Have you ever been in a restaurant or some other public place when a nearby father says to his young son, “Sit up straight!” I saw this happen at the casino once, but the father was about sixty years old, and the son looked forty. Hardly a youngster needing advice. Besides having terrible posture, I remember that the son was also a horrible blackjack player. When I heard the dad’s comment, my first thought was…The father should be telling the son how to play better. As Father’s Day approaches, here is my interpretation of how everyday fatherly advice could be translated for use on the blackjack table:
A father’s advice, “Stand up for yourself. Don’t be a wimp.” This advice is usually meant for the playground, but on the blackjack table this advice applies to players who are afraid to double-down an eleven against the dealer’s face card, or split eights against a face. Do you only double-down when the dealer shows a five or six? If so, you are being bullied by the dealer. Stand up for yourself. Double-down when you are supposed to double-down.
A father’s advice, “Don’t drink and drive.” Similarly, “Don’t drink and gamble.” Both adages apply in moderation. It is OK to have a drink or two, as long as your driving or card-playing abilities are not impaired. Over-indulging can lead to loss of life or limb on the road. Drinking too much at the casino can lead to loss of cash plus credit card advance fees. There are obviously many times when a drunk-driver makes it home safely. Likewise, there are many occasions when you see drunken blackjack players betting crazy, defying basic strategy, and walking away big winners. Keep in mind that both groups of idiots will suffer the adverse consequences of their actions eventually.
A father’s advice, “Never speak unless spoken to.” Try practicing this advice at the blackjack table when you see a blackjackally challenged player make a bad play. I had a heckuva hard time doing this in the early days of my blackjack career. I almost always made some sort of comment to the offending player, the dealer, or to myself. It took me awhile to hold my tongue. Now, I never give playing advice unless asked. If the other player asks me nicely, I will respond with the correct way to play according to basic strategy or, sometimes, the index play. I’ll say, “Normally you should hit a twelve against a two, but there have been a ton of little cards out recently. My advice is that you should stay.” If a rude or obnoxious player asks me for advice, I’ll say, “My advice is that you play at another table…away from me.”
Oftentimes, fathers use famous quotes or sayings to impart wisdom on their children. Some of these sayings also find practical application at the casino:
A father’s wisdom, “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.” Originally, only farming fathers gave this advice to their children. The next time you double down a huge sum of money on a ten against the dealer’s bust card, then you draw a face card for twenty, then the dealer turns over a card which sums their other card to eleven, then gets a face card for twenty-one, remember this saying. Then say aloud, “Stupid chickens!”
A father’s wisdom, “Cheaters never win, and winners never cheat.” Is card-counting cheating? No? Then I have no problem with this wisdom being associated with actions at the casino. Does this advice mean that I should point out when the dealer overpays me or pays me on a losing hand? Yes? Then I have a problem with it. I think the saying in a casino should be, “Cheaters sometimes win, and winners sometimes cheat.” [Before any of you pass judgment on me, like the last time I posted similar sentiments, please answer one question: Have you ever driven 56 miles per hour or more when the posted speed limit was 55 mph? Then you are a cheater. Welcome to the club!]
A father’s wisdom, “The early bird catches the worm.” Card-counters should try visiting a casino at 6:00 or 7:00 AM on a weekday. There are usually no other players and/or the table minimums are lowered on the games with the best rules.
A father’s wisdom, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” This is the easiest one of all to interpret—simply look at everyone playing on tables with 6-to-5 payouts on blackjack.
Finally, many fathers would strongly impart the following wisdom in general to their children, “Don’t gamble!” I agree. If you play blackjack without being an advantage player, or if you indulge in any other casino game where the house has an edge—meaning all of them—this advice is practical. However, as all us card-counters will attest, what we do is not gambling. You’d never hear a father say to their son or daughter, “Don’t use applied math.”