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Modern Blackjack nth Edition

What should be your initial buy-in at a table?

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It should be no surprise that this is a common question. So, so many variables:

  • Do you have chips from that casino?
  • Are you known at the casino? Known in what manner?
  • Do they allow money (cash) plays and in what circumstances?
  • How big is the casino?
  • What is your “act?”

First, it needs to made clear that this is not Poker table stakes or a tournament. You can go in your pocket at any time and pull out cash. These days, betting cash is often not allowed. But, you can ALWAYS pull out cash, even in the middle of a hand, and get chips. Pure cash betting (no chips involved) is rare these days and is treated in different manners as follows:

  • You can or cannot bet cash on entering the table.
  • You can or cannot bet cash after entering the table and running out of chips.
  • You can or cannot bet cash on a DD or Split.
  • Any of the above, but they immediately trade the cash for chips instead of allowing the cash to stand as a bet, and allowing you to withdraw the cash on a win.
  • Asking for a marker on the bet, which requires no cash or chips.

In olden days, most anything was allowed if you didn’t look like a problem. For example, if you had no more chips, but had to double or split, you could just say “mark it” – even if you had no account and they did not know your name and you looked like a long-haired hippy, if they felt that you would continue playing. They, rightly, figured they would get the money eventually. As days have gone by, the rules have become tighter and tighter. In the old days, you could throw a C-note (from Roman numerals if anyone cares about the ref) on the table and say “money bet,” and they would take the bet. Win it and you could put the cash back in your pocket and continue playing with the winning chips. Now, they exchange it for chips before the hand.

I’m afraid I failed to answer the original question — What should be your initial buy-in at a table? That’s because there is no one answer. It depends upon your “act.” And, it should not be the same, in the same casino, anyhow, unless making it the same is part of your act.

In the past, I used to make cash bets often. I felt it made me look like a gambler. In the present, I never do this on entering a table. Partly because it brings more attention, it is usually traded for chips before the bet anyhow, and it slows the game. And, my current philosophy is that speed is one of the most important factors. Also, I don’t like to be an annoyance to casinos, and paying cash is a huge annoyance and can bring unwanted attention. Oddly, used judiciously, if you are playing higher stakes, it can also bring “wanted” attention.

OK, I still haven’t answered the question. I like short sessions. I also like an excuse to leave and I like an excuse to bet unusually small amounts (below one unit) if the count doesn’t increase or make odd increases if it does. Keeping a small number of chips in front of you, of different denominations, allows you to look as though you are making bets based upon the colors that happen to be in front of you, either unusually high or low. So, I tend to try to keep the number of chips in front of me fairly small. In fact, I sometimes (not often) even buy chips when I have chips in my pocket, to give me camouflage possibilities. The point is to look like a pure gambler. Not a system player, which can be a good act until you break from it, but a random gambler that doesn’t give a f***. They like that.

But, as I say, there are many ways to play. Comments and experiences are welcome.

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  1. Solo player's Avatar
    "One time" in the mid to late ninties playing downtown at the shoe, when it was all good single deck nickle games. Playing unrated I dropped the 500$ dollars I had on me. They let me "mark it" while my wife went back to the Plaza, I think it may still have been called Union Station then and retrieve another 500 hundred for me. That really was such a fun place then.

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