You see it all the
time as you walk down the casino aisle -- rows and rows of crowded blackjack
tables and then an empty one with the dealer standing there all by himself.
People scurry to squeeze into crowded seats, but nobody wants to be
that first player to sit down at the empty table. Why is this, anyway?
Do players feel
outgunned if they're going heads up alone with the dealer? Is there
more safety in numbers? Which way do you have a better chance to win?
Let's look at the facts concerning these sensitive questions.
Fact #1: Percentagewise,
the average player has exactly the same chance to win a given hand whether
he's playing alone or at a seven-handed table.
Fact #2: A player
has exactly the same chance to be dealt good hands regardless of what
seat he's sitting in. Any concepts about certain seats taking the good
cards or the decisive cards out of the shoe are sadly misunderstood.
From those two standpoints,
the odds of the game do not change. A typical ham-n-egger will on average,
fall one additional bet behind for every 65 hands he plays -- no matter
how many gamblers are at his table and no matter where he sits. If he
happens to be a skilled basic strategy player, he'll slip only one hand
behind for every 200 hands played, on average. It depends not upon the
crowd size or his seat number, but upon his skill alone along with Lady
Luck in the short term.
There's more to
that than what meets the immediate eye, however. You see, the speed
of a blackjack game is directly dependent upon the number of players
at the table. In a seven-handed game, each player will get in about
55 hands per hour. Playing alone with the dealer, you'll see about 230
hands in that same hour.
Although the percentages
are identical both ways, you'll end up losing your money about four
times as fast playing heads up (alone with the dealer) as you will at
a jammed up table. So if you want to get some playing time for your
money, there is indeed safety in numbers, but not for the reason that
you probably thought.
Since your food
comps and cash comps are based upon your average bet size and your hours
played, rather than number of hands played, you get more value by playing
s-l-o-w-l-y. Yet, there's still one more caveat to this tricky question.
All the above is
absolutely true, assuming you're a losing player which 99% of the blackjack
players are. But what if you're a winning player? I mean, suppose you're
an honest-to-goodness winner at the overall game? Then -- everything
That's because winners
don't gradually fall behind in the game. They gradually pull ahead!
Winners don't want to play slowly to make their chips last longer. They
want to play quickly to make their chips grow in as short a time as
A top-notch winning
blackjack player can pull one extra bet ahead for every 125 hands he
plays, on average. That can take him two hours at a crowded table or
a half hour going heads up with the dealer. That's why blackjack pros
like to play alone. It has nothing to do with bad players at 3rd base
or any of that other voodoo nonsense.
So what kind of
player is a winning player? I can tell you this. It has nothing to do
with betting progressions, hitting and running, having a good player
at 3rd base, hot tables or no mid-shoe entry signs.
It all has to do
with used card awareness. You have to have some knowledge of what's
been played and what's left -- and I don't mean a rough idea off the
top of your head. You need some hard information that you can bet on.
That'll take some extra effort and learning on your part but, I'm sorry,
there's just no other way over the top.
If you're not ready
to take your game to that level, then keep on playing at crowded tables
and take your comps. There's nothing wrong with that either.