As I’ve written before I prefer to play blackjack alone. It lets me play my strategy and avoid some of the annoying personalities you sometimes find at the tables. On the Vegas trip I just completed it turned out that I spent more time playing with another person at my table and overall it was a positive experience.
There were two people I played with. One was my buddy who happened to be in town for a conference and the second was a random.
First, my buddy. We’ve known each other since freshman year at college and keep in touch regularly so he knows my gambling hobby and we have good communication. He doesn’t play much so he let me drive his play while I could allow him to make his own decisions on marginal hands without getting frustrated. He makes good money so playing a $25 table wasn’t out of his league and we found open tables at Bally’s high limit room which is one of my favorite haunts on the Strip.
Playing with my friend was fun, it was like playing two hands since he followed my lead on most hands and we were able to keep our money rolling for hours with some rollercoaster streaks that including being down to a last ‘all-in’ moment to being up double our buy-in. We talked about old and current times, chatted with the dealer and cocktail waitress, and generally had a good time while playing cards. This was playing cards for entertainment value and by using solid strategy with 3:2 blackjack and a 6-deck hand-shuffled shoe we were able to truly enjoy the experience. I won’t preach here too much, but if odds were worse like at most tables these days and we played poorly like most novice players the money would have gone quickly and the experience wouldn’t have been nearly as solid which is one of the reasons gambling is dying in Vegas.
Next, the random. After I said goodnight to my buddy at 11pm I headed over to the Paris high-limit room where $100 is the lowest limit. This is another of my favorite Vegas spots when I want to play solo and try to make some money. I was in earning mode at this point, my trip had me down 15 yards which was painful and I wasn’t drinking so I was ready to focus and play solid cards. As usual the 6-deck $100 table was open so I sat down ready to make a run.
I played for about an hour and had almost doubled my money when the cards started going cold. At the same time a guy I had played with the day before entered the room and sat down. This is pretty ballsy – I don’t have the cojones to sit with someone at a $100 table since you just don’t know what to expect and the money can get real in a hurry. This guy was good though, he didn’t ask to get dealt in, he waited for the dealer to ask him if he wanted in and immediately said no I’ll wait for the next shoe – I told him that it was okay if he joined so he got in.
We played in near silence for over an hour, both playing solid strategy with a couple of minor tweaks that we both used and became accustomed to. If you alter from basic strategy it can be acceptable as long as you are reasonable and consistent – and since he used surrender that was a sure sign of someone who knows what they are doing. The cards were fairly benign until hour two when we both started going on a run which improved our moods and bankrolls. Into hour 3+ we held constant above our buy-ins and then the cards got hot and we both started pushing bigger stacks including him playing 2 handed. The last shoe for me turned out to be the perfect time to bow out when I won the last hand I counted my chips and had doubled my buy-in to go up 13 yards for the night making me nearly even for the trip.
I said goodnight to my playing partner and then realized I didn’t even know his name – Ben turned out to be a solid blackjack bro. I still prefer to play alone, but if there are other players out there like Ben I’ll be happy to play with them in the future.