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Bet Sizes, Splitting Pairs and Card-shuffling Machines

I've noticed in a lot of your articles and columns that each betting sequence starts at the table's minimum. In blackjack for instance the first bet is $5, correct? Then what? $5 again or $10? I then understand a natural progression of raising the bet and pulling back a profit. The first bet at a table whether blackjack or outsides on roulette should be more than the table minimum, $10 at $5 tables, $15 at 10's and so on. This way if you do win the first bet then you drop your bet down to the minimum. If you lose the next bet you're still showing a profit. Not bad for winning one and losing one. What are your thoughts?

The betting at Blackjack is based only on the count of the cards. Since the casino usually has an advantage on the first hand, we typically bet the table minimum. There is no betting method that will overcome casino's edge at most games for very long, so I don't support such 'schemes'. If the casino has an edge, you should bet the minimum at all times, because all a progression will do for you is raise the average size of your bet and you'll lose more quickly. Unfortunately, there's no way to get a permanent advantage over any casino game other than Blackjack, some slot machines (with a 'banking' feature) and some video poker games. But, hey.... three games that can be beaten aren't so bad.

I just found your website today as I am last-minute preparing myself for my trip to Vegas this weekend. It is great! Keep up the good work. I am reading over your Basic Strategy lesson and the matrix says on a pair of 3s or 2s, you should split against a 7. I have been thinking about this one for a while and can't seem to understand why it would be advantageous to do so. It would seem to me that it is much easier to lose 2 hands against a 7 this way. Please explain the strategy behind this bet.

Glad you like the site; keep coming back. As for the splitting of 2s and 3s against a 7, remember that your other choice is to hit a 4 or 6 (the hands you'll have if you don't split). Plus, this rule applies particularly where double after split is allowed. Hitting a 4, consisting of two 2s, has an expected value (E.V.) of -.089, whereas splitting the pair has an E.V. of -.054 (as a percentage of the initial bet) if DAS isn't allowed and -.006 if DAS is allowed. As for the 3s, hitting a 6 against a 7 has an E.V. of -.154, whereas splitting is -.115 without DAS and -.056 with. You can see that both hands are losers, regardless how you play them, but you lose less by splitting. Don't spend a lot of time worrying about this, though. In 100,000 hands of play, you'll get 2s or 3s against a 7 only 86 times!

You gave me some good advice before on learning Deuces Wild, and I have another question. If I wanted to learn how to play blackjack, how should I go about it? Should I get a book, such as Knock-Out Blackjack (which I have seen hyped quite a bit), or should I proceed simply by learning the strategies as outlined in your articles? I want to make the best use of my time, and I know you are the man! I'd appreciate any input you could provide.

I recommend you do my lessons first, because they're free. The method I teach is more difficult to learn than the "KO" system, but it's also more powerful. Give it a try before you spend any $$$.

I'm wondering if it is possible to do card counting when the casino uses an automatic card-shuffling machine? As I know it, this machine randomly shuffles the card and, with six decks I guess it's quite impossible to count the cards. Then the entire card counting technique does not apply then. Where do we get our advantage?

A shuffling machine does not diminish the value of card counting, unless it's a 'continuous' shuffler where the cards that have been played are added back into the pack of remaining cards. If the shuffler is used just to mix the 6 decks together and then they are placed in a shoe and dealt in the usual style, counting cards still works. Since the Hi/Lo counting method requires only some simple addition and subtraction, it's possible to count six HUNDRED decks of cards, let alone just six. The counter's advantage in a multi-deck game comes primarily from betting different amounts as the composition of the remaining cards changes, less when the casino has an edge and more when the player has an edge.

Hot Tip: Ever play the "Super Sevens" option at Blackjack? The house's edge varies with the payout, but in most cases it's over 10% of your $1 side bet. Think the house needs an extra dime from you on each round? They expect to make less than that from your $5 bet on the hand!

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