Of all the various characteristics of casino games such as their rules, gameplay, how players join the action, betting customs and special in-play words, one of the most interesting is the role of dealers. The dealer in Blackjack defies the various assumptions you may have in terms of motives or powers.
Friendly Blackjack Dealers
It may be fair to say that two main aspect of table games — competition between players, and, interactions with dealers — can be compared. While certain games have fixed dealers, and others have the dealing job rotating between players, Blackjack’s dealer is relatively stable and even acts in an impersonal, noncompetitive way.
For that very reason, your Blackjack dealer also is able to step outside this role and act as a helpful observer, too. A friendly Blackjack dealer even is able to give reliable and valuable advice to less experienced players during hands — now, how is that possible?
Does Your Dealer Want to Win?
Consider this: your Blackjack dealer knows the game inside and out, which means she has memorised its Basic Strategy. But what is her job, expected by the casino? The dealer is bound to simply direct gameplay at a table, follow the rules and deal out the cards, without strategy involved, really.
The rules say the dealer must hit their hand until reaching 17 (in some games a soft 17 must be hit, too) and then Stand. This eliminates the need for strategy. Most of the dealer’s attention is devoted to facilitating the correct gameplay that allows players to gamble on Blackjack, and performing those tasks (including making accurate payouts and collecting players’ losses) is what the casino pays them to do.
Now you can ask yourself, does your dealer have any motive to win against you? The answer is, not really; she won’t be blamed for losses and won’t be congratulated for wins.
The house simply knows that there it has a certain mathematical edge, mainly is influenced by player error, and it is content to collect that percentage over time at its Blackjack tables.
Subtler Influences of the Dealer
If anything, your Blackjack dealer may be so affable, helpful, friendly and even instructive that you feel very comfortable, and play longer. This increases the casino’s chances over time that you will lose more money.
Oddly, when a dealer answers a strategy question by a perplexed player this may improve their game, and yet in the long run benefit the casino if the player does more gambling overall.
Worst Case Scenarios
Let’s say for a moment that you end up at the table of a somewhat mischievous or shady dealer (who for some reason wants the table to be more profitable, or believes this will bring some benefit or reward as an employee of the casino). What could such a dealer do to beat you more often?
- Sell you Insurance. Whenever the dealer draws an Ace, you have the option to buy insurance against a 10 card in the hole before it is checked. If dealers use subtle signs that encourage players (such as mere confidence), this can help the casino since the odds for Insurance are not favourable to players.
- Ignore Your Handicaps. Your dealer won’t necessarily teach you how to play, although she won’t refuse to answer your questions. If you continue to make a certain error, it may go uncorrected. Or, if you don’t realise that you have become too fatigued to play well, you may not be advised to take a break. If you are overconfident without knowing enough strategy, certainly your dealer may not set you straight!
- Foil Your Advantage Play. One thing dealers are hawkish about (and casinos want them to be) is detecting advanced players who are trying to count cards or read the deck in order to increase their odds, overcoming the house edge. If this is happening, a dealer may get a bit chatty to distract the player, or reshuffle the decks more often.
Dealer as a Friend
Now that you know the psychological landscape of the Blackjack table, and the role and responsibilities of your dealer, you can see that in most cases there is nothing to fear as long as you have a good game yourself.
The dealer mainly is concerned to be efficient, fast, accurate as a banker and helpful. The most brisk gameplay at the table, you see, is an elementary and harmless way for it to be profitable. If you feel like asking strategy questions once in awhile, then go ahead (no harm in that).
Just remember that Blackjack is nothing like poker, in which dealers are players who are competing to win. The Blackjack dealer is more of an intellectual force, like an agent of the game itself, who simply is the arm of the rules.
In poker it is said that you are not playing against the cards, but against your opponents. But in Blackjack you are playing against the game itself and your job is to execute as near perfect Basic Strategy as possible (a mostly mental exercise), and minimize errors, in order to increase your odds and winnings over time.