Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Blackjack Basic Strategy Card Mysteries Revealed

Official Royal Flusher Black-EZ-Jack Strategy Card
So you want to learn how to play Blackjack?

I do too.

A quick recap - a guy named Edward O. Thorp used an early IBM computer to figure out an optimal way to play blackjack and published a book called "Beat the Dealer". His method evolved into what is known as Basic Strategy. Basic Strategy is a mathematician/computer guy's way of saying "put your pants on before your boots". It's a set of rules.

So, let's agree that the first stop in shaving the house edge at blackjack (to within a meagre half a percent) is to learn and play Basic Strategy.

You are now well on your way to killing it at the blackjack table - you know the words 'Basic Strategy'!
I have in my possession 74 different books on Blackjack, mountains of contradictory strategy cards, dozens of articles I've printed out, and 10,000 bookmarked websites, all of which profess to make me a blackjack professor.

They all explain the same things - learn basic strategy first. And by learn, I mean memorize.

Let's say you obtain a copy of Basic Strategy. It will show you for every combination of your initial two dealt cards versus each possible dealer 'up' card what you should do.

There are 10 possible dealer up cards, and 34 or so possible combinations for your initial cards.

That's 10 x 34 or 340 different decisions that make up basic strategy. Holy crap, right? (No, don't stop reading here - I'm gonna help you with this, I really am.)

I asked my blackjack enthu buddy Mike (who works in grommet engineering at Royal Canadian Veeblefetzer), "Mike, just how do you learn basic strategy?"

He says, "You memorize it."

I ask Mike, "OK. I know you have to memorize it... but how? Exactly?"

"You just... learn it."

"Yes, but how did you learn it?"

"I tried to remember the rules and I play on a practice site and it lets me know when I've made a mistake."

"Did you read the strategy one million billion times until you knew it (and all 72 volumes of the 1982 Encyclopedia Braniac) by heart? Did you recline and have three topless virgins quiz you hand by hand, feeding you peeled grapes when you were right and slapping your bottom naughtily when you were wrong? Did you hire a 300 year old school mar'm to make two foot square flashcards? Did you figure out the murder first and then work backwards through the clues until you had the plot?"

You see the dilemma. How do you 'get' the knowledge of all those rules???

I decided to try to learn, by rote, what is on a wallet-sized super BJ strategy card that I bought at the Gambler's General Store.

In keeping with Basic Strategy, it has approximately 55,000 little squares on it with Hit, Double, Squat, Strain, Surrender, and other commands on them. Square by square I would memorize them all. Then I would own Basic Strategy.

But never mind. Once The Flusher brain decides to do something, the Flusher does it (or hires someone to do it once he completely messes it up.) So, my little Flusher pea brain tells my beady little Flusher eyes to start to peer at the little teeny tiny Flusher BJ strategy card and absorb the basic strategy wisdom coded within its colorful ink.

Then my somewhat swarthy Flusher arms extend their reach just a little further, and then further still, because Royal Flusher is of a certain age and is finding at times his somewhat swarthy Flusher arms aren't long enough to hold things he wants to read with his beady little Flusher eyes.

All I see is a mass of tiny colored squares, not unlike the tile work in a modern Italian bathroom. I can't read a damned thing on the card.

Next trip to Vegas, I bought a JUMBO wallet-sized super BJ strategy card. My little Flusher pea brain told my beady Flusher eyes to peer at the JUMBO wallet-sized super BJ strategy card and absorb the basic strategy wisdom coded within its somewhat larger colorful Italian bathroom tiles ink.

And, I can See It!

And, it makes No Sense at All to Me Whatsoever!

Half of the hands are missing for crying out loud. Then I realize that this is because those hands are so low you would have to be a complete moron not to hit them.

I stare at the card.

I hold it to my somewhat wrinkly, flat Flusher forehead.

I sleep with The Card under my pillow.

I ask Mike the next day, "What mental gyrations exactly do you go through to learn this??? What words do you say to yourself, your lips moving silently, so that you encapsulate the basic strategy knowledge into your tiny Veeblefetzer worthy synapses????"

Mike says, "You just... you know. Learn it."

Staring at the card wasn't getting me anywhere.

I needed another plan.

And so do you.

This is the second in a three part series on Blackjack here at Royal Flusher World.

Part 1 Is Blackjack Dead?

Part 3 Learn Blackjack Basic Strategy the Royal Flusher Way

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