Who’s in Control?

Have you even wondered “who is in control” when you play blackjack in a casino? Is it you or really the casino?
I know that most players sometimes feel the casino (a.k.a. the dealer) is controlling their destiny. I mean how many times can the same dealer draw the “only” card that beats your hand? Or worse, you keep getting the stiff hands while the dealer draws nothing but tens and picture cards. Blackjack can be frustrating but believe it or not, you have a great say in your destiny at the blackjack tables, probably more than you think.
First let’s take a look at what the casino controls when you play blackjack (the ‘negative”). Then we’ll look at what we the players, can control (the “positive). The analysis may surprise you.
The Playing Rules.
This is no trivial point. Casinos in most gaming jurisdictions in the country (except Atlantic City) control the rules at their blackjack tables. This includes the number of decks of cards, whether or not dealers stands or hit on soft 17, whether or not surrender is offered or replit of aces or multiple pair splits or double down after pair splitting and so on. Yes, the casinos can and do control how much of an edge they want to have in blackjack by picking and choosing the different playing options on their tables. They even control how many cards they will allow to be dealt from the dealing shoe by their policy on the placement of the cut card (which has a great effect on a card counter’s edge). They can make their blackjack games very tough to beat, even impossible to beat, or give players a break and offer a competitive blackjack game. Score one for the casinos.
The Betting Spread.
Another not so trivial point. Casinos dictate for the most part what minimum and maximum bets they’ll allow at their tables. The maximum bet that is allowed in most casinos is far less than the casino’s total bankroll. This is no accident. Have you even seen a blackjack dealer go broke to a lucky player? It never will happen in my or your lifetime. The reason is because the casino controls the odds of having a lucky player “break the bank’ by having a bankroll that far exceeds the maximum bets they will allow at it’s blackjack tables. In fact the “risk of ruin” for a casino is virtually nil. Score another one for the casinos.
Easy Credit.
Casinos make it easy for players to get access to betting money. Playing on credit is relatively easy to establish. Lose all your cash? No problem there are plenty of ATM and “credit card to cash” machines conveniently located throughout a casino. When it comes to getting cash into gamblers hands, the casinos pull no punches. Score another one for the big guys.
Exciting Atmosphere
The casinos engineer the environment in a casino to make it easy for players to feel good about their losses. In this exciting, no holds barred, every thing is fast-and-fun casino atmosphere it’s easy for a player to bet more, to spend more, and to lose more. Score another one for the casinos.
Only Losers Wanted
You’re welcomed with open arms to play blackjack but if your too good, guess what? You get booted out the door. Casinos can and do control the quality of their blackjack players. If you know how to lose, you’ll be pampered and welcomed. If you know how to win (a.k.a. card counters), you’ll be asked to stop playing. Score another one for the sore losers.
Let’s take a gut check. So far it looks like the casinos control just about every facet of blackjack – the rules, the odds, the betting spread, the credit, the atmosphere, and quality of players. Why the hell would anyone want to play a game like this?? Here’s why.
From the players side comes some important weapons that we control to help us neutralize some of the casino’s advantage and in fact allow us to gain the upper hand.
Minimize the Casino’s Edge
You control how much or how little the casino’s edge is against you by your playing and betting skill level. Just by learning the basic playing strategy, which is a set of rules that tell you when to hit, stand, double down, pair split or surrender, you can reduce the casino’s edge to less than 1%. If you are selective and only play in casinos that offer the best playing options (including the number of decks of cards), you can virtually eliminate the casino’s edge. And if you learn to increase your betting level only when there is an excess of high value cards vs. low value cards in the remaining cards to be dealt (i.e. card counting), you can actually swing the edge in your favor. Score a big one for the little guys.
Your Emotions
You should be capable of controlling your emotions in the casino. Just say this to yourself everytime you set foot in a casino.
“I’m entering a place of business. The bosses who run this place have one goal -to separate me from my money as quickly and painlessly as possible. I will stay in control and not let them to do this to me.”
Don’t let the exciting atmosphere lull you into playing above your means. Go easy on the ‘free drinks’ and learn to except your losses. Even the best blackjack players in the world can’t win every session. Just stay focused on being in control and avoid the casino temptations that can quickly separate you from your money. Score a big one for the little guys but it takes DISCIPLINE to stay in control.
Credit.
You control how much credit you want the casino to give you. If you can’t handle the credit, don’t get it. Don’t bet more than you can afford just to get a comp (believe it or not a lot of players have lost bundles by playing longer and at higher betting levels just for the sake of a “free” meal). By all means ask for your fair share of comps based on the betting level you feel comfortable with, but please don’t play longer or bet higher just to get one. Play with money you can afford to lose should the worse happen. If you can’t afford to bet big, then for Gods sake don’t bet big! Don’t be ashamed to play blackjack at $5 or less blackjack tables if that is all you can afford. That’s where I started my playing career and I never over extended myself just to impress my friends, the pit boss, or whomever. Don’t get credit if you can’t afford it or control it! This is a biggie that YOU not the casinos should control.
Gambler’s Ruin.
You control the odds of losing your bankroll (Gambler’s Ruin) by how much you bet in relation to your playing bankroll and your playing skill level. When a player overbets in relation to his or her bankroll, the results are predictable (i.e. Gambler’s Ruin occurs). Even skillful, professional card counters take great pains not to overbet because even though they have the edge, they know that they could go days, weeks, and even months losing more money than they win at the blackjack tables. Never overbet and you’ll be in control of “Gambler’s Ruin”. Still not sure of this concept? Get a copy of Barry Meadow’s book, “Blackjack Autumn.” You’ll learn first hand about the ups and downs, the emotions, the crushing losses, and more horror stories from a card counter who played blackjack in EVERY casino in Nevada over two months. Score another one for the players.
When you think about it, blackjack players do have a lot of control over their destiny. More so then most other casino games because we get to make playing and betting decisions that directly influence whether we win or lose. Players who are in control will win. Players who let the casinos control them, will inevitably lose. It’s that simple.