– When counting cards, what’s the most valuable spot at the table to sit? I’m gonna break down the math of that question, as well as a few considerations for the next time you hit the blackjack tables. An inevitable question when someone gets into card counting is where at the table should I sit or does it even matter? First, let’s look at the expected value.
I ran a whole bunch of simulations to see the difference in win rate, or expected value, of sitting first, or sitting in the middle of the table, or sitting last to act at the blackjack table, and the bottom line is for a shoe game, meaning a six or eight deck game, there’s absolutely no measurable difference to sitting first, in the middle, or sitting last. In a double deck game, however, there’s a very small, I’m talking one to two, less than 2% difference if you are playing last compared to if you’re playing first. This is what I was expecting ’cause I remember hearing very early on as a card counter that when you play last, you get a little bit more information by seeing other players cards from when they hit, or split, or double down, or whatever, that you can take that extra information, it’s gonna make your playing decisions a little bit more accurate, but it’s a very small increase in EV.
So, the academic answer is that it’s slightly more valuable to play last in double deck and it really doesn’t matter in a shoe game. But don’t overthink this, we’re likely talking about pennies per hour, and there are a lot of other ways to generate a lot more than 1-2% more EV. If you wanna generate another 1-2% EV, play one or two more hands at the end of the hour or the end of the night. Better yet, rather than playing last at a table with multiple other players, you’re way better off playing a less crowded table because you’re gonna get in way more rounds per hour if it’s a less crowded table than a more crowded table.
I’m talking about twice as many, like, a 100% increase in EV or even a 200% increase in EV. But beyond the EV, there are a few other things you might want to consider. The first, of which, is if you’re new to card counting, it can actually be helpful to sit first, and the reason why, is because when you’re the first to act, you have as much time as you need to update the running count.
The dealer cannot deal until you make a player decision, and you might feel awkward if you’re sitting there at First base, and they’re saying, do you wanna stand or hit, and you’re saying, hold on, but the reality is you have as much time as you need and what can happen is if you’re playing last, and you don’t have the count in time, and this guy at First base starts hitting his hand, and he busts, and they’re taking cards off the table, you’re getting behind on the count. You’re actually missing out on cards, and so, my advice is early on sit at First base, take your time, and control the speed of the game, so that you could actually count accurately. Another consideration is that if you’re gonna play Third base, which is the last to act, it’s kinda stupid but you have to be prepared to get a little bit more flack from the other players. There’s this false gambler logic that you’re playing decisions impact the whole table and that’s not true.
You can run computer simulations and there’s no measurable impact. Your playing decisions don’t affect the player’s odds. Yeah, sometimes, your decision makes everyone lose, sometimes your decision makes everybody win, but it doesn’t affect the odds of the game. But, don’t tell a gambler that because they believe that Third base is the anchor, they’re responsible for the whole table winning or losing. It’s stupid, it’s not logical, but that’s what they think.
So, if you’re gonna play Third base, be prepared for someone to say, hey, you screwed up the dealer’s hand, and, you know, my advice is to ignore them, but if you just wanna avoid that flack all together, just sit somewhere else. One final consideration is if you sit at First base, keep your eyes out because there are times when you can catch a glimpse of the dealer’s bottom card and if you know how to use that information, it can be a piece of information to use as a card counter. I’m not talking about shuffle tracking here, but if you’ve been to one of our blackjack boot camps you likely know what I’m talking about because it’s something I always cover during a boot camp. It’s a small bit of information but it’s still a bit of information that can be used for your advantage.
So, here’s the deal, sitting at First base or at the middle or at Third base, the last spot, that’s not the difference between being a successful card counter and an unsuccessful card counter. There’s really very little measurable difference, if any, where you sit. What does make you a successful card counter is perfect basic strategy, perfect counting, perfect betting and true count conversion, and knowing the playing deviations so that you can have a strong edge against the casino. If you wanna learn more about beating casinos with blackjack, you can subscribe to this YouTube channel, and you can also check out blackjackapprenticeship.com, where for 10 years now, we’ve been training people how to beat casinos legally with card counting for real money.