscar award winning performances are directed toward your opponents rather than the house.  If you are new to the poker scene, one bit of advice would be to always act in the same manner in each and every situation.  If you have to take a second or two to figure the odds of a drawing hand, do the same thing when you already have the NUTS.  Just don’t hold up the game.  Don’t reach for your chips until the person to your right has concluded his transaction.  If you are a smoker, you’d do well to light up when you are out of the pot, rather than when involved.  We’ll get into this later when we talk about TELLS.

“Don’t reach for your chips until
the person to your right
has concluded his transaction.”

In the first article I stated that you had to play BJ like a machine making all of the correct strategy decisions straight from memory.  After you have mastered the counting system that you have chosen, it is then time for you to add the refinements that will buy you playing time.  Remember, you can only win big money by betting big money.  Betting big money is going to draw attention.  How you act while your play is being scrutinized by the Floorman or the Pit Boss determines whether the welcome mat is withdrawn or not.

Here is a crazy act1)Editor note: The point of this example is that “acting” is a very desirable skill at blackjack and not quite as important in poker. that will buy you a lot of playing time at the BJ tables.  Buy yourself a pair of dark glasses and a cane.  Get your girlfriend or wife to accompany you to the casino as your guide.  Take hold of her arm and have her lead you to the shoe game of your choice where all the cards are dealt up.  Don’t be looking around.  Stare straight ahead.  After all, you’re BLIND!  Have her seat you at the center of an empty table so you can get some heads-up play.  Greet the Robot cordially and explain that you are blind and that your wife is going to help you play by telling you what your cards are.  Tell the Robot that you want all the same color chips, cause you won’t know the difference.  Now this is something that you have to practice at home, and put a lot of thought into.  You can’t be making mistakes like taking the cut card from the dealer when he offers it to cut the pack cause you can’t see him offering it.  You’re BLIND!  You must stare straight ahead at all times.

Blackjack Eye ChartAfter the hand is dealt, your wife tells you what your two card total is.  You of course can see everything that is going on, while keeping the count, making the proper strategy decisions, and sizing your bets.  Remember, don’t move your head when looking down to pick-up your chips for the next bet.  Feel for them a little.  Maybe knock a stack or two over,  It won’t matter, their all the same color, remember? 

What really makes this whole thing work is, your wife tells you what your cards are, the total only, but never tells you what the Robot’s UP card is!  You can, and should, from time to time ask what the UP card is.  If you get a snapper or take insurance requiring odd color chips, ask the Robot or your wife to put the odd colors in a separate stack to the side of the rest of your chips.  It works best if you ask the Robot for help rather than your wife.  Act like you are having a good time.  Be a sport and put out a small toke for the dealer if you’ve just won a big bet.  Remember, you can move your eyes all you want.  Just don’t move your head!  Let your wife take your winnings from the betting circle, but you make the bet.  Here is a good way to really jump your bet.  Say you just won a hand and the count is high, just slide another stack toward the betting circle.  Put it near the circle, not quite inside.  The Robot will move it inside for you and place it on top of your original bet plus what you’ve just won.  Remember, you’re BLIND! 

“Being blind or not, any good size
action is going to draw attention.”

Being blind or not, any good size action is going to draw attention.  Someone from the pit may come over to introduce themselves.  Welcome them!  Act happy.  Move your head in the direction toward where the voice is coming from.  They’ll tell you that they will be glad to assist you in any way.  Just say that your wife is your constant companion since you lost your sight from complications of diabetes.  If they compliment your game, tell them that you used to love to play BJ before you lost your sight and you are sorry for being a little slow.  Be humble, but very nice.  Tell them you appreciate how helpful the dealer is. 

Needless to say this won’t work in the poker room, but it will at the BJ tables.  After all, how many blind blackjack players do you know that can count?

[ Copyright © 1994 – 2020 All Rights Reserved ]
[ This article was originally published in the Summer 1994 issue of Blackjack Review magazine. ]

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BLACKJACK VERSUS POKER (PART 1)

Footnotes   [ + ]

1.Editor note: The point of this example is that “acting” is a very desirable skill at blackjack and not quite as important in poker.

Blackjack Versus Poker (Part 1)

Blackjack Versus PokerBy 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.

POKER

  • Sklansky
  • Malmuth
  • Caro
  • Brunson
  • Zee

BLACKJACK

  • Wong
  • Thorp
  • Griffin
  • Snyder
  • Uston
  • Malmuth
  • Roginski
  • Revere
  • Dalton
  • Braun
  • Schlesinger
  • Sklansky
  • Chambliss
  • Wilson

[ Copyright © 1994 – 2020 All Rights Reserved ]
[ This article was originally published in the Spring 1994 issue of Blackjack Review magazine. ]

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BLACKJACK VERSUS POKER (PART 2)

The Mind in Card Games

Why Blackjack and Poker are More Similar Than You Know


by Sam Williams

Stu Ungar 1997 WSOPWhile blackjack and poker may look like two completely different games, there are many similarities between the two. Not only are both games grounded in mathematics and odds, but they also require players to learn on the job through experience. They can both be highly exhilarating, and some players would even attest that the attributes picked up in either game can be transferred to the other.

A number of famous blackjack players, including members of the MIT team from Bringing Down the House, have gone on to achieve success in poker. Well known poker players, such as Stu Ungar and Andy Bloch, have also been renowned for their blackjack skills.


Hossein Ensan played his pocket Kings well to win the 2019 WSOP Main Event

High Level of Competition

To succeed in either blackjack or poker, players need to have a competitive edge and a strong desire to win. In blackjack, players only face off against a dealer. But when the stakes are high and the casino employee is the one person standing in the way of victory, players need to use their will and determination to bring that person down. This could be compared to heads-up play in poker, which comes about at the end of a tournament when everyone else has been eliminated.

In a huge poker competition like the World Series of Poker, a player would have to get the better of hundreds of others to make it to the final table against the remaining survivors. In 2019 when Hossein Ensan won the Main Event, there were 8,569 entrants to start with. Obviously, the Iranian-German player didn’t need to beat every single one of these people, but he did need to stay in the game while the numbers were whittled down.

When it got to the final stages of the competition, Ensan’s experience became more like a blackjack game. The tournament, which tests players’ endurance as well as their poker skills, came down to Ensan against Dario Sammartino in the final stages. This type of heads-up game will appeal to blackjack players who are used to taking on a single opponent in a battle of wits.

There are some differences, however. In blackjack, players must get the best hand in order to win. But in heads-up poker, players usually try to bet big and steal the huge blinds in each hand, regardless of what cards they are holding. Indeed, in this type of play, it rarely comes down to a flop. In the final hand, Sammartino admitted that his bluff didn’t pay off and that Ensan had outplayed him. The 2019 champion had a pair of kings while the Italian was left with a busted straight. Sammartino took a chance and failed, similar to a blackjack player opting to hit and then going bust.

Basic Skills are the same in Both Games

When you think about poker and blackjack on a basic level, a lot of the same skills are required in both games. To be able to play either, at least a rudimentary knowledge of numeracy is essential. In blackjack, it is crucial as players are constantly calculating their hand’s total value and working out which card would bust them. In poker, advanced players need to calculate their pot odds to determine whether to call or bet. They can also use mathematics to count their outs. This refers to the cards they need to potentially make a winning hand.

Interpersonal skills are quite important in blackjack, as players need to interact with dealers regularly. They are even more essential in poker, as conversation can often be used as a way to garner information about someone’s hand. Players need to be expert socializers who can spot small psychological cues such as a slight change in the tone of an opponent’s voice. Daniel Negreanu is well known for being highly adept at this.

Another common attribute for poker and blackjack players is discipline. They need to be able to endure runs of bad luck without changing their strategy. For example, a blackjack player may be sweating as they play a Martingale technique or keep losing in a high plus count and keep losing. The stakes are getting higher each time, but they need to remember that if they do eventually win, their losses will be cancelled out. In poker, bad beats often cause players to go on tilt. Less experienced players can let this sort of emotion lead them into bad decisions going forward.

Stu Ungar was highly gifted at poker, blackjack, and gin rummy

Players can Train for Both Games by Limiting Active Learning

In both blackjack and poker, there is a vast difference between a beginner player and an expert. The best players in the business possess a number of abilities that they have refined over time in order to maximize their chances of winning. If the games were simply about luck, how could you explain why Ungar was considered to be among the best in the world during his time as a player? In addition to being highly capable in those card games, the three-time WSOP winner was also the greatest gin-rummy player in the world.

It is true that players can train their brains in order to be better than average at card games. But, according to poker psychologist Jared Tendler, Texas Hold’em and Omaha players shouldn’t act as though they are cramming for a test by filling their heads with more information that they can use. Poker mental strategy is about reviewing hands and concepts that you already know and being clear about what you want to improve on. This is referred to as limiting active learning, making sure that you work directly on the essentials. This advice can also be applied to blackjack.

In blackjack and poker, players are able to learn from the mistakes they have made in the past. By failing in one game, they can assess what went wrong and work on ways to do it differently in the next game. So, training for games shouldn’t be about cramming with as much knowledge as possible, but about reviewing and analyzing past experiences.

Blackjack players who want to improve their skills and get beyond basic strategy could try their hand at poker and may find that they are already quite good at it. The endurance and competitiveness that dominates Texas Hold’em could then be transferable to the blackjack table.

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Sydney Australia’s Star City Casino

Spent an afternoon at Sydney Australia’s Star City Casino this week. 

This is a huge casino with lots of blackjack tables.  However, they are not worth playing as they all use automatic shufflers.  Minimum bets that I saw started at $20 Australian which is about $15 US.  I did not check the high-pit areas which may or may not have regularly dealt blackjack. 

They also have a large poker room which I played a few hours in.  Unfortunately, their rake is awful.  I played in a small  2/3 No Limit Holdem game where there is a time rake AND and regular pot rake.  Charge is $5 / hour plus 10% up to $10 rake.  What was interesting is the dealer uses a single deck plastic box to deal the cards from.  I was told the dealer can deal faster and have both hands free at all times.  I left with a win for the session.

I also played for 30 minutes at the craps table and had another small session win.  Interesting to note that the don’t pass/come bars deuces.  In the USA, the don’t pass/come  bars 12.  No difference in the odds.

My Wife and I spent 6 days in Sydney and we also took a 10 day Celebrity Solstice cruise around New Zealand.    Ironically, the blackjack games on the cruise ship were better then the games in Sydney.  Of course, the cruise ship has their token single deck game with 6:5 rules, but their shoe games were decent: $10/$25 min tables, 8DK, double any, H17, with 1.5 – 2 decks cut off.  Occasionally, a dealer would cut off only 1 deck.

Michael Dalton

PS – Here is a photo of the single-deck shoe that poker dealers use in the Sydney, Australia poker room:

Single Deck Shoe

Monte Carlo Poker Room Closure

Just received this email from the Monte Carlo Poker Room:

Michael,

In the early morning hours of April 25th, 2017, the Monte Carlo Poker Room will be closing its doors.  We thank you very much for your patronage and it was our privilege to serve you over the last 20 years. 

Effective April 1st, 2017, we will permanently discontinue all promotional rakes and payouts.  The promotional pool will be redistributed via a High Hand promotion starting on April 3rd, 2017 through April 12th, 2017.

All comps may still be redeemed at the Monte Carlo Poker Room through April 23th, 2017.  After that, all comp redemptions will be completed at the Monte Carlo M life® Rewards Desk through December 31st, 2017. The expiration date of all comps will continue to follow the normal comp policy. However, after December 31st, 2017, all unused comps will expire regardless of the expiration date.

Our sister properties at Aria, Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Mirage and Excalibur will welcome you with open arms and be happy to continue the service that you have experienced here over the years.  We thank you very much and bid you a fond farewell.

If you have any questions, please contact us at 702.730.7780

Sincerely,

The Monte Carlo Poker Room


Looks like it is a sign of the times.  This poker room was very small and only catered to low limit players.