There have been many movies, documentaries and books produced concerning Blackjack strategy. Teams of card counters, such as the famous MIT teams, and solo players have reportedly made vast fortunes at the game using such techniques as card counting and perfect play. In fact so successful have these card counters been that casinos have tightened up their operations, and card counting is not that easy nowadays. Additionally, the rules of the game have been changed to remove some of the edge that Blackjack card counters can obtain. Even the way the cards are dealt have been changed.

Recently attention has moved away from card counting to a re-examination of the role of luck, and some recent publications have provided new insights into how we should deal with odds. For instance, in a game of slots that advertises an average payout of 99.5%, we might estimate that we will loose 5p for every £100 that we play. Of course this expectation is only if we play for an infinite amount of time, which of course we will not. In any shorter time frame it is luck that determines whether we win or lose, not the odds. If we achieve more winning combinations than the average we will win much more than the odds predict, and if we achieve less winning combinations than the average we will lose far more than 0.5% of our stake.

Moving on the Blackjack, if we are playing at a table and counting the cards accurately, and the deck turns hot (that is it contains a higher proportion of high cards than average, which is favourable for the player) then strategy suggests that we should increase our bet in anticipation of getting a Blackjack. However, it is pure luck that dictates whether the dealer or the player gets the anticipated Blackjack. It is luck that is key.

Given how difficult it is to play successful card counting and basic strategy, a better strategy might be to learn how to exploits lucky streaks by making the best of them, and minimising our losses on unlucky streaks. Perhaps this is how gamblers played in the early days, before card counting was discovered. The wheel turns full circle and it seems to be paying dividends.

By Hollie Wilcox
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