For any professional gambler or casino player then variance will come at the very top of the list when it comes to factors that will prevent you from making money. So just what exactly do I mean when I say “variance”? Well it is the run of extreme good or bad luck that will have a dramatic impact on your short term results. Short term losses can be disastrous for a blackjack player for example because it can lead you into playing sub-optimal blackjack and by making inferior decisions.
If you want a first-hand look at just how variance can affect short term results then try to place yourself into the position of the casino. Any experienced blackjack player will tell you that they have gone through great winning periods when everything went their way.
However if you were to place yourself into the position of the casino and looked at the dealer as an actual player then it is clear that there is a winner and a loser in most situations. So despite the fact that the casino has the edge in blackjack, they still go through lengthy periods where they lose money to the player.
The dealer of course in a blackjack game isn’t operating with their own money and so has no emotional involvement in the game. Also the casino has huge financial resources behind them which mean that they have no cause for alarm if a few players get lucky and win some money. The house maximums tend to limit any wins that their customers could make anyway.
To withstand the full effect of losing money either in the short term, medium term or long term then a blackjack player has to get into the mindset that they are gambling first and foremost. We have already touched on the point of how a casino goes through long periods where they lose money. However as an add on to that then the player despite only being at a slight disadvantage to the house can go through equally long periods where they lose constantly.
In casino blackjack then with accurate basic strategy then the house has an edge somewhere in the region of around 0.5%. This edge can vary depending on the rules variations that are in place and can be as little as 0.1% with single deck games to as high as 1.0%. So it is clear that we are almost at a coin flipping stage here in terms of expectation.
So anybody that has ever flipped coins will tell you how many heads or tails can arrive on consecutive spins. So despite being almost a 50-50 even money proposition, playing blackjack can undergo massive short term variance that can leave a player substantially ahead or behind their expected results. If you tossed a coin say ten times and picked heads on all ten occasions then it wouldn’t be a massive shock to find that you had won or lost on eight out of those ten coin flips.
Only when you truly accept the almost random nature of a gambling game like blackjack can you then really start to enjoy it for what it is. If you are properly bankrolled and have the right attitude to the game then it can only be a pleasurable experience and nothing else.
Carl Sampson is an online poker player and 888poker ambassador