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Blackjack Players, Seats and Positions

A few of the common questions asked by those just getting familiar with blackjack are regarding the value of sitting at third base as opposed to another seat and whether the number of players affect your win/lose rate.

Numerous computer simulations of games with varying numbers of players at the table have been run, as well as simulations which look at players’ win rates according to their seating positions. Surprisingly this exact scenario has been looked at numerous times and analyzed a number of experts at the game.

Let us look at the second question, first… The main effect that the number of players at the table has on the win/loss rates, whether you count cards or not, is that the more players at the table, the fewer bets you will be able to make per hour. If you are not a card counter this can be a benefit as the more players at the table the slower your hourly rate of losing. If you happen to count cards, slowing the game down slows down your hourly expectation proportionately.

Most blackjack experts advise that card-counter’s play at tables with the fewest number of players possible. This will have the affect of increasing their hourly action and win rate. These same experts recommend that those players that are playing for comps, to play in the most crowded, (or the slowest games). If you’re a big bettor trying to get the most comps for your gambling dollar, slow play will keep your hourly rate of losing to a minimum.

There are other effects that having other players on the table have on the game, but these will only affect those that count cards. If the game is a face-down game, card-counters will be adversely affected if they do not see and therefore cannot count all of the other players’ cards prior to making their decisions. A second effect is if the game is a single deck game. If the number of players at the table causes the dealer to shuffle the deck sooner, this will have a negative impact on the card counter. Note that it’s not the extra players that hurt the card counter’s potential win rate, but the early shuffle point. Also note that even though this effect was specified for single deck games. An early shuffle point also hurts a card-counter’s win potential in shoe games, but in these games the early shuffle point is not affected by having extra players at the table. Dealers simply shuffle after they come to the cut card.

Because in single deck games each card in play represents a larger proportion of the deck then a shoe game, card-counters will lose betting accuracy in single-deck games if other players are at the table. This happens because the card counter will have to place their bets before seeing all the cards dealt.

There is only one other minor effect that extra players at the table have on your win rate whether you are a card-counter or not, and this also only applies in single-deck games. If the table is full, so that you are always getting the same number of rounds (2), then you will have a slightly more advantageous game. On the other hand, if the dealer is shuffling up based on the number of cards he has left in his hand; this is slightly less advantageous to the players.

The reason for this strange effect is that low cards, 2-7, use up more cards when they are played. If the dealer is basing his shuffle decisions on how many cards remain to be dealt, he will more often shuffle away the high card packs. High cards favor the players. This affects all players at the table, by about .17%. By the way, if you are in a single-deck game where only one round is dealt, this is generally an unprofitable situation for card-counters, but it will be slightly more advantageous or at least less disadvantageous for non-counters, based on the same principle.

As for seating positions, there is no effect whatsoever on non-card counters, based on which seat you are sitting in. It is true, however, that card-counters often prefers the third base side of the table. There is nothing fundamentally more profitable about that seating position; it’s the fact that a card-counter will be able to see (and count) more cards before playing his hand that draws him to that side of the table. In face-down games (one and two-decks), many card counters prefers a central seat at the table, as this affords the best chance of seeing more of the other player’s cards to their right and left. So, the effect of seating position for a card-counter is based solely upon his ability (or inability) to see and count more cards. There is no seating position at a Blackjack table that is better for the players in and of itself.



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