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when to bet big in blackjack

What would be the best way for one to win a blackjack tournament. I seem to do quite well in regular play, but can never come out in the top two to advance. It seems third place is the best I can do.

Helene from Sherman Oaks, USA

First let me say I love your site and will be visiting each of the advertisers to help support it. I hope you are doing very well financially as you are undoubtedly saving a lot of people a lot of money. It is amazing what I see in the casinos and will recommend your site to anyone who will listen (most losers won’t, I get a lot of heat when I hit a 12 vs a dealer 2 even when I explain the math). My question is do you have any advice for Blackjack players participating in Blackjack tournaments? I have participated in a few and have came very close to advancing to the "money" round with no real strategy other than stay close to the leaders on the table and bet it all on the last hand. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Perry O.

Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate the thought of visiting the advertisers. However the casinos don’t care about click throughs as much as they used to and now what matters is new real money players, and how profitable those players are. So unless you might actually play there is no pressure any longer to click through the banners.

Blackjack tournaments are not my strong subject. For advice on that I would highly recommend Casino Tournament Strategy by Stanford Wong. Wong says that if you are behind to bet opposite of the leader, small when he bets big, and big when he bets small. If you are in the lead then you should bet with the second highest player. The book gets into much more detail. Speaking of supporting my site, it helps to click through my Amazon links when buying books there.

First of all, I can’t commend you enough for your web site and information that you continue to detail not only online, but on TV and in your newsletters. I know I can always turn to you whenever I have a thorny question about gambling math.

My question relates to what has come to be known in certain blackjack circles as The Flaw. In a nutshell it says that the original creators of basic strategy programmed a flaw into their calculations which has been recreated over and over again by other mathematicians when they’ve come up with their basic strategy. As one proponent of ’The Flaw’ proclaims, "only 3 others that know post on this board. One is the recently retired IBM type, who confirms that to find the Flaw a computer simulation would have to be programmed to do so-therefore prior knowledge is REQUIRED. The math boyz are certain that they are right; but Thorp can’t figure why so few win. One percent says it all."

So, what is The Flaw, and is there any truth to it? Or is it theoretically BS? I know it’s easy to dismiss the nay sayers out of hand, but I’m intrigued.


Thanks for the kind words. This "flaw" theory is a load of crap, which is not surprising considering the cesspools where talk of it is usually found. It isn’t the case that one person created the basic strategy and every other blackjack expert just copied it. Numerous mathematicians have developed the basic strategy from scratch and have all come up with the same thing. I find it highly unlikely that every one of them, including me, programs in the exact same flaw.

It’s my understanding Casino’s put a lot of emphasis on a Player’s theoretical win. I would imagine my theoretical value has a direct correlation to compatibility from a house point of view. If I am a $10.00 average Player in Blackjack and play an average of 3 hours per trip, what is the formula a casino uses to determine my theoretical value? Thank you in advance.

Yes, the casinos do calculate the value of a player’s play and then comp back a certain percentage, roughly about 33% to 40%. According to my theoretical house edge table. the casinos assume a house edge of 0.75% in blackjack. So in your example the value of this play would be 0.0075×$10×60×3=$13.50. If the casino comps back 1/3 of the play then you could expect to get a comp worth $4.50. However, most places don’t like to fuss with such small comps.

Where are the single deck games in Vegas that still pay 3 to 2?

With the demise of Binion’s Horseshoe the number of true single deck games in Vegas has fallen by about 75%. Although it isn’t a priority of mine to keep up to date on this some that I know of are the Fiesta Rancho, Golden Gate, El Cortez, and the Western. Beware of single deck games that only pay even money or 6 to 5 on a blackjack, you are much better off at a shoe game that does pay 3 to 2.

I was at the Luxor this week and I noticed a blackjack machine that looked much like a video poker machine. Do these things use random generators like online, or do they work like slot machines?


Using a random number generator _is_ the same as working like a slot machine. Online blackjack, slot machines, and video blackjack all use random number generators.

It is a Nevada state law that an electronic game with representations of cards or dice must be based on fair odds. So the game should be fair with odds the same as in a hand dealt game having the same rules.

I’ve read quotes similar to this on a couple of different sites: "If the dealer won 40 hands in a shoe and you won 20, this trend is likely to continue until you are broke or until the unfavorable bias is removed through many shuffles". That seems like somewhat "extreme" wording to me but my question is, is there any validity to that concept? Might any clumps of generally favorable (high), or unfavorable, cards make it through one dealer shuffling such that a non-shuffle tracker might take advantage by varying his bets to capitalize on short streaks? By the way, your site kicks ass.


Thanks for the compliment. This theory is called card clumping and would make for good fertilizer if it could be bagged. No legitimate blackjack writer puts any stock in it at all.

What are the pros and cons of burning a card on a blackjack shoe game, when a new dealer taps onto the table?

Unless you are counting cards it doesn’t make any difference. If you are counting cards then it is like decreasing the penetration by one card.

I have some questions on tipping etiquette.

Blackjack: Can I double, split or take insurance for the dealer?

Caribbean Stud Poker: Can I (or do I have to) raise also for the dealer?

Let It Ride Poker: Can I place more than one bet for the dealer (what happens if I decide to take back one of my bets and there was a tip)?

Craps: Can I play a tip everywhere I can play (odds and props included)?

Roulette: Can I play on numbers for him?


As a general rule, you can make any bet for the dealer in any game. In general you should tell the dealer which bets are his, except blackjack where its common practice that any bet outside the betting circle is for the dealer.

Blackjack: Yes to all three. The usual way to bet for the dealer in blackjack is to put the tip on the edge of the betting circle. If you split or double most people also split or double the dealer’s bet, although it is not required.

Caribbean Stud Poker: I asked a dealer and he said raising for the dealer is optional. I haven't studied it but I think this would

result in the tip having an advantage.

Let it Ride: I'm told that the player should put out three tips initially but must pull them back in the same manner that they pull back their own bets. Bets that are pulled back go to the player, not the dealer.

Craps: Yes, you can make any bet for the dealer. The most common ones are the yo-11 and the hard ways. If you make a line bet for the dealers and back it up with the odds it is implied the odds are a tip too.

Roulette: As in craps you can make any bet for the dealer. Just tell them in advance.

We recently went to Casino Niagra in Canada I was playing blackjack with a full table of players. The play went around the table as normal, I stayed on 17. When it came to the dealer she had an 8 showing flip her unshown card was a ten equals 18. She then proceeded to take a hit on 18 (by mistake)and threw up a Jack which was a bust on 18. I felt this should have been a misdeal or a push for all but the dealer said no it was not valid since the house rules are dealer Stays on 17 and above and Hit on 16 and all below. I disagreed with the call and the pit boss came over and stated the dealer is correct and you lose. I sure would appreciate your thoughts as I totally disagreed with the call. Plus I had a large bet riding so maybe it is just my sore losing side coming out. I sure can’t wait to get an experts thought on this once and for all.


I side with the casino. The rules state the dealer stands on 18. The dealer has no free will and once she got 18 the 18 is firm. The extra card dealt does not alter the dealer’s 18 and it was correctly burned. In a one or two deck game some casinos will reshuffle in that situation.

Why is it better odds for the casino to hit on a soft 17? It seems they would be more likely to bust and hence have worse odds.

It is true the casino busts more often if the dealer hits a soft 17. However the dealer also gets fewer seventeens, which is not a very good hand. It is to the dealer’s advantage to hit a soft 17 for the same reason the player should always hit or double on a soft 17. A 17 is a lousy hand, and whether the player or the dealer hitting a soft 17 offers two chances to improve upon it.

We have all been at blackjack tables where it appears the dealer cannot seem to lose. Assuming you cannot count cards and the dealer is winning 3, 4 or 5 hands in a row, is there any assumptions one can make about the count or is all just random? Do you get up and leave (and/or reduce your bet) and go to another table on the theory that the count is against you and that is why you are losing. Or, do you just assume that the past has no influence on the next hand and continue on. What would the Wizard do? I know hunches have nothing to do with it but, particularly in Blackjack, are there any mathematical conclusions one can draw about the future from the fact that the dealer has been winning (or losing for that matter) for what seems like an inordinate amount of time.

Actually, if the dealer has been winning it is slightly likely that it is because lots of small cards have come out, which would mean the deck is rich in large cards, in which case the odds would actually bend in your favor the next hand. But this is a very slight effect and nothing you should be trusting in. I think in these situations you have just been having bad luck and switching tables will not help. Lest some perfectionist correct me I will say that between shuffles blackjack hands do have a slightly negative correlation. If you had asked about roulette or craps I would say the past makes no difference at all. It would also say that about blackjack if a continuous shuffler were used. However I can’t absolutely say blackjack hands are independent for the reason I just explained.

I have a Blackjack question that I did not see already answered on your site. How would the house edge change if the player always got a glimpse of the dealer’s hole card and changed his strategy accordingly?

According to my calculations this would give the player about an 8.8% advantage under optimal strategy. The optimal strategy is the same as that of double exposure in most cases. However if you think the dealer will expose his hole card again I would recommend not making it obvious that you know and not make plays that normally look ridiculous (like hitting a 19 against a 20) .

I’ve seen video blackjack in several LV casinos and am wondering if the game is regulated in a similar fashion as video poker. If so, would playing the games using basic table blackjack strategy give the player the best payback percentage? If not, is there a basic strategy for video blackjack?


Yes. Any video representation of a card game in the state of Nevada must be dealt from a fairly shuffled deck. In other words you should expect the same kind of outcome as in a live game with the same rules. So basic strategy tables will also work for video blackjack.

[Bluejay adds: Every video blackjack game I’ve seen pays only even money on naturals, which significantly increases the house edge.]

A friend of mine told me that the casinos also have video blackjack. Are the odds or randomness the same for both methods? I mean do the video programmers give the casinos a better house edge with the video version of blackjack vs. the table version, or is the video version programmed exactly to mirror the table game?

Rich from Marietta

It is a law in Nevada that video representations of card games must be truly random. Thus the odds would be same as in live blackjack with the same rules. Most other jurisdictions more or less accept Nevada regulations. You should be warned that the vast majority of video blackjack games pay even money on a blackjack, which is a terrible rule whether on a video or live game.

Your strategy cards for Blackjack I presume is basic strategy for the initial cards (player's first two cards and dealer's up card). However, after hitting or splitting the deck composition has changed and the basic strategy may have changed. What I think would be more appropriate is a basic strategy based on the overall game of blackjack, including after splitting and hitting. Is there any situation where your initial hand basic strategy and one for the overall game are different?

Yes, my basic strategy charts are designed to be the best play based on the first two cards. This is the usual approach to developing the basic strategy. One benefit to this approach is the expected values of each play can be calculated exactly and compared to other sources. However, you bring up a valid point. So I asked Don Schlesinger, author of Blackjack Attack. if there were any known play where the best play on the initial hand is different from the best play to maximize the expected value of the overall game of blackjack. He replied that a soft 18 against a dealer ace, in a double-deck game, where the dealer stands on soft 17, was such a play. As my blackjack appendix 9 shows the expected value for standing is -0.100502 and for hitting is -0.100359. So, based on the first two cards, the odds favor hitting by 0.000143. However, there are many more ways to see soft 18 than one ace and one seven. The following table shows all the ways this hand can turn up.

Category: Forex

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