How Patience Pays in Blackjack

The game of Blackjack stands alone inside a casino; the solitary quality of its player’s experience is fairly unique among popular card games. We should point out that despite the enthusiasm and hype that have gathered around a game like Texas Hold’em (to the point of getting televised as a competitive sport), Blackjack is known as the most beloved card game overall,  throughout casinos worldwide.

The reason we say 21 is a ‘solitary’ game has to do with a few basic facts about it:

  • a player does not compete with other players
  • interactions of the player and dealer are minimal
  • a player’s cards are turned up, which reduces suspense
  • basic strategy does not need to gauge psychologies

Because of its unique characteristics, Blackjack offer the player a rather intellectual challenge, which also requires a lot of self-control and composure. Going ‘full tilt’, as they say in Poker, or getting aggressive and erratic with one’s bets, will lead the Blackjack player into ruin in short order.

The Key Roles of Patience

A key aspect of the mental grit and control required to do well in Blackjack is patience, and the following are a few of the most important ways this trait plays out in the game.

Learning and Recalling Basic Strategy

In Blackjack, the odds and probabilities are well understood for each basic situation because:

  • the rules are simple enough, with short rounds
  • gameplay is between a player and dealer only
  • there are limited amounts of cards in play.

Generally, when the player weighs the cards received and a final hand total against the possible total that the dealer may get (based upon the dealer’s one visible card) then the player can either follow intuition, or stick to the well-known odds for that particular situation.

The best players employ the second overall method as much as possible, called Basic Strategy — which takes patience to do. Sometimes, for example, the player might have only a 13 or 14 but the dealer has a 5 or 6 showing and is very likely to bust on that card; in this case Basic Strategy should guide the player to Stand, even though it may feel safe to Hit.

Like Second Nature

Obviously, it is necessary to learn Basic Strategy, so that it comes as second nature, like an unthinking reflex while playing. This is the rational way to play, by a kind of code with certain iron-clad rules, like always split Aces and 8s. It should be memorised. This can be done by whatever trick a person likes — and using a Basic Strategy chart is very helpful.

Once you can play by this strategic code that is based upon sound probability and the experiences of players over time, then you can tweak your decisions according to intuition in certain situations.

Trusting the Law of Averages

You don’t need to apply advanced mathematics in order to learn about how Blackjack has one of the lowest house advantages of all casino games. When you employ Basic Strategy, you can bring the statistical house edge as low as 0.5% (depending upon how many decks are in play).

We’re not talking about a so-called law of averages in the sense of the ‘gambler’s fallacy’, which is thinking that good hands are bound to happen based upon past hands. We simply mean that by taking each hand as it comes, and using Basic Strategy, the savvy Blackjack player can expect an RTP (return to player %) of up to 99.5%.

Yet, once again, it will take patience to play through many hands, applying Basic Strategy with icy discipline, to witness these favourable odds. This means not allowing one’s spirits to sink during a streak of bad hands; it also means not getting overconfident during a winning streak. — Smart, cool headed betting will be the extra touch that allows a Blackjack hawk to overcome the house edge and walk away with more cash than they had to start.

Disciplined Betting

It literally pays to treat your budget and session bankroll in the same way as if you were a skilled investor or a business person. Many players have a set betting pattern they stick with rather than adjust bets intutitively or according to a perception of luck, or streaks. You might adjust successive bets based upon a rational understanding of profit instead, you see — where the goal simply is to end up with more cash when you decide to end the session than you had coming to the table.

Although you might not study the card counting methods (also known as ‘advantage play’ because their aim is to reach a positive % of edge over the house) your brain may seem to catch an inkling, call it intuition if you like, of certain periods of play. What it boils down to it this: if you happen to hit some good hands, it is best to have higher bets down at those times.

Get Into the Business of Winning

One possible betting strategy would be to start with a minimum or low bet and win a few hands. Now, you’ve made a little profit above your starting bankroll. So, you can afford to bet a bit more.

Increase your bet and play a few more hands, and if you win more than lose, you might start increasing your bet each hand until a couple of losses, then scale back to a low bet. Bet low to recoup and build a little reserve again, so you can afford to go on another bet ramping sequence when it feels good.

Whenever you have a successful run of hands you can reset to a low bet before losing, in which case you have just made a little profit. And, whenever you win a nice hand (such as a Double Down or a natural Blackjack or a winning Split), you could get in the habit of resisting the temptation of continuing with big bets and instead scale back to a low bet for some time.

The satisfaction from doing this (mentally you can think of it as having made some good business deals and having turned a profit) is not to be missed! The essential betting strategy we just sketched is a kind of combination of skill, rationality, discipline, patience and intuition. Not only is it wonderful to win a nice big hand and keep it in your bankroll, it also is magical when you reset to a low bet only to lose the very next hand (since you saved yourself some money there).