Golden Touch Craps

Do "Clueless" Players Affect Your Chances of Winning?

By Henry Tamburin

The majority of blackjack players believe that the poor play of a fellow player will cause them to lose. And that’s especially so with a nerd seated at third base (the last player position to act before the dealer). Many players believe his play is critical in determining the dealer’s outcome. Is this true? Or is it all nonsense? Let’s see.

Here’s the typical scenario that you see played out on blackjack tables everywhere. Players make their bets, cards are dealt, and low and behold the dealer shows a 5 upcard. If they play "by the book" all the players should stand on their stiff hands (12 through 16) and let the dealer draw and hopefully break. So player number 1 stands, so do player’s 2, 3 and 4. But the player in the anchor position , who is holding a 10-4, proceeds to make a beckoning motion to the dealer that he wants another card. Before other players can react, the dealer gives him another card from the dealing shoe. Just as everyone expected it’s a picture card. "That nerd took the dealer’s bust card." is what’s probably going through the minds of those players. Sure enough the dealer’s downcard is a 10 for a 15 and she draws the inevitable 6 for 21 that beats the table. Players bemoan what happened and say to themselves, "That picture card that the nerd on third base took was supposed to be the dealer’s card. If he would have stood like he was supposed to the dealer would have gotten that picture card and broke and I would have won instead of lost. What an idiot!"

Here are the facts about players who misplay their hands. It doesn’t make a difference one iota on your chances of winning. What’s this hearsay, you say? Let me repeat it one more time. The lack of playing skill by other players on your table will not alter your chances of winning.

Still not a believer? The fact of the matter is that when a player hits his hand instead of standing per the book, it could just as likely help you as much as hurt you. What players only remember are those ugly times they lose a hand when a "dumb" player misplays his or her hand.. Ah, but what happens if you win your hand when the nerd makes a wrong play? Do you congratulate him for his stupid play that allowed you to win? Of course not. Those plays you forget but the ones you lose, you tend to remember.

Let’s go back to our example of the third base nerd drawing the dealer’s bust card. Let’s suppose his fellow table players started screaming at him to "stand" when he started to give the hand signal to hit. So instead of hitting, he stands. Sure we all know the outcome– the next card from the shoe was a picture card, the dealer breaks, and all the players won their hand. But how did you know beforehand that the next card out of the shoe was going to be a picture card? It could have been a 2 or 3 or 4 or even a dreaded 6. The point is you don’t know the order of the cards in the shoe so changing the order (by a nerdy player drawing instead of standing) won’t make any difference on your chances of winning.

Still not convinced? Let’s suppose that there is an adverse affect on a player’s chance of winning based upon the skill level of the third base player. And you owned a casino that had 15 blackjack tables. And tonight you are expecting a plane load of high rollers that will be betting thousands of dollars on your blackjack tables. What would you do? If you were smart you’d put a casino employee at every table with the instruction to misplay their hands so as to "screw up the play of the high rollers." Ridiculous of course.

And you’re still not convinced? Then let me share with you an experiment that my fellow blackjack author and player Fred Renzey did and reported in his excellent Blackjack Bluebook II. At home Fred took a six dealt shoe and dealt 500 rounds of blackjack. He was at first base and the mythical "Player from Hell" at third base. Fred played all of his 500 hands perfectly according to the basic playing strategy while he misplayed every one of the third base player’s hands. Fred recorded a win, loss, or tie for every one of his hands (completely ignoring the third base player’s results). The he reviewed the cards to see how he would have made out had the third base player played correctly. He recorded these "would have" results for each hand. When he compared the two results he discovered that the third base’s 500 consecutive playing mistakes changed his own outcome on only 95 hands. The other 405 hands, it didn’t matter. In fact comparing the results of the 500 hands with and without the mistakes made by the third player Fred concluded "it sure doesn’t appear as if the third base’s horrendous play has a tendency to hurt somebody else’s results".

The bottom line is technically you should not care and it doesn’t make any difference how well or poorly your fellow players play out their hand when you play blackjack. However, let me add this caveat. If for whatever reason you still find yourself getting emotional and upset when a player makes a bad play, then my advice is to get off the table and play elsewhere. The reason is that you need to be concentrating on how to play your hand correctly when you play blackjack and anything that interferes with that concentration could results in a playing mistake on your part.

Let me pose another scenario for you. Suppose a skilled card counter sits down to play blackjack and low and behold a clueless player plops himself on third base and proceeds to misplay every hand. Will the play of this "ploppy" affect the edge the card counter has over the casino? The answer is "yes, it could" and in a future article I’ll explain why.


Henry Tamburin is a casino gambling expert and teacher of "smart gambling" to players everywhere. For details on his two-day Golden Touch Blackjack course featuring "Speed Count" call 866/WIN-BJ21. To order copies of his books and tapes at a 30% discount, visit To receive a free subscription to his Blackjack Insider Newsletter, visit For a free copy of his Casino Gambling catalog call 888/353-3234.