Table manners

By MARK JURKOWITZ  |  April 29, 2007

In other words, you find yourself treating the guy next to you like a long-lost high-school chum — despite his BRANSON IS HEAVEN T-shirt and phlegm-filled cough. You're surprisingly happy after a few hours at a table like that.

Emerson said "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds." Blackjack offers the marvelously vexing choice of that foolish consistency or even worse, haphazard hunch playing. Type A is the guy who always sticks on 16, always doubles down on 11, and always hits a 12 against a two. Type B can play every hand by a new set of rules depending on general karma and, of course, how the cards are running.

The most perversely addictive thing about blackjack is that it inevitably ends up creating Type A-minuses or B-pluses. So you always hit 16s against a picture card until you get so fed up with busting that you don't. Or you never hit 16s against a picture card until you get so sick of the dealer taking all those fours that you do.

House odds are that by the time you're playing that way, your bankroll is lighter, your spirits are darker, and your head is beginning to ache. Your judgment is wobbly, your confidence shaky, and your self-discipline a distant memory.

Then you catch that ace-king and the game is new again.

Mark Jurkowitz, a former Phoenix media columnist, is associate director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism in Washington, DC.

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