Making money on a losing situation, sort of

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I play a decent game of blackjack, but one hand gets the best of me, possibly because I wing it more than I should rather than stick to playing basic strategy. It seems every time I am dealt a hard 12, I get a bust card, so on more occasions than not, I stand. I typically play every other week, two five-hour sessions per, on $10 games. I would like to know how much I’m getting hurt by not hitting 12’s. Michael W.

“Winging it” on this particular hand, Michael, isn’t the worst mistake you can make at blackjack, but there is a correct way to play it.

A hard 10 (face-two) with the dealer presenting a two as an upcard is virtually a toss up between standing and hitting, yet the percentages favor hitting, albeit slightly. Let’s do the math.

For every 1,000,000 hands where the dealer is showing a two, you’ll get your troubling hard twelve 6,230 times. Stand on it, Michael, and you’ll win 35% of the time; hit it, 37%. Yes, a losing proposition of 63% versus 65%, so let’s just see how much that 2% gain by hitting a hard 12 is worth monetarily to you.

As you stated, based on your playing 20 hours of blackjack a month at $10 per bet, you’ll save yourself on this one hand around $60 a year just by hitting versus standing on a hard 12.  Sure, Michael, it’s a lousy hand, but hitting a hard 12 is the better play, and it will save you some dough in this losing situation.

Where I play, the casino offers a single zero roulette wheel. With the 00 eliminated, when you see a streak of five or six in a row with one color (black), wouldn’t it be smart to bet the other way being that the other color (red) is due, and the 00 isn’t there to hurt you? Nate R. 

Before I move to your question, Nate, for all those who dabble in roulette, it’s important to note that with this game, the casino’s steep edge of 5.26% comes from the presence of the 0 and 00 on the layout. The casino pays all wagers according to how the odds would be if there were just 36 numbers on the wheel, even though, with the addition of the 0 and 00, there are in fact 38 numbers. The true odds of hitting your selected number are 1/38, yet winners are paid only 35-1. And even on a single-zero game, the house still pays 35-1, with the true odds improving to 1/37, which cuts the house edge about in half to 2.6%.

Now to your question, Nate.

That little white ball going round and round doesn’t give a hoot whether black or red has appeared five, six or even 10 times in a row before it drops in the pocket. In fact, the chance of your winning the next spin is independent of your wins or losses on the last 10 spins, 100 spins, or a thousand spins.

Yes, Nate, sooner or later the number of times you win will close in on the house edge of 2.6% (single zero game), but sooner or later could be a long time. Over the short run, like the few hours you might be playing, that tiny sliver of time can’t improve the likelihood of a win based upon what has happened in the past.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “I once saw a couple who stopped to hug and kiss after every 4-of-a-kind while playing video poker.” –Jean Scott, Frugal Video Poker

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