Blind Simulations with Boris:
Evaluating Blackjack from the Casino point-of-view
Originally, I had intended this piece to be a report on the REAL effects of the dealer hitting soft-17. While that piece is still in progress, spending time with the 8 stat screens from Boris' PRO+ Blackjack Simulator produced during the Blind Simulations run for the soft-17 article, I found myself drawn again and again to the Table Statistics Screen (F3), which details the casino's viewpoint on the game.
Frequently when I run blind simulations I like to compare the effects of playing strictly wash cards versus cards in play for an entire shift. Pundits of "the cards are random" theories contend either that wash cards are no different than cards in play, say for 500 rounds, or, that while they may indeed be different, there is nothing you can do about it, so continue to play Basic Strategy and pray. Praying in Blackjack is LOSER mentality. (As an aside, look for an article in Boris' Blind-Simulation Series specifically on the subject of wash-frequency and its effects.)
While you can look at the screen snapshots (at the end of this article), those stat screens contain a myriad of data. To simplify our discussion, I have selected out the data from Boris' Table-Statistic Screens relevant to our purpose, here.
A few points should be made about the above data:
- In the Odd #'d collumns (B1, B3, B5 & B7), washes are performed once a shift.
- In the Even #'d collumns (B2, B4, B6 & B8), washes are performed every shuffle.
- The Shuffle/Wash procedures are based on the Aladdin Casino 8-Deck game, which is essentially a Stutter-Shuffle followed by a Straight-Thru shuffle; a combination found in a significant number of casinos around the U.S., as well as abroad.
- A-Hold (Action-Hold) is based upon money$ actually wagered.
- D-Hold (Drop-Hold) is based on the Drop-$ (chips bought during play).
- The simulations utilized an alternating mix of Basic Strategy & Basic Strategy II players.
- While liberal rules (incl. l.Surrender) are employed, the dealer draws to soft-17.
above data was ordered with the more obvious indicators listed first.
It doesn't take a rocket-scientist to see that the house makes a considerable amount of money off of wash cards. This is in total accord with the points made in Jerry Patterson's Break the Dealer, Blackjack: A Winner's Handbook (1990 & 2002 Editions) and Jerry's Blackjack Masters Course, regarding the avoidance of playing against wash (i.e. new, ordered) cards.
essence, the advice in all these publications is this: if you are a
Basic Strategy player or conventional card-counter, you should avoid
playing at a table for at least two hours after new cards are brought
in. How do you know when new cards are brought in? ASK. Personally I
LOVE to play against wash cards. So, when I ask how long the cards
have been in play, I inform the dealer/pit-boss that I think new
cards are "luckier" to play against. They seem to buy the
ruse; possibly because for me, it is true. How to play against wash
cards is detailed in the NBJ/PBJ/BJ-101/Power-BJ manuals which have
been around since 1990 - 1995.
bottom-line - look at the difference in casino profit between
once-washed cards and always-washed cards:
tell me which kind of game the casinos REALLY want to offer.
While clump-card authors such as Davis, Smith and DiBenedetto seem to indicate that full tables are ALWAYS house-favorable, it would seem from Boris' simulations that it DEPENDS on the shuffle and wash combination in use for that particular game, against the typical number of players expected for a given table-minimum/table-maximum.
example, from the above data, we can see that play against wash
cards is actually better for the Aladdin with a 5-player game rather
than 6, while 4-player games eclipse BOTH.
In summary, we can say this much. The number of players at the table has a HUGE impact on the quality of the game, beyond what card-counters look for. It is universally agreed by card-counters that fewer number of players is ALWAYS the best game. If we can assume anything, it is that "it depends". I encourage you to run simulations with Boris and spend your casino-scouting time paying attention to player number and the quality of the games you notice at those tables. You may be suprised at what you see.
Clump track players and some card-counters are well aware that todays shoe games have managed to subvert the dealer break-ratio, reducing it to between 15% - 22%, from its statistical mean of 28.3%. How often have you seen dealers consistently drawing 4, 5, 6 and even more card, hands? Of course such draws can occur in "random" cards. What is notable however, is that the PERCENT of those hands (compared to the overall total of hands) is noticeably higher in wash cards than in "reasonably shuffled" cards.
The above point makes perfect sense when you realize that if dealers are breaking LESS, they will be drawing to hard totals more. Because players (unknowingly) tend to stand on stiff hands in low-ratio rounds (which coincidentally is when the dealer is more likely to have a low upcard), they hand those low cards to the dealer to consistently make their hand. In a future installment of this series, we will look at the totals these draws actually end up with. It's quite suprising at first, until you think it through. Again, I encourage you to run your own simulation on this one.
Point #3 (above) explains in an overall way that reduced dealer-breaking makes a significant contribution to the increase in profit% found in wash-card play. Let's take a closer look at Soft-17 breaks. Most players consider the dealer hitting soft-17 to be an undesireable game-trait. I would agree with this assessment for hand or machine shuffled single-deck and double-deck games. As you can see, 75% of the 8-deck simulation bear this out.
Now, notice that in the 4-player game, hitting soft-17 is actually house-disadventageous. While this seeems to be true for this Aladdin game, it would seem that most hand-shuffled/washed games are vulnerable in this area; although it might turn out to be 3 players, or 5 players, against a different wash/shuffle arrangement. With Boris, we can discover the ideal number of players and then setup a practice casino .ENV File to drill this game. I contend that with Boris for Blackjack, if you can beat that casino in the software, you can beat the real-world implementation of that game.
is one more point here - if hitting soft-17 has advantages and
disadvantages for the dealer, the same should hold true for the
player. In summary, how to handle soft-17 is simple:
In a future Blind-Simulation series, I will take an even closer look at the hitting soft-17 phenomenon and how you can manipulate it to your advantage.
The above four points have demonstrated that the multi-deck game of Blackjack is a different game than what we have been led to expect. I hope it has also impressed the idea that you can't blindly play Basic Strategy in today's shoe games and call yourself a professional. The truth is, to consistently win against today's shoe games, you have to play smarter and harder. If you still aren't convinced, let's examine one more piece of data from Boris' Table Statistics Screen: Dealer-Strength. No, this is not about muscles, but about how STRONG the dealer's initial two cards actually are.
The dealer has a STRONG hand when the have either two low cards or two high cards. If is only when the dealer's hand is a mix of the two that the dealer is in trouble; and, as we have seen, the dealer pulls more of those hands out, than ever before. You might argue that the player may well have a strong or weak hand just like the dealer. The difference is that you play first. If you break, it doesn't matter WHAT the dealer does afterwards - your money is still lost.
So, what do you do if you find yourself in a game like the ones in the Blind-Simulation? If you're not winning, the answer is obvious: GET THE HELL OUT. If you're in a hot-zone and cleaning up, keep playing until the game begins to get tough; then get out. If you find yourself fighting the game continuously, even if you are winning, find an exit point and leave the table. There are better games to be had. Your time is better spent taking a break and scouting for more favorable games.
Conclusions for this Article
Thus far in this article series I have attempted to show you how different the game looks when you examine the statistics from the casino's point of view. There is no substitute for knowledge. Next best, there is no substitute for thorough casino/table scouting.
Expert table-scouting has won me countless number of units. It has also kept me out of losing games. I know this because many table seats I reject are quickly taken by an unsuspecting player, allowing me to watch the game I would have been in.
Properly-timed table departure has saved me from countless slaughters. I know this because often someone takes my seat after I bail from a losing table. One guy took over my seat to "prove" to me that I was losing because I was a poor player, not because the cards were house-favorable. It was amazing to watch the kinds of hands I would have gotten had I stayed. Before leaving the table area I reminded him "now you know why I bailed..."
More and more, casino executive are reading all the books on Blackjack that we do, as well as the privately sold tracking systems. Doesn't it make sense we should be looking at what the execs are looking at? The Table Statistics screen in Boris for Blackjack has been present since day-one of the software. That alone should give you a clue as to the importance of this data.
Stay Tuned for more "Blind Simulations with Boris"
What follows is a list of the Boris stat screens that are the basis for this article:
- 6-Player game - cards washed at the beginning of the shift.
- 6-Player game - cards are washed every shuffle.