My Year in Blackjack

Happy New Year 2015. 3d

It is apparently mandatory for anyone who has a blog or any other platform to do a year in review on their last message of the year, so here goes.  This year I took my blackjack to the next level with more practice, better tracking of results, and more trips to live casinos than ever before.

Here is a quick overview:

  • 5 trips to Vegas
  • 3 trips to Harrahs Cherokee
  • 1 trip to Atlantic City
  • 5 winning trips
  • 3 losing trips
  • 1 break even trip
  • Up nearly $2k for the year
  • Harrahs Cherokee total was down 400
  • Vegas total was up 2400

Overall I was very happy with the year on several fronts.  Obviously the bottom line is most important so it was nice to be well ahead for the year – the highlight being the $5K chip win at Paris this fall.  I’m also happy with the blog and my Twitter feed where I’ve been able to chronicle my progress and follow and learn from some very interesting people in the world of gaming.

I also had the pleasure of bringing a good friend into the world of blackjack and sharing my strategies and excitement for the game.  That has been a highlight to watch him get better and experience the ups and downs I’ve been through over the past few years much faster than I did so that his game is further along than it would be if he was going it alone.  I like to play blackjack alone, but having someone to share the ride with made this year more enjoyable.

So what’s on tap for 2015?  The first priority is to line up as many trips as possible to Vegas.  You can’t improve without live game action so the goal is 6+ Vegas trips in the new year.  I always want to take the next step with my winning so let’s put $5k as the goal for total winnings.  Also on an individual session goal I need to step up from a $5k chip win to a $10k chip win in one session – that is probably a stretch goal, but gotta aim high!  I’d also like to get a paying client for blackjack lessons and strategy, but that seems a little out of reach as long as I have a day job so I’d settle for converting another friend into the blackjack strategy club.

Overall a very satisfying and fun 2014!  I look forward to 2015 and with my first Vegas trip less than a week away I’m on the right track.  All the best to everyone in the new year!

Not so Fast: Non-Surrender Shoe a Big Winner

In my last post I gloated about how much superior playing surrender strategy was in blackjack.  I ran a test shoe with the cards in the exact same order once with surrender rules and the 2nd round without surrender.  In that session the surrender round was $250 better in terms of final results.

As we all know, one shoe does not make for a definitive result.  So I ran the same test again last night – playing a shoe with surrender and non-surrender rules with the cards and wagering kept consistent for both.

The results this time around were firmly in the favor of the non-surrender strategy.  Using surrender the first run through the shoe resulted in 3 surrender hands and a final result of a net $75 loss from the starting $300 buy-in.

Keeping that 6-deck shoe of cards in the same order and betting values equal without using surrender the final result was a $205 win or +$280 above the non-surrender deck.

In two duplicate tests on separate shoes the results were almost exactly opposite.  I will continue to run this test whenever I have down time available to keep a running tally.  My hypothesis stands that surrender strategy is superior, but I will say that this shoe has allowed a little doubt to creep into my mind.

Same Blackjack Shoe: Surrender Adds $250 vs. No Surrender

I’ve preached the benefits of using surrender* as part of a successful blackjack strategy for the past few years.  I’m convinced that using surrender is one of the most important pieces to a profitable blackjack session since it gives the player a little more control over the flow of the game.  I tell anyone who will listen that they need to use it and I don’t get very excited to play at casinos that don’t offer it.

I wanted to find a way to ‘prove’ surrender is better to myself in tangible terms.  Obviously I’m a big fan, and the math nerds say that using surrender increases your odds of winning slightly, so I came up with the best way I could think of to test the difference between using surrender and not – an A/B test of the same shoe played both with and without surrender rules.

An A/B test is fairly simple – you test two alternatives by keeping all other variables constant.  In this case the other variables are the cards and betting strategy.

I’m no scientist and this was only one shoe so I don’t contend that this either a perfect test nor an exhaustive study, but here is how I constructed my test:  I took my 6-deck blackjack shoe and played it with a $300 buy-in and $25 minimum bet using surrender rules first and when I had the first surrender event (16 vs. dealer 10) I noted my chip count (405) and from that moment on kept the cards in the exact same order as they were dealt so that I could play them back again using non-surrender rules.

At the end of the surrender shoe – during which I surrendered twice – I ended with a total of $585.  A profit of $285.

At the end of the same shoe using non-surrender rules I ended with $335.  Still a profit at $35, but $250 LESS than the same shoe using surrender strategy.

One shoe does not equal a definitive study and I’m certain there are many shoes out there where playing non-surrender strategy will net out to a higher profit.  In this case the results played out in a way to support my theory and I truly believe that this same test would produce similar results, if not as dramatic, on a consistent basis.

I’m going to replay this test in future home sessions in order to have more data points for comparison.  I’ll continue to report the results here so I can keep track of the cumulative results.  Until I see differently for myself I’ll continue to sing the praises and play surrender strategy in my own game.

*Surrender in blackjack is when you ‘give up’ your hand after the initial deal for half of your bet amount – so if you have a $50 bet and your cards are a 16 and the dealer has a 10 showing you can surrender your hand at which point the dealer will take half your bet ($25) and give you half ($25) back.

If Only Every Casino Trip Were This Cheap

As I mentioned in last post I was in Atlantic City this week.  I also wasn’t all that impressed with AC, but if I could make every trip this cost effective I’d be at a casino every week.

Here is the total summary of the expenses:

  • Flight – free (business expense)
  • Rental Car(w/gas) – Free (business expense)
  • Hotel – Bally’s – $13 (comp room – resort fees)
  • Food – None in AC (there from 11p to 8a)
  • Tolls – $10
  • Parking – $5
  • Blackjack losses – $50
  • Total cost of AC trip = $78

Maybe AC isn’t my cup of tea, but I can’t argue with the expense side of the equation.  I may give AC another chance in the future and if so I hope that I can do it with as little costs and hopefully some more fun!

8 Hours in Atlantic City – Quick Version

I was in Philly for business and decided to try Atlantic City.  My meetings ended at 10pm so the original plan was to head out to the shore late and get on an afternoon flight back home.  You’ll see my trip didn’t go as planned.

I bowed out of drinks with the work gang and jumped in the rental car heading 76 East at 10:15.  I was excited on the ride out and was thinking that AC could be a good alternative to Vegas since it is only a short flight and drive combo.  Once I saw AC around 11:30 my thoughts started to change.

I hate to pile on the AC hating going around, but man it is just depressing driving in and when you see it you immediately understand one of the main issues – logistics.  In Vegas I can walk to dozens of casinos and the weather is typically reasonable.  In AC the casinos are very far apart with winter weather that will tear your skin off which means you are essentially trapped wherever you booked your room.

I had a free room from Bally’s so I was locked into the Bally’s/Caesars complex.  I’m a huge fan of Total Rewards and I’m not a hotel or casino snob so I had no real complaints about the aging properties themselves.  The dealers, front desk staff, and people I met around the place were all very friendly and helpful.

My main complaint was with the overall feeling inside the casinos.  I know AC has always tried to position itself as Vegas East, but to pull that off there needs to be more of a community feeling.  I didn’t feel like I was in this trip with everyone around me, it felt like we were all just there.

Anyway, back to my trip.  I got to the casino floor at midnight, couldn’t find an open table in either Bally’s or Caesars so played one shoe at a $25 table and called it a night.  At 5:30am I got up and headed back down, which worked great since open seats at any level of play were available.  I played a little at $50, $10, and $25 tables.  The dealers and staff were all very nice and not surprisingly there were a few odd characters wandering the halls at 6am.

Big negative – no surrender available – this limited my play since I knew overall it would be harder to work my system and come away a winner.  Overall the play was fine, and I ended up down $50 after 2 hours.  I decided to head out early since I wasn’t feeling the vibe and didn’t want to risk real money without any mojo.  I hit the road at 8:15 and made the 10:15 flight out of PHL.

My takeaway is that AC isn’t Vegas East and never will be, it is a collection of Regional Tribal Casinos in one city.  On the plus side it was a fun, cheap and quick diversion in the middle of the work week and now I can safely say that Vegas is the only place that I need to play.  I’ll break down more of the observations in future posts.