Zen and Blackjack Strategy

Blackjack is an exciting game. Very exciting. I was at a family function and after dinner my mother, brothers and I sat around playing blackjack. Granted we were only playing for fun, but you wouldn’t have thought that watching my mother play. She’d bounce up and down in her car when she won and pout when she lost a hand. You’d have thought we were playing for real rather than playing for animal crackers. But novice players can actually learn something from my mother.

Shh, calm. Be Zen.

Yes, I said Zen.

Okay, I don’t mean Zen in the Buddhist nature of the term. I mean the calm that being Zen is. So how does this Buddhist idea of contemplation apply to blackjack?

Let’s start with just the feeling of Zen. Calm. Remain calm when playing. As evidenced by my mother, blackjack can be rather excitable. And while you should enjoy the game, don’t let your excitement ruin your game. Work some Zen into your blackjack strategy. Stay calm. Breathe. Do not sacrifice good judgment—better known as sticking with basic strategy—for an adventurous fling with Lady Luck. It will not end well. My mother lost all but two of her animal crackers by the time we called it a night.

In all seriousness, getting caught up in the game, becoming over emotional, can cause you to throw better judgment out the window. And that’s the same as throwing money out the window. Yes, winning is great. A winning streak is very exciting. But remember to stay centered on yourself, you blackjack strategy and your discipline. Keeping a calm clear mind will help you focus on how to bet and how to play. This is the best state of mind to play in. Work being calm and focused into your blackjack strategy.

Now, onto contemplation. You’d think that following basic strategy requires no thought at all. Wrong. It takes thought and discipline. Especially when you are dealt a stiff hand.

Imagine you’ve been dealt a stiff 13 and you’re against a dealer’s five. You want to hit so bad. You are so tempted. You can visualize a third card sliding into your hand. Stop a moment. Take a breath. Basic strategy says to stand. Why? Because the dealer has a better chance of busting than you have of coming in under 21. Now if you played that hand like my mother, were all excited and worked up over the game, you would hit. And then you would bust and lose your animal crackers. Or money.

This is where the Zen and the calm come into play with your blackjack strategy. Stop for a moment and breathe. Think about why you want to hit. Is it because you’re over-excited? Think about why basic strategy says to stand. It says to stand because you have a better chance at busting if you hit. Stop, breathe, and remember that. Then make the best play.

While I whole-heartedly agree that blackjack should be fun, and that you should be excited about it, it’s also very wise to remain in control of yourself. Being over-excited is as bad as playing drunk. So work a little Zen into your blackjack strategy and hang onto your money…or your animal crackers.