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Don’t Fear The Monkey   by Rob Roy

(AKA "Don’t Misplay Your Hand Thinking a Ten is Due”)

Where did the term "monkey" come from ?  The French refer to face cards as "marquis", which means "nobleman" in French language.  When players needed a face card they would slam the table and shout out "Marquis" which sounds similar to the word monkey. 

Here is my short introduction to Probability Theory as it applies to Blackjack. Most people shoot themselves in the foot by misinterpreting the odds. 

Suppose you walk up to a table where the dealer has just finished shuffling his six decks.  You take a seat at third base and put a bet up on each of two spots. You're fully aware that a six-deck shoe contains 96 tens out of 312 cards, but you have no idea exactly where those 96 tens lie.  Now the first round of cards is dealt to four other players besides yourself.

Let's say everybody is dealt a bunch of small cards and the dealer has a deuce up.  Suppose further that each player before you takes one hit and catches yet another small card.  Now it's your turn.  Your first hand is 8/4 and your second hand is 8/3.  Seventeen cards have been exposed and not a single ten has been seen yet.  The question is, how should you play your hands ?

Should you simply follow basic strategy and hit your 12, then double with your 11 -- or should you save the impending ten for your 11 by just standing on your 12 ?    You realize that the appearance of a ten is growing imminently likely, but here's the key question.  Which card is more likely to be a ten -- the next card in the shoe, or the one after it ?

This is where most players misinterpret the laws of probability, and misplay their hand.  As the dealer across the table I can see their eyeballs scanning all the cards on the table before deciding what to do.  The information you get from scanning the cards is meaningless.  Yes, the cards are in random order, but remember that random does not mean “Homogenized”.  You are much better off referring to your strategy card and ignoring the previous cards that came out of the shoe.  It is difficult to attempt to explain all of this to you while still at the table……  So I try to do it here….

When the shuffled cards first went into the shoe, 30% of them were tens.  Since nobody knew their order, every next card had a 30% chance of being a ten.  Now, after seventeen straight non-tens were dealt, 32% of the remaining cards are tens.  But again, since their order is unknown, every next card now simply has a 32% chance to be a ten.  As hard as it may be to accept, the next card is absolutely no more likely to be a ten than the one after it -- or any other for that matter.

For those of you who are not buying this, let me phrase it another way.  Suppose that just before you decided how to play your two hands, the dealer reached into the shoe and reversed the order of the next two cards.  Which card is more likely to be the ten now ?  Remember, the cards were shuffled into an unknown order before, and all that's happening is that they're being shuffled once more.

Now, I know what most of you are thinking.  You're saying, "C'mon, a ten has got to be coming.   I mean, what are the odds of dealing 18 cards in a row with no tens ?"  Well, I'll tell you what those odds are. They're 942-to-1 against, but that's before you deal the first card.  Do you know what the odds are after you've already seen the first seventeen non-tens ?   They're a little over 2-to-1 in favor of the eighteenth non-ten.  

That's right -- and it's all because only 32% of the remaining shuffled cards are tens.  Let me try to get you to see this concept with one more common example--this one from the game draw poker.  What do you suppose your odds are of being dealt a flush on your first five cards ?  They're 504-to-1 against.  But suppose that after looking at your first four cards, they're all spades.  What are your chances of being dealt a flush now ? 

They're just a little more than 4-to-1 against.  Why ?  Because you've already got the first four parts.  Being dealt a pat flush before any cards are dealt and getting that flush after you're already holding a four-flush are two completely different things.  Likewise, dealing eighteen straight non-tens in blackjack before the first card is dealt is a huge longshot, but if you've already seen the first seventeen--it's actually likely.

So remember, when you see a string of high or low cards come out at the blackjack table, don't misplay your hand by assuming that the next card is more likely to be a certain type than the one after it.   As long as there are at least two cards left, this is never true.

I have been a blackjack dealer in Connecticut since April 2003.   I have seen players try various “systems”.  The best strategy is to go with the mathematically correct play.  Get a strategy card and learn how to use it.  If you happen to be lucky and win, realize that you were the benefactor of a short run.  Never think you can earn your living at it.  Cash out and count your blessings.  Bring your date to a restaurant, visit the shops or grab a show.  Come back again next week with some of your winnings.

Among the most common mistakes I see are:  Failing to hit from fear of busting.  Not paying attention to the dealer up-card and doubling down and splitting at every opportunity.  Also mistakes are; Failing to take advantage of ideal situations and doubling down when they should.  And assuming the dealer’s hole card is always a ten.

Please do some homework about the game and how to play to win.  I see far too many people sit down and play with real money who are not prepared to do so.  They play poorly then curse the dealer for not giving them the lucky cards they felt they were due.

In Blackjack, play your own hand.  What somebody else does with their hand (or fails to do) is just as likely to help you as hurt you.  Gambling is entertainment.  An important part of my job is to help you have fun.  When I am able I always try to initiate conversation among the players.  Enjoy my company and the company of the other players.  Have a few laughs. 

If you have received courteous service then please tip.  Tips are important for the dealers.  Dealers are service employees who get less than minimum wage from the casino.  The lion’s share of our income comes from the tips from our players.  There are far too many players who fail to tip, even after winning.  A good guide is half of your average bet per every hour, regardless if you are winning or losing.

History of Blackjack       

Blackjack began in early 1700’s in France, where it was called “vingt et un” or “twenty one”. The name Blackjack comes from an early version where the player got a payoff of 10 to 1 for a black Jack of Spades & Ace of Spades.  From France, Blackjack made its way to the U.S. in the 1800’s, found mostly in the American West. 

In 1931, gambling became legal in Las Vegas.  Blackjack became one of the staples of the new casino scene.  In 1950's - 1960's, books were published that used mathematical analysis to teach players how to improve their odds of beating the dealer.  One of these books, Dr. Edward Thorp's “Beat the Dealer”  became a bestseller, and Blackjack became the most popular casino game in the U. S.  This Dr. Thorp also developed the famous Thorp Count for the game of backgammon.

In the 1970's, Ken Uston and his merry band of creative gamblers used hidden computers to win hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Their ingenuity attracted the attention of the FBI, which examined the computers and decided that they were not cheating devices, and therefore were fair and legal.  Players rushed to apply the lessons of Uston's method, but many casinos decided to adopt a multi-deck system of play, which complicated methods to improve the player's chances.





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