Gaming – Why a warm-up before playing blackjack

blackjackHarveyQuestion: When a PGA golfer is in a tournament, what does he or she do first upon arriving at the course?

Answer: He or she warms up. Time is spent at the driving range, practicing with different clubs but especially with whatever clubs are giving the player difficulty lately. This includes last-minute adjustments based upon new ideas the player got to improve his or her game. The player then goes to the practice putting green to learn how fast or slow the greens are and to improve upon accuracy.

Question: When a baseball player arrives at the stadium to play a game, what is the first thing he does?

Answer: He warms up. He stretches. He throws the ball around to loosen up his arm until he can throw at top speed. Most players then go to the batting cage, practicing their swing.

There’s a reason for warming up. The player’s body and mind could not perform at their maximum potential if he or she came in cold off the street and walked right up to play.

A serious blackjack player also needs to warm up (but few do). This is something I had to learn on my own.

Early on in my career, I noticed that I felt out of sorts, kind of in slow motion when I came in cold off the street and sat down to play without some sort of warm-up. Without that necessary step, I found it difficult to get my brain up to speed initially and I found I was not at my top form in the first 10-15 minutes.

That’s no good. If you’re not processing all the information at top speed and making the most intelligent decisions possible you’re going to make mistakes and lose money or lose opportunities to make a maximum amount of money.

Most dealers deal the cards at a pretty brisk pace. They’re being paid to. With a speedy delivery, they can get in more rounds and potentially make more money for the casino (with the knowledge that most players are losers because they don’t take the time to learn the game in depth).

When faced with this kind of thing, a player needs to respond just as quickly to what’s going on. Busted hands, for example, are rapidly removed from the table and you have to take note of what they were and where they’re going in the discard pile (if you’re shuffle tracking and keeping track of the cards for precise betting and card moves).

Your brain is akin to a muscle. Without warming it up before approaching the casino you cannot get in sync with the game from the get-go and that places you at a deficit.

So…what should a proper blackjack warm-up include?

First of all, it needs to be of a good enough length of time to ensure that your mind is firing on all cylinders. For me, this usually takes a minimum of a half hour to an hour. You’ll know when enough is enough – but be patient. Don’t rush out the door without being honest with yourself.

Second, your warm-up should include a review of what you especially want to work on and get better at that day. No matter what level you’re on, there’s always something you can do better. Often that involves memorizing methods and reviewing the numbers that will guide you to play a more precise game.

I always, for instance, spend some time refreshing my memory of the numbers I came up with in my research to guide me in utilizing my Precision Betting Method (introduced in the Third Edition of Cutting Edge Blackjack). Each type of card (from the Aces to the 10s) affects your likelihood of winning in the next round differently (whether it’s depleted, in great concentration in the undealt mix or in a normal balance), and to be quick at doing this kind of assessment, you need to have the numbers quickly accessible in your head. Players who use my entry-level card analysis method, the Ducks & Bucks method (also introduced in Cutting Edge Blackjack), to predict how the dealer will do and therefore how you should play your hand in each round, will want to review the numbers associated with that.

Finally, you absolutely must practice with cards and quickly deal out round after round (simulating the pace of the casino game), doing fast (and accurate) card analyses of the dealer and players’ likely outcomes from the dealing of the first two cards to the end. If you’re not seeing that your precision level is very good, keep at it until it is (or review your notes to correct whatever you’re doing wrong).

Try to answer these questions (using my methods):

Who’s likely to win or lose in each round?

Is the dealer likely to bust or not (based upon all the cards that have been dealt to that point)?

What does the card imbalance in the undealt cards tell you about what lies ahead – in the current round and next?

What cards do you want to follow through the shuffle (with my shuffle tracking methods) and where are they in the discard pile? So where would you cut the cards to bring bad the best mix?

And so on.

Don’t leave your hotel room or house to head to the casino until you’re confident you can play a good game and you’ll be up to speed from the time you plop down at the table.

…And if you do that, you can take that to the bank.

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