“Who here can tell me how to win this game?” I asked as I bellied up to a crowded blackjack table. Everyone started talking at once. “Wait,” I held up my hand. “First off—who has won more than they’ve lost in the last year?” Dead silence.
Blackjack: everyone’s got an angle on winning, but very rarely do they seem to do it with any regularity. You’d think a long losing streak in the same direction would shut the peanut gallery up a little. You’d think.
I was playing a table in Arizona this week with, who some might describe as, a big ol’ redneck. He was playing one hand of $100. I was varying back and forth indiscriminately between one hand of $25, and two or three hands of $500. He was getting two things—no love from the cards, and right pissed off. His red neck spread upward and steam started leaking out of his ears.
“Go ahead and clean HIM out!” Mr. Redneck said to the dealer, jerking a thumb in my direction. “Then we can go on back to playing reg-uh-ler.”
Mr. Redneck turned to me. “I hope you get cleaned out bub. Cleaned OUT!”
“This should about do it, yes?” I said, moving from one hand of $25 to two hands of $500. The vein in his neck throbbed.
“A FOOL and his money are soon parted!” he decreed.
“I wouldn’t know about that,” I said. “I don’t read the Koran.” The dealer flipped a blackjack. I moved to three hands of $500. Mr. Redneck burst into flames.
“It’s not a guessing game, BUB!”
“What kind of game is it?”
“It’s about statistical averages. I should know. I come here every day, week in and week out. I’m trying to get back over two grand back I lost just this week.”
“So how are those statistical averages working out for you?”
His cowboy hat hit the roof riding on a geyser of steam.
“It’s not about how big you bet, motherf***er!”
“No. You’re right. I’m sorry to hear you and your money were parted. It was too soon.”
“Come on guys,” the dealer begged.
“The difference between you and me,” the man said, spittle sizzling behind his clenched teeth, “is what you got parked out in the lot and what I got parked out in the lot!”
“I don’t even know what that means.”
Mr. Redneck grabbed his chips in a huff and stormed off.
“I drive a Ford Festiva,” I said after him.
Every loudmouth with his or her oddball blackjack strategy will have a unique reaction to the way you play. Roll with the punches. Don’t let people get under your skin, and don’t let them intimidate your EV play. Playfulness is better than defensiveness. You are not on trial.