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Blackjack Practice Drills
Blackjack Professor
by Lance Humble

To be successful at Blackjack, both as a recreational player or a proficient card counter, you have to practice. Here are seven drills designed to help you gain and maintain proficiency at the Blackjack table:

1. Basic Strategy
Put down a card representing the dealer’s up card, start with a 2 of any suit. Deal two cards for your hand. Play out the hand by hitting, standing, splitting and doubling down. Always guess the correct play first; then check your decision on your basic strategy chart. Next, deal yourself a new hand against the 2. Continue until you finish the entire deck. Next put up the 3 as the dealer’s card, then the 4, 5, and so on until you have seen every possible dealer’s up card.

2. Basic Strategy II
Put down two cards for your hand, for example, two 6’s. Turn over a card from the deck and call that one the dealer’s “up-card.” Make a decision to split or not. Turn up another card for a different dealer’s up card. Continue through the deck exposing a different up-card each time. You will get fifty choices. Continue the drill by selecting other difficult player hands.

3. Playing Strategy
Act as the dealer and deal out three player hands, all face up, plus the dealer’s up-card. Play each hand using basic strategy. Don’t play out the dealer’s hand. All you want to do is check your own basic strategy skills.

4. Card counting familiarization
This drill familiarizes you with the value of each card when card counting. I use the Hi-opt I counting system for this example but you can substitute any count system you desire. Subtract 1 for each face or 10 exposed and add 1 for each 3, 4, 5, and 6. Ignore neutral cards Ace, 2, 7, 8, and 9. Turn over one card at a time and announce its value. When you see a high, or minus card, state it as “minus-one.” When you see a low card state: “plus-one.” A neutral card is “zero.” Do the drill until you are completely comfortable in recognizing the value of each card.

5. Running count
This is done the same as Drill 4 except you now keep a Running Count. You begin the count with zero, then add or subtract one as you see each card. When the last card is turned your count should end with zero, otherwise you’ve make a mistake. As you count down the deck, say the count silently to yourself. When you see a neutral card, just repeat the count for the last card.

6. Increasing speed
To help increase your speed instead of mentally saying “plus one” when you are in the positive count only say “one.” While in the minus count, state “mi-one.” This way you are using only one syllable to say “mi” instead of two with “mi-nus.” Do the same when saying, “zero.” Silently say “z” instead of ze-ro.” This will help increase your counting speed.

7. Deck Scan
To improve your counting speed, hold the deck in your left hand, face-up, and push cards from left to right off the top of the deck. Initially, keep the count in two-card combinations. As you become more adept, you can scan three, four, and even five card combinations. Speed is essential regardless the size of the decks.

This story was first published in the Winter 2002-2003 issue of Gambling Times Magazine.

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