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Thread: The Price Of Intuition

  1. #1
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    The Price Of Intuition

    The point of this post is just to ruminate on how much players knowingly deviating from basic strategy costs them. Is it meaningful, slight, or a rounding error?

    One of my favorite regulars comes to the table with a strategy card. Of course he doesn't need it at my table, and he actually does make a mistake occasionally. Many other players "sort of" know basic strategy, but there are a few plays they tend to try to outguess basic strategy. For example, 99 vs. 8. It doesn't seem super-intuitive to split, because a dealer 8 is a pretty good card for the dealer and when you split and don't get a 10, you've degraded your hand. So they stand. Splitting 8's against an Ace seems super-scary; who wants to put more money on the table against an Ace?

    But these are extremely costly errors. Hitting 88 vs. A costs about 0.15; standing 99 vs. 8 costs 0.12. These compare to 0.068 for standing on 16 vs. 7.

    Maybe one of these days I'll expend the energy to create a spreadsheet with all the relevant combinations, frequencies, and net cost. 88 vs. A comes up 0.000444 of the time, so if that is the ONLY error you ever make, you will give up .0000666, or about 7 thousandth's of a percent. So the house edge goes from .0060000 to .0060666. Of course, the players who will try to outguess basic strategy won't make only one error, they'll make many. And all you have to do is put a nickel on Lucky Ladies once an hour and you've just given away more than even a big deviation will cost.

    But it does suggest that blackjack is an easy game. Learn basic strategy (easy), and use it without thinking. Maybe if you have a vibe about the number of high/low cards (obviously this entire post assumes non-counters) you could decide to stand on 16 vs. 10. But don't try to guess.

    __________________________

    On another topic, I had another (I think) counter tonight. So it all starts in a weird way. I made a mistake in a payout and there was a bit of a fuss (it was a push but I had taken the chips into the rack, nobody was sure how much, he had doubled, so we had to call the eye in the sky), and as this is dragging on he says "Now I lost the count." Hmm, let's not call that a confession, but certainly enough to make my antennae stick up. He had bought in for $1K but was playing at or near the table minimum of $15; most players don't buy in for 65x their bet, so it feels like he wanted to have the cheques for a big bet if the count got really high. He occasionally put up a nickel on Lucky Ladies when his main bet rose. With all our side bets, I usually don't have the mental bandwidth to monitor a players bets and especially not to count, but no one was playing side bets and I could look and see, for example, the count on the current hand is +3 and his bet goes up, or -2 and his bet goes down. Surely enough to let the boss know. He left at one point, leaving his chips, and I called my floor and whispered that I might have a counter, and he told the pit manager. Now it gets interesting. We are trained to deal to about 80% penetration, but when I shuffled I cut the shoe down to 60%. I went on break, and when I came back his chips were gone. I asked if he had left, and the players told me that he came back, played a couple of hands, and left. I wonder if he didn't see where I put the cut card and decide to get out while the getting was good. Maybe they'd remember him when they came back and maybe they wouldn't, but why take the chance? I have no doubt that no other dealer in the joint could flag a counter, and I'm qutting in two days, so maybe he'll come back and be able to ply his (our?) trade.

    We are really not encouraged to use initiative, but I think everyone understand that I'm smarter than the average bear and that just like a player shouldn't try to outguess the strategy card, they shouldn't try to outguess me on counters.

    Only two more days though and then I'm outta there. Moving to Vegas next month.

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    On the cost of BS errors, you might want to check BJA3, pp. 97-99.

    Don

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    Imagine playing a game or sport where your every move was dictated before the game begun. Also your strategy was mathematically proved to lose in the long run. For many of us, the game would be boring.

    We'd move on to a game where we had more agency, even if it mean our chances of winning declined.

    Learning basic strategy and implementing it perfectly, just isn't appealing to many gamblers. They don't go to the casino for that. They are to play games. Not to strictly follow a strategy that is still losing, but losing less. What good is reducing loss, when your gameplay is robotic. A 2 hour session where you lose $100 but make your own choices is more fun than losing $30 following a script. It might not make sense for some, but trust if everyone had to play basic strategy, the game wouldn't be as popular.

    However, a counter to that would be either advantage play or betting variation. What makes the game fun for me while following basic strategy to a T, is varying my bets. There's no advantage or disadvantage to doing it, without knowledge of the composition of the deck, but it creates excitement, which is why I play. And it keeps me away from the roulette tables and slot machines...

    But to answer the question, I think some people don't care to know whether their play is optimal and how much they are losing by not following basic strategy. Whatever they lose, is a rounding error. They know they might lose a few hands that they would have won, but what's those few hands in the grand scheme of things? So many outside factors impacting their experience, versus $70 lost due to not following the book.

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    I have always wondered why some dealers do what they do, I guess I know now why. Does the casino give you a bonus for alerting them to a counter? Do you get promoted faster? Does the pit boss come over and give you an extra day off for catching a counter?? I guess the answer is no to all of the above. So why not just deal the cards and let the pit boss and the eye in the sky do their jobs and you do yours by dealing a solid no mistake game and provide great customer service and help the casino create a great gaming atmosphere? If players like your deal, you get tips, right? I guess the motivation to be that 'guy' that can make a customer's day bad is too much to pass by. I really don't see the casinos worrying that every night they come up a few hundred short that they are going to cut dealer staff or the like. Probably put out some lower grade buffett food perhaps but its the slots and table games that make them money.. Comps to you for driving away a customer... Please share what bonuse you got for doing so?

  5. #5
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    I never understood the allure of playing a losing game. Playing basic strategy is already a poor choice in my opinion and playing with no strategy at all is completely out of the question. I read a comment on a famous gambler's YouTube channel advising him to "read the flow of the cards" after he had just lost $1,000,000 dollars playing mostly basic strategy in Vegas. Maybe next he should try some voodoo or a good luck potion.

    OP, was there ever a time that you felt sure that you had a counter at your table who you chose not to report? If so, why not? Asking for a friend

  6. #6


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    Redtop43, I have absolutely no respect for the piece of cheap bastard you are.
    Outing what you think is a counter, cutting the deck to 60% You are exactly what we expect from these morons working the pits.
    I hope life will gives you what you deserve !
    Oh !! and by the way, look at yourself in a mirror, it probably already did...
    G Man

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    To throw in my two cents about the original post- when it comes to playing perfect basic strategy, it seems like it only makes sense when you’re thinking about the long haul. I mean, basic strategy comes from a simulation of like a billion hands or something like that, right? The typical gambler doesn’t want to play a billion hands, they just want to try to win the session they are currently playing and have some fun. I play perfect basic strategy and there are of course, sessions where I get my ass handed to me and the clueless poppy is winning just about every hand. Take the typical Ploppy strategy, essentially staying on 17 and up, and everything else being a free-for-all. In the course of one session, does a couple percentage points really make a that much of a difference? Of course, if you’re playing more than once in a blue moon, in the long haul, perfect basic strategy is the only way to go and will save you a lot of money. That’s what separates the APs from the ploppys.
    Last edited by Northbend; 10-28-2023 at 06:23 PM.

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    The OP is moving to Las Vegas to become a professional AP. He surely has trained himself in PA.

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    I like your reply better than mine G Man.. Kudos... I played a few hours today,, just green chipping and cleared $275.00 but I actaully made $380.00 but I tipped one of my favorite dealers who is about to have a baby in a few weeks and this was her last weekend of dealing for awhile. She cuts thin and makes the game fun. I wished her and her baby well and looked forward to sitting at her table again. I hope Vegas eats you up and spits you out...

  10. #10
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    Remind me why this hasn't moved to voodoo yet??

  11. #11
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    You have to understand me and my background to understand my answer. I'm a retired actuary. I've had a fascination with numbers since I was about 4, I read "Scarne's Complete Guide To Gambling" when I was about 11. And for most of my working career I was either working for a major consulting firm or in management, up to C-suite positions.

    Answering an earlier question, I am far more likely to get in trouble with my bosses if I do address a counter situation, than if I don't. Initiative is strongly discouraged. But I count for the challenge, and I flag counters for the challenge. And it is deeply ingrained in me to be professional, and as such when I'm employed by someone, I will give them my 100% best effort.

    I guess a lot of it comes down to why people gamble. My degree is in economics, and we assume that people act rationally at least within the scope of their own priorities. Since gambling is unquestionably a negative-expected value financially activity for the vast majority of gamblers, they must find some other reason for wanting to gamble, and those are as varied as there are personality types.

    One thing I do observe is the tendency for players to be risk-averse in the play of the hand. They are much more likely to want to avoid busting, than to avoid losing when the dealer makes a 17. They know you're supposed to "always split 8's" but they want to avoid splitting 8's against an A or 10, and also to avoid splitting 9's against an 8 or 9, when these are all colossal errors.

    _____________________

    On a related note... Last night was my last night at my job. I'm moving to Vegas; I don't know if I'll work there or not. For some reason, the conversation was more intense about whether one player's actions affect another. The answer of course is yes they do, but in a completely unpredictable way. I'd show a bust card (2-6) and all the players would have 12 or higher, and they'd say "Well, somebody has to hit." Or players holding 12 against a dealer 3 and saying "I know I should hit, but I don't want to take the dealer's bust card." I had almost all regulars at my table (not surprising for my last night) and my response was that if you asked 20 statistics Ph.D's whether one player influences another, the over-under would be 19 1/2, and that's only in case one of them was having a bad day or didn't understand the question.

    I used to play quite a lot of backgammon online, and people would continually claim the dice were somehow crooked. I would issue the following challenge: "You make a clear statement of HOW the dice are crooked. We'll hire a statistics Ph.D. to evaluate your claim. We'll each put up $100,000, pay the analyst out of the $200,000 total pool, and the winner takes the balance." Naturally I never had a taker. The same thing applies here. No one will ever explain why the next card to come out would be bad for the dealer, but the one after that would be good, and therefore the player shouldn't hit and thereby "save the table."

    We can all at least understand quack conspiracy theories, like that voting machines were hacked by Hugo Chavez, despite his having died in 2013. It's nutty but at least internally coherent. I do have a player who comes to the table with a strategy card, who will sometimes stand on 16 vs. 10 and say "I think I'll let you bust." But that's a tiny error. (No, I don't think he's counting; if he were he would make more deviations than he does.) But there's nothing coherent about player theories about how one person's actions affect another.

    ___________________

    Updating my post, because there were some intervening replies. I am not moving to Vegas to become an AP. I had always planned to retire to Vegas, but I had some family issues come up that made it appropriate for me to move back in with my parents when they were getting old. They're both gone now, or perhaps I should say, together for eternity.

    I'm offended by the idea that I'm a "cheap bastard" and a "moron working the pits." A convenience store charges $2 for a soda that costs them 15 cents to pump; how many of you if working in a convenience store would be "cheap bastards" and not let people who buy a hot dog and a donut take the soda for free? Or, why aren't more of you going to dealer school and getting a job dealing so that you can sell out the casino to fellow AP's? Admittedly I'm in a somewhat unusual position. I have bad legs so I have to dealing sitting down, we only have two sit-down tables, one is baccarat which I never learned and the other is a blackjack table with a shoe. Our only other shoe table is in the high-limit pit and that's a stand-up table. So I deal 100% of the time at a blackjack shoe table. I don't feel any obligation to sell out my employer.
    Last edited by redtop43; 10-29-2023 at 08:56 AM.

  12. #12


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    Don't waste your time trying to convince me of what you are or not, you're digging a hole.
    G Man

  13. #13


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    Quote Originally Posted by redtop43 View Post
    I guess a lot of it comes down to why people gamble. My degree is in economics, and we assume that people act rationally at least within the scope of their own priorities. Since gambling is unquestionably a negative-expected value financially activity for the vast majority of gamblers, they must find some other reason for wanting to gamble, and those are as varied as there are personality types.
    Outside of education/work/investing/running a business/possibly finding a romantic partner, the vast majority of activities are negative expected value. Going to the park to play basketball is negative expected value, subscribing to Netflix is negative expected value, eating at a fine dining restaurant is negative expected value. There's a cost associated with nearly everything and the customer makes the decision of whether the experience is worth the cost.

    Rational people see the cost of gambling and the value proposition of entertainment works for them. Many gamblers don't see the value of wagering at a "boring table", or a table where everyone is losing because that's not the experience they are paying for. They want a lively experience with hi-fives going all around, drunk people cracking jokes, instant camaraderie being built with strangers, and everyone "seemingly" working together as a team (lol). Win or lose, it's a night out on the town, and nights out on the town cost money more times than not.

    Are these all gamblers, no. Some people do go in with the expectation of winning and the "vibe" is meaningless to them. Those are people I would question. I'd argue if the entertainment value of gambling isn't at least double to triple the house edge $ of all your wagers combined, you shouldn't gamble. The value of your experience being based on whether you win or lose is a bad idea, because you will very likely lose more than you win.

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