Improving My Blackjack Play Using Data

In my day job I rely on data for most of my key digital marketing decisions so when I was struggling earlier this year with my blackjack results I decided to turn to the data and see what I could find.  The KPI for this project is pretty simple – money won/lost at live casino blackjack.

To get to the underlying data that led to that final result I realized I needed to dig a little deeper and analyze my play on a shoe-by-shoe basis.  In January I started tracking my results per shoe on my favorite app in my phone’s notes as well as every shoe played in a live casino.

With 4 months of results that spanned hundreds of digital shoes and dozens of live shoes I took the data and started crunching numbers.  The first thing I realized was that I needed to stick with a game longer – when I bought in for slightly more money and backed that buy-in up with a re-buy of 50-75% of the original amount on one table I had a stronger chance of hitting a strong run and earning money than buying in for less and hoping to win in shorter bursts by switching tables once that amount was gone.  I also learned that my style of play can lead to several winning or losing shoes in a row, but the variability isn’t very large between any given shoe so I should be able to weather a couple of bad shoes and still have the opportunity to make money.  Interestingly I didn’t see much difference between my play and results in surrender games vs. no surrender allowed – which is the only option at my local native American casinos – this was fairly surprising to me.

Armed with this data I’ve made a nice run since my poor results in 2016 and rough start to 2017 and now I’m only a couple yards from break-even for this year.  Of course now that I think I have some things figured out there is a great chance I’ll go on a terrible run which sends me right back to the drawing board.  At least now I’ve got some more data behind my play and I’ll keep working the numbers to deliver positive ROI on my blackjack play.

Always Tip Your Dealer

dealerBlackjack dealers are some of the most interesting people you will ever meet.  Their job is a mix of entertainer, counselor, teacher, cheerleader and salesperson.  Just like any profession there are people who show up to earn a paycheck and some that truly enjoy what they do.

I always try to have some level of rapport with my dealer and I have no problem changing tables if the dealer has a poor personality or attitude.  If you’re going to spend a decent amount of time with someone and potentially lose money you at least want to do it with someone you can tolerate.

In all my conversations with dealers they typically will chat about almost any possible topic from casino gossip to receipe ideas, but the thing one item they tend to be coy on is appropriate tipping amounts for dealers.

I do my best to be consistent and generous and when I’ve had the occasional dealer or pit boss who will give more than a ‘whatever feels comfortable’ response I feel that I’m in line or above the average tipper.  These folks don’t make much money on an hourly basis so  tips are an important part of their livihood.

So how much do you tip your blakcjack dealer?  This is by no means iron clad, and if you are a dealer please weigh in, but my advice is to tip in proportion to your wagers and your wins.

If you sit down with $100 and get wiped out in 10 minutes then you might not tip or throw the dealer a few bucks if they are very friendly.  However, if you sit down with $500, play for an hour or more and walk away with $800 you should have been tipping the dealer along the way to the tune of $20 – $60 bucks.

If you bet for the dealer along the way you can actually make your tips work harder – for the beginner a bet for the dealer is when you place a chip in front of your own bet and when you win the dealer wins giving them a tip double your original amount.

I typically place a bet for the dealer after I win a blackjack hand or when I’m on a good run and win a double or split hand.  I will also throw the dealer $5 to $50 after a session if they were fun to play with, the bets I’ve placed with them along the way didn’t win often, or I’ve won a solid amount.

The dealer doesn’t control your cards, but they can make or break your overall experience at the tables so make sure you treat them well.