Games of strategy require learning, and the learning curve isn’t always smooth. There are fits and starts, detours and sometimes an “aha!” moment where things suddenly make sense.
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A couple of blackjack players reached out recently with moments when the light bulb switched on. Suddenly, something about the game made sense.
KENNY: Mine had to do with insurance. For a long time, I had this thing about taking even money when I had a blackjack and the dealer had an Ace. My attitude was that if you could guarantee a win on a hand, you had to do it.
The turnaround started when I was at a table with a guy who was winning and turning down even money. He was betting $25 a hand and so was I. One hand, the dealer got a blackjack and pushed is blackjack. I said, “I bet you wish you’d taken even money.” He said, “Nope. I never regret the right play, even when it turns out bad.”
I asked, “Are you so sure it’s the right play? I’m winning on all my blackjacks.” He said, “On mine, I’m winning $37.50. When the dealer has a Ace, you’re only winning $25, and there a not fewer Aces than non-Aces. I’m comfortable with my way.”
We left it at that. I’m not sure the situation came up again. It’s not like blackjack against Ace is every hand. When I got home, I told the story to my wife and her brother. What they said convinced me to look into it.
Her brother plays nothing but poker, and he said, “I don’t know about blackjack and insurance, but I know in my game I’d rather win the biggest pots than the most pots.” I said I didn’t really think that applied, but my wife said, “What about your own play in video poker? Just last month you told me about breaking up a winning hand and drawing a straight flush. You weren’t playing for the guaranteed win there.”
She was right. I’d broken up a high pair to draw to a straight flush. So with what they guy said at the casino and what my wife and her brother told me at home, I decided I should at least look into this. Like Will here, I looked it up online and found the strategy, explanations and math.
I’ve been declining insurance ever since.
WILL: I made plenty of mistakes before it finally it me that they WERE mistakes.
When I started playing, it was all by feel. Did the hand feel close enough to 21? If not I hit. I know I hit my share of 16s.
Finally, it dawned on me that dealers busted more with low cards and that maybe I shouldn’t just automatically it bad hands. I should let the dealers take a chance on busting.
In that “aha” moment, I realized what a dope I’d been. When I got home, I Googled “blackjack strategy” and started to learn the real thing. But for me, it all started with that light bulb that the dealer hand mattered as much as the player’s.
It seems pretty basic, doesn’t it, like something everybody should just know by default? The dealer’s up card matters. My 16 against a dealer 8 is a DIFFERENT HAND than my 16 against a dealer 5 and has to be played as a different hand.
But that didn’t come automatically for me. It had to be learned, and there had to be that moment for me to stop hitting 16s against 8s.
Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).