Banana peels of blackjack
It is easy to trip over any of these:
The Flesh Is Weak
Playing blackjack is as much a physical as a mental contest. Your eyes and legs race to see which go bad first. Casinos are full of glare and smoke. If 6s and 7s start looking alike or if you cannot clearly see the cards at the other end of the table, it is time to quit. When your legs get tired you will feel like sitting down for a while. Do it, but not at a blackjack game. You will lose if you play much when the count is negative. Periodic breaks are necessary. A walk outdoors is therapeutic. Eye drops work. An hour of stretching out on a bed with eyes closed will revive you. You want as much playing time as possible, but it must be effective playing time.
Card-counting errors cost you money. If you bet less or more than what you should and could have, or if you make a strategy error based on your bad count, then you have taken an action that has a lower EV than if you had not made the counting error.
Watch Your Cash and Chips
Remember that blackjack dealers are not the only ones after your money. Occasionally casino customers lose more than they can afford, and your fat wallet may be attractive to such desperate people. A money belt (the kind you wear under your clothing) can provide security for some of your stake. At most hotels, free safe deposit boxes are available. If you wear pants and carry your wallet in your pants, keep it in a front pocket. Back pockets are for pickpockets. You want to take money from the casino and keep it for yourself. It is bad policy to donate it to a thief.
Watch out for alcohol. You might think that you will be watched less closely if you appear slightly inebriated, and what better way to appear tipsy than to have a few drinks?
A buxom cocktail waitress asks if you want a complimentary drink. You name your favorite brand of Scotch. After a few minutes, she brings you a liberal potion. As you polish off the drink, you notice that the dealer is picking up the cards faster and dealing faster. You should not really care, because you can count the cards faster than any dealer can deal, but you are slightly annoyed at being singled out for special treatment. The cocktail waitress sees your empty glass and asks if you want another of the same. Well, you say, why not? The second drink is just as powerful and just as good. As you finish it, the dealer again speeds up — amazing. This time you are annoyed enough to leave the table and walk out of the casino. At the next casino, a different dealer pulls the same trick. Just as you have relieved your thirst with another Scotch, the dealer picks up the tempo! Remarkable! Just your luck to run into to two ornery dealers on the same day. You move to a third casino and notice that it seems to have hired the world’s fastest dealers. You find a friendly dealer, take a seat, make a bet and order another Scotch. After a couple of quick rounds, the drink comes, and you enjoy it. By now that nice, friendly dealer is moving the cards so fast that you are no longer confident of your count. You quit playing blackjack and wander back to your hotel room to think. By George, you cry to your swimming brain cells, get organized! They make a muddled effort. The coincidence of three dealers speeding up on you is troubling, and so was the last dealer being too fast for you to count accurately. Finally, it dawns on you that the dealers may not be speeding up, but you may be slowing down! Alas alack, alcohol does not fit in with winning at blackjack.
Each drink makes the dealer seem to go faster. The dealer does not really speed up of course, but your reactions slow down with each drink. Your advantage at blackjack is slim at best. You cannot afford to give up any part of that advantage. The best rule on alcohol is:
Do not drink at all while you are working.
You may not even want to order nonalcoholic beverages at a blackjack table, since ordering a drink ties you to the table until the drink comes.
Playing conditions vary from hour to hour, day to day, and casino to casino. The best playing conditions are when the casinos are crowded enough so that you can get lost in the crowd but not so crowded that you cannot move. It would be ideal if each blackjack table had one player. If the tables are too crowded, you cannot get in many profitable hands per hour. If customers are too few, you are scrutinized carefully because the pit bosses have nothing else to do. If you want to limit your playing hours because of boredom or excessive exposure, then try to play when conditions are best.
If you are playing blackjack full-time, try to hit all three shifts. If you are going to play only occasionally, then try to arrange your sleeping, eating, and loving in such a manner as to hit the tables when the playing conditions are best. The hard part is forcing yourself to get out of bed. Once you are inside the casino, 3 AM looks just like 3 PM.
Excerpted with permission from the e-book version of Professional Blackjack by Stanford Wong.
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