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When people sat down at Sarah Seldon’s blackjack game, they always wanted to talk about The Book. “Should I double down? Should I hit? Dealer, I know you’re a gambler; you could let me win if you wanted to. What does the book say?” She had never read this book, this mythical Bible for gamblers. The truth is there are 2256 books, each teaching its own foolproof winning system. But Sarah had been in the casino business long enough to think with a gambler’s mind. Gamblers knew they could follow all the rules of basic strategy, utilize money management and still lose if they weren’t dealt the right cards. The allure and curse of gambling was that there were no sure things. In the end it all came down to luck; gamblers prayed that Lady Luck would show up and that she would stick around for awhile.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Hi, my name is Cara. My husband Ray and I have been in the casino business for most of our working careers. We have decided to show you the view from behind the table. We will pass on a few tips, so that superstition doesn’t ruin you game. Please let us know if they help you win the next time you visit a casino!

If you were a blackjack table visited by thousands of punters a year, you would hear the same five things repeated every day. Guess what, all five of them are misconceptions, mixed up with superstitions and topped off with a thick layer of so called expertise.

1. When the majority of players walk up to the table the first words out of their mouth are, “Dealer, are you running hot or cold?”

This old chestnut has been around as long as gambling. Movies, books, and even a dealer or two have added to the mystique of hot and cold dealers. Some things are easily disproved.  Trust me, if some dealers were naturally hot and some cold then the casino would only employ the hot variety. Have you ever seen an advert in the paper for a new casino, “Now interviewing for staff, hot dealers only need apply.” No one would be a dealer because dealers work for tips and generally people who are winning tip. Without winners dealers would have no income. I can assure you there is one person in the casino who wants you to win and that is the dealer!

2. Third Base is the most important spot at the table, because seat number seven controls the cards.

That would only be true if the player in seat seven had a crystal ball and knew what cards would appear next. Sometimes they play correctly and the cards fall perfectly and the dealer bust, then third base will take all the credit. Sometimes they play correctly and the dealer hits out to twenty one but they don’t take the blame for that one. In fact the cards are shuffled many times during the course of the day and no one knows the next card – or equally importantly the dealer’s hole card.

3. Someone at the table has to take a hit.

Let’s imagine the following scenario. The dealer shows a low card, maybe a five or a six, and everyone at the table has a stiff hand (12 – 16). All the players signal no card, but the benevolent player at the all important third base will offer to sacrifice his hand for the good of the table, because, “Someone has to take a hit.” We have never understood the logic of this one. Since no one knows what the dealer’s hole card is or the next card out of the shoe, then just like every other hand a player should stick to the rules of basic strategy. By the previously mentioned twisted logic, third base may very well take the bust card and his sacrifice will doom the table. But if everyone loses with a sigh he will proclaim, “Well at least I tried.”

4. When things are going badly at the table, players think they can change the flow of the cards by adding of subtracting a hand from the game.
       There is no flow or run of the cards, they are shuffled in a random order. Casinos go to great lengths to devise shuffles that produce a random rearrangement of the cards at every shuffle.

5. I know I shouldn’t split these sixes against a ten but I have a feeling.

Nothing gets a gambler into more trouble than a feeling. And really this is the point of our blog. The house always has slight edge even at blackjack but if a player follows the rules of basic strategy they can avoid increasing that edge.

Like most things in life blackjack is a game of skill, which can be easily learned. We feel that if a player is going to spend $300 on a night at the tables it is worth their while to invest ten dollars to buy a book on basic strategy. There are thousands of books on basic strategy, you can find them in the gambling section of any bookstore or online. No book on basic strategy or gambling mentions ‘hot dealers’ or ‘taking the dealers bust card’ or ‘flow of the cards,’ it’s all strictly math. So forget the old wives tales, buy yourself a copy, read it and study it. Happy Gambling.

Cara and Ray Bertoia - authors of:
Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships


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