Blackjack: I’ve got 13 Dealer showing a 3 – Hit or Stay?


After my poor performance last trip to Vegas one of the areas of my game that I’ve been examining is my range.  Specifically how aggressive should I be on the lower end of the deck.  In this case if I have 13 and the dealer is showing a 3 what is the right play?

The book says stay in this situation.  In the past I’ve always followed that advice without any question since in general I play a conservative game and it basically made sense.

In reviewing my last trip I started looking at some of the low-end cards since I seemed to run into more than usual 12/13 vs. 2/3 and ended up on the losing end more often than not.

The low-end cards provide a lot of coin-toss situations and I often see novice players working hard to make decisions every time they face them.  I’ve usually played it conservatively and stand when holding a 13 vs. a dealer showing 3 as the book recommends.

Today I’m looking at the 13 vs 3 since I may start testing out a more aggressive strategy going forward.  According to the great folks at Wizard of Odds the dealer has only a 37% chance of busting when he starts with a 3 showing.  On the flip side if I’ve got a 13 my odds of busting when taking one card are only 38%.

So in this situation I have >60% chance of staying in the hand when taking a card vs. 100% of staying in the hand without hitting.  My odds of improving my hand to a quality hand (18+) are 31%.  So I’ve given myself a reasonable chance of improving while the dealer is only going to bust 4 out of 10 times.

I’m going to try this out in my next sessions and closely track the impact to see how it affects my results.

Another CES Blackjack Beatdown

I look forward to kicking off the first week of each year with a pilgrimage to CES in Vegas.  It’s a great combination of technology, networking and blackjack.  I wish that my blackjack results would be as positive as my business results at the annual event.

I have only been officially tracking my CES results for the past two years and this year added to my losing ways.  I’ve mentioned the CES losses before and once again I dropped several thousands of dollars during my trip.

Interestingly this time I didn’t fall into some of the usual traps.  I kept the drinking light, played at quality tables and stuck with the system for the majority of the trip.

I did make the mistake of pressing for wins once it was clear I wasn’t having a good trip.  I played $100 tables trying to make up for losses which of course isn’t wise since it compounded the situation when that table went sideways.

Overall I felt my play was fairly solid, but I do think I may change the system slightly giving more range when it comes to the low-end cards – 12s/13s vs. dealer showing 2s & 3s.  I was a little inconsistent and hesitant in playing these too conservatively at times.

According to one of my favorite sites The Wizard of Odds the dealer has less than a 40% of busting when showing a 2 or 3.  At the same time I have less than a 50% chance of getting a bust card when hitting on a 12 or 13.  Putting those two factors together I realize that I need to be more aggressive and start taking a card on a more consistent and frequent basis when facing that situation.

The beauty of this game is that there is always a new way to refine the strategy and improve my play.  Now I just need to get back out to Vegas and get another swing at the plate.

Tips for Blackjack Success at CES

CES is the annual collision of my real job and my fantasy of having a career in blackjack.  Historically I’ve had great meetings and very productive trips for business while my blackjack results have been less than stellar.

Last year’s results were particularly poor with my largest loss for a single trip.  In my constant quest to improve my game I took at look at last year’s post to see what went wrong.  It was a combination of errors that compounded to create a large loss.

To improve this year I’m focusing on 3 areas of improvement:

  1. Time management
  2. Alcohol intake
  3. Group play

Time management is probably the hardest of the three.  The CES schedule is tight and with so many people in town things always take much longer than you expect so I often end up rushing to fit in blackjack wherever I can.  This year I will try to resist jumping on a table simply because I have a free 15 minutes.

Alcohol is flowing even more freely than usual at CES and with happy hours and dinners it is easy to quickly go beyond your limit.  It’s never a good idea to drink and gamble and I know that last year I didn’t manage this well.  This year I’ll focus on drinking less at business events and staying away from the tables if I have that extra drink at happy hour.

Networking and catching up with industry friends is the best part of CES.  Playing blackjack with friends is a fun way to build strong friendships so I like to do it, however it usually isn’t a formula for winning.  This year my strategy is to play small ball low-limit blackjack when playing with friends so that if I do lose it hopefully won’t make a major dent in the overall results.

Hopefully by employing these three strategies in addition to playing my system when I can find optimal conditions will create a winning CES trip for business and blackjack.