Tag Archives: FAQ

Do other players affect your long term expectation?

Copyright © 1994 – 2018By Michael Dalton All Rights Reserved
FAQ 4: Originally published in Volume 5 Issue 1 of Blackjack Review Magazine

Other Players at Blackjack TableNo! You should ignore how other players play. Simply put, a bad player’s action will “help” you just as often as “hurt” you in this game.

There is nothing mysterious about this at all! Every serious player will eventually come to this conclusion. A fellow player who hits his stiff when the dealer shows a small up-card and causes the entire table to lose is only affecting the long term expectation of one person… himself. Yes, he is playing like an idiot. Yes, he will lose in the long run. But no, his action at the table will not affect any other player’s expectation or win-rate. Backing up this logical conclusion are millions of hands of computer simulation which irrefutably prove this fact.

So, whenever another player makes a stupid play that causes you to lose your bet smile and remember that this game would not exist if it were not for the likes of him (or her)!

Now that I have convinced you to ignore your fellow player you should be aware that there are some situations where just their “presence” can affect your game. If you count cards other players can affect your long term expectation in two specific ways.

The number one effect of “additional” players in a game is a lower win-rate. Most serious card counters like to play heads up with the dealer for this very reason. The more players in a game the slower the game. If you count cards and have a long run advantage your goal should be to play as fast as possible. The theory is the faster you play the more you can make!

“…there are some situations where just
their ‘presence’ can affect your game.”

The other effect additional players have in a game is related to single deck penetration. Single deck must be played heads up or at worst with one or two other players. If the rules are good and the table is full you can also play single deck profitably at third base. The reason you don’t want to play single deck with 4 or more players is because the dealer will typically be forced to shuffle up after only two rounds. Here are my “minimum” requirements for single deck:

6 w/great rules275%
7 w/good rules285%

What is the correct basic strategy for blackjack?

Copyright © 1994 – 2018By Michael Dalton All Rights Reserved
FAQ 3: Originally published in Volume 4 Issue 4 of Blackjack Review Magazine

Example Basic Strategy ChartThere is only one “correct” basic strategy for this game given a set of established rules. However, since all casinos don’t offer the same rules the basic strategy can be slightly different from game to game. Also, the number of decks used affects the basic strategy slightly. Peter Griffin’s Theory of Blackjack and Stanford Wong’s Basic Blackjack are the player’s best resources for the “correct” basic strategy for any number of decks and rules. Basic strategy charts can also be found in Michael Dalton’s book Blackjack: A Professional Reference which is now online as The Encyclopedia of Casino Twenty-One.

The card shown on the right reflects a correct basic strategy for multi-deck games with double after splits not allowed

Basic strategy is a proven winning system for the game of twenty-one. It is a strategy which maximizes the player’s expectation given only knowledge of the player’s hand and the dealer’s up-card. In the good old days when single deck was plentiful and rules were great basic strategy could actually give the player a small advantage. Today, casino managers are aware of the power of basic strategy and generally do not offer games that can be beaten off the top of the deck. However, players should keep their eyes open for promotional games which do surface from time to time!

Basic strategy is powerful! All card counters must master it before moving on to the fine art of card counting. Basic strategy is not difficult! A person with average intelligence can memorize it in just a few hours. Basic strategy is the way to play! Every time you make a play on a hunch or intuition and ignore the “correct” basic strategy play you increase the casino advantage against you.

For example, a pit boss witnessing a player standing on an A-7 versus a ten valued dealer up-card would generally consider this player a novice or an idiot. If you stand on this hand you will win it about 41% of the time. If you hit the hand you increase your chances to 43%. Why would anyone not hit this hand? You can’t bust (at least not initially) and you stand a good chance of improving it. But every time I play this game I witness players standing on A-7 vs 10 with the hope that the dealer doesn’t have a nine or ten in the hole. Don’t be an idiot! Trust in basic strategy and play it perfectly. Your bankroll will thank you for it.

For more information read Michael Dalton’s complete article on “Basic Strategy” in the Summer 1995 issue of Blackjack Review magazine.