Self Discipline: Eight Simple Rules

When playing blackjack, following these basic rules of discipline will improve your over-all enjoyment of the game:

1. Don't play with money you can't afford to lose, either financially, or emotionally:

If you're playing with either "scared money" or money you need for something else (some necessity such as rent, a car, or whatever), don't play blackjack. Only when you feel you can afford to lose whatever you're playing with, and walk away undamaged either financially or emotionally, should you consider playing 21 for money.

Note that we said financially or emotionally. You may be able to afford to play financially, but if a loss upsets you to the point where it kills your day or unbalances you, don't play. It isn't worth it. However, if you feel comfortable playing on both levels, then this is the game for you. It's a game with luck, to be sure, but there's enough skill to learn to turn the game in your favor.

2. Set aside sufficient capital for the game:

Don't be undercapitalized, or you'll be desperate for the early win, to protect your bankroll. Feeling this way, you'll alter your game to try and make an early killing. That's the wrong approach. What you want to do is have sufficient capital to weather initial losses and bounce back.

3. Make bets within the framework of the system:

Just because a deck is favorable, doesn't mean that you're going to win the next hand. It simply means that the deck is in your favor, but there are no guarantees; so, don't go crazy with a couple of bets that can tap you out.

For example, let's assume the deck is +5, halfway down, a very favorable situation, but not a guaranteed situation, by any means. Instead of betting six units, you bet twenty units, half of your stake. There's no heat, and you are dealt a 10-9 but, before you can even do anything, the dealer peaks under his 10 and turns over a blackjack.

One loss. Now the deck is still +3, with less than half of a deck to go, so you want to make up that loss, and bet the other twenty units you have left. You're dealt an Ace-7 and the dealer holds another 10. Now you're afraid to even hit the soft 18, which is correct play.

You want to protect the 20 units you have out. You stand pat, and the dealer turns over another 10. You've lost 40 units; let's say it was a $25 game, a loss of $1,000 in two plays. It's a devastating loss. If you had six units originally, and then another six, even if you hit the soft 18, that's 12 units, or $300. It's a tough loss, but not devastation.

4. Never reach into your pocket after losing your original table stake

The first loss is the cheapest. If you were at a $25 table and lost $1,000, and then blindly and stubbornly played on, you're headed for a really big trouble. First of all, you may be out of control, and instead of making $50 neutral bets, you're betting $300 at a time to get back your original loss quickly. Suddenly you've lost another $1,000 and then another and another, and as you stagger up to your room, you find you're down $4,000. What have you done?! You have a blinding headache and have give up on playing blackjack.

Of course, this kind of guilty remorse only lasts for a little while, as all gamblers know, and so you plot to make up the $4,000 by making even bigger bets. You have a credit card and take a cash advance against it, and start betting bigger and bigger as you lose more and more. Now you're down $12,000.

At this point, the $1,000 loss doesn't seem to be much at all. It's an amount you could have made up even with $50 neutral bets if you had a couple of good runs. But $12,000? How are you going to make that up?

We show this horrible situation not to scare you but to show you how dangerous it is once you start reaching into your pocket after you've lost what you have on the table. If you've dropped what you had on the table, get up and walk away. Be sane, not stupid.

5. If you find yourself angry at the dealer or other players, get up and leave the table:

I've been at tables where the dealer was hostile and went out of his way to hurt my game. I got up and left. I've been also at tables where I had a huge bet out, was ready to double down and the idiot next to me started splitting his 10s, till he depleted them. I didn't double down, and the dealer made his stiff hand into a winner. I wanted to strangle the fool next to me, but what can you do? I was steaming, so automatically, my precepts kicked in. Steaming? Leave the table. Which I did.

If you start steaming, you're going to alter your play. You're going to bet bigger than you should. You'll stop counting. You'll be acting strictly on emotions rather than reason, which is essential to winning at blackjack. Cool off. Leave the table. The hell with the bozo who split his 10s, or hit his hard 16 against the dealer's 6, busted, while the dealer got a 5 on his hard 16. Forget about him. Cool out somewhere.

6. If you sit down and find the rules are bad, don't even play one hand: Don't be stubborn, and play in a game where you're killed by the rules in force. Don't think that fate has brought you here anyway to make a killing, you're the one who's going to be murdered in the end, and not by fate, but by the rules which say you can only double down on 10 or 11. As soon as you realize the rules are terrible, you're gone.

7. If you get casino heat, don't be stubborn. Leave:

Let's say you're playing head-to head with the dealer and doing nicely. Then a floorman comes over and watches your game. He's extremely hostile, and treats you as if you're some cockroach crawling in from the cold. He has the dealer shuffle up after every round. If he sees big cards out he lets the dealer penetrate the deck for a couple of more rounds. Why are you still sitting here? Get up and take a walk and cash in your chips. Leave the casino.

8. Don't play if you've had too much to drink, if you're tired, or if you're sick:

When you sit down to play, you should be at the top of your form. If you've had a few drinks with friends, your skill is going to be impaired. You won't think clearly. Worse, you may feel unnaturally lucky and start making big bets. The drinks are making you feel braver than you should really be. © Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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