On the button, at a two advance table

Discussion in 'Blackjack Tournament Strategy' started by KenSmith, Nov 16, 2019.

  1. KenSmith

    KenSmith Administrator Staff Member

    I've been mostly absent from strategy discussions here for the last few years, only posting or replying occasionally. I play only 4 or 5 times a year these days, often even less. And this stuff is not at all like riding a bicycle. I feel rusty ever single time I play now!

    But, when someone asked me some questions via private message about an example in Wong's book, I decided my replies would do more good posted publicly. And besides, it will be fun to see others chime in with more recent chops!

    I think the example is page 97 in CTS. (I actually don't even have a copy now!)
    I'll lay out the scenario and my thoughts in separate messages below.
    PitchMan likes this.
  2. KenSmith

    KenSmith Administrator Staff Member

    The scenario is this:

    BR2 (you), bank $500.
    BR1, bank $603.
    BR3, bank $480.

    Wong's advice is to bet $150, or maybe $200 or $250. He says the hope is that BR1 will bet small behind you.
    The original question posed to me was, why not bet $15 to take 2nd low?
    My reply follows.
    PitchMan likes this.
  3. KenSmith

    KenSmith Administrator Staff Member

    Betting 15 will almost certainly give you 2nd low and 3rd high, which is a pretty weak spot. You’ve given BR1 a lock by betting small, and you now have a roughly 56% chance of advancing.
    But Wong’s recommendation is likely to play out similarly. If you bet his recommended $150, BR1 has a choice between $200 to cover your possible double, or $120 to cover BR3 push. I would prefer $120 in his spot.

    Now BR3 could bet just $125 to get 2nd low, 3rd high, but should instead take 1st high with a big bet. I would keep it simple and go all-in with the $480.
    If the three people bet $150 / $120 / $480, you again have the same starting outcomes as if you had bet the $15! You are 3rd high, 2nd low!

    So, why is $150 better?

    With the larger bet you can double down to take back a high. If you bet $15 your eggs are all in one basket with no option to improve your position with a double. That gives you a better shot than 56%.

    Now, my personal decision for this example...
    As BR2, I prefer a bet of $225 to $250. BR1 might decide to still bet only $120 (holding back $483) and give you first high. That would be your best scenario.
    PitchMan, KungFox and Dakota like this.
  4. noman

    noman Top Member

    So, from a not totally math analysis: There is nothing worse than winning a hand and not having bet enough. "Go Big or go home." The $240 or $250 allows for the double to the high, depending on the size of the bet of the other two. And if both match your bet, gives the chance of a win with a swing, or your push and their loss. In any event a smaller bet locks you in to everyone losing. It happens, but as in poker, aggression seems to work out.
    PitchMan likes this.
  5. Monkeysystem

    Monkeysystem Top Member Staff Member

    Another thing to consider is your assessment of your opponents' playing style/skill. In 2019 many of your opponents will still reflexively bet the max no matter the situation on the last hand.

    If BR1 is such a player you could bet 396 for second low. BR1 will bet 500 and then BR3 is likely to take first low with a bet of 375. This gives you the see-saw you want (2nd hi 2nd low).

    If BR3 is such a player you could take a double-minus holdback with a bet of 461 (hold back double the lead minus a chip). BR1 is likely to bet 461 and give you 2nd low 2nd high.

    If both players are reflexive max bettors then 461 is your bet for the reasons stated above.

    In all cases above you need to have confidence in your read on these players because if you're wrong you could end up with 2nd high 3rd low.
    PitchMan and johnr like this.
  6. BughouseMaster

    BughouseMaster Active Member

    So since we've got 2nd most chips, why not just go on ALL IN? Either way we're gonna need some luck whether we bet $15 (what I would do in this scenario) or all in, right?

    Dont understand how $150 or $225 or 250 are better bets then going all in or betting $15 as that would secure us winning if the dealer wins (the most likely probability anyway)!
  7. BughouseMaster

    BughouseMaster Active Member

  8. Monkeysystem

    Monkeysystem Top Member Staff Member

    You don't want to incentivize your opponents to focus on you while ignoring each other. Because that's what will happen if you go all-in. If that happens you'll wind up with 2nd high and 3rd low. You can probably do better than that.

    If you bet 15 BR1 can bet the minimum and lock up his rank. You almost never offer an opponent a lock if you can help it. If you bet 15 you'll get 2nd low and 3rd high. Also very bad. The ideal target is 2nd low 2nd high or better.
    johnr likes this.
  9. BughouseMaster

    BughouseMaster Active Member

    Okay but talk about how to get to 150 or 200 or 250 as the ideal bet in this situation.... Because I'm still confused on this particular example!
  10. BughouseMaster

    BughouseMaster Active Member

    Still waiting for someone to expound on why 150 or 200 or 250 is the ideal bet in this confusing situation. Any takers?

    Going once
    Going twice............
  11. KenSmith

    KenSmith Administrator Staff Member

    I gave you my reasoning in reply #3.
  12. BughouseMaster

    BughouseMaster Active Member

    Not sure why but this example confuses me.
  13. KungFox

    KungFox Member

    Does going for 1st high in this case outweigh the benefits of being 2nd high AND 2nd/3rd low ?
    I have the feeling I would be setting all eggs in one narrow basket instead of in two wide ones...
    BughouseMaster likes this.
  14. BughouseMaster

    BughouseMaster Active Member

    KungFox - that's also my problem with this example... I wouldn't know which place to shoot for! Out of all the examples in the book this is the one that perplexes me, strangely.
  15. KenSmith

    KenSmith Administrator Staff Member

    I'll add a few more ideas here.
    I'm assuming that bets must be in $5 increments despite BR1's bankroll of $603 (it could be that a $5 BJ pays $8 in this tournament.)

    I think we've covered why $15 is inferior to the others. It gives BR1 a free ride, and you are simply betting that BR3 won't win their hand. A bigger bet gives you more options, because BR1 is now in play, and there are numerous ways you can advance even if BR3 wins their hand.

    Once you decide to bet more than $15, how much do you bet? You are trailing BR1 by $103, so you need to bet at least $105 to beat a push by BR1.
    But bets of $105 to $220 make BR1's job too easy. They can bet up to $120, and they'll have the high and low over you, and they also hold back more than BR3's total bankroll guarding against a BR3 push.

    That's how I got to my preferred $225 in this case.

    Now if BR1 wants to cover you high and low it will at least make them give up the BR3 push scenario. In general, you want to make BR1's covering of you as expensive as you can. Give them reasons to not do it.

    Now in fact, they probably still will bet enough to cover you, and they certainly should.
    If you bet $225, BR1 should bet at least $125 and I would advocate BR1 bet $180 (if everyone gets all-in, that's very helpful because he can double as well).
    But again, as BR2, with your bet of $225, BR1 may just let you have the high and bet $120 or less after looking at BR3's unbet stack.

    So, why don't I like $250?
    It's a very common play, splitting the bankroll.
    I think BR1 seeing you split your chips makes it more likely that he will do the same, which you don't want him to do.
    So I would choose to bet less than $250 for that reason.

    Hmm, now that I think more, if you bet $230 instead of $225, now BR1 must bet at least $130 to cover you, and that means BR3 can take first low with a $5 bet!
    Back when I played a lot, this would have probably been automatic for me. It's not now!
    With a $230 bet, you've really given BR1 something to think about before he covers you on the high.

    That's a perfect example of my credo, "There's always a better bet".
    I like $230 now. Is there a better bet? Probably.

    In the end, this is a typical scenario where all of these bets will be within a small percentage range of each other in success rate.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2020
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  16. BughouseMaster

    BughouseMaster Active Member

    Thanks for your added explanation, Ken. Will just need to read and reread this thread until it finally sinks in completely!
  17. BughouseMaster

    BughouseMaster Active Member

    Oh! And BR1 actually has 600, not 603 (but not sure if it matters much)
  18. KenSmith

    KenSmith Administrator Staff Member

    Not sure where I got $603. It might affect a point or two above, but it should be obvious when that is the case.

    Also, I just edited a typo in my big reply above, where I said BR3 could get first high if BR1 bets $130. Obviously I meant first low. The mistake is corrected now.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2020
  19. KungFox

    KungFox Member

    Nice, here's precisely an example of last-hand-reasoning I was discussing in another thread ("feuille de route").
    Thank you, Ken !
    KenSmith likes this.
  20. BughouseMaster

    BughouseMaster Active Member


    As this example STILL trips me up a lil bit, wouldn't it be easier to simply remember that if we're BR2 on the button on the last hand to just bet at least double our deficit + a chip?

    Instead of frantically doing all these calculations at the table, a bet of $205 (per 1st paragraph!) would yield pretty damn close to Ken's ideal bet of $225-230❗❗

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