Rookie blackjack players commonly wonder whether table seat position affects their odds of winning and we shall address this subject in today’s article. There is no one answer to this question as the relevance of where you sit at the blackjack table is closely related to whether you are a basic strategy player or use more advanced techniques like card counting.
This topic has been hotly debated for years, so much so that it has given rise to various superstitions, not to mention tons of ill advice. Some players avoid certain table seats like the plague because they are convinced they bring them bad luck.
Others fight shy of given seat positions out of fear fellow players would blame them for ‘taking the dealer’s bust card’ and causing the entire table to lose the round. So is there any truth to these sentiments and does seat position matter in blackjack? Stay with us to find out. But first, we shall start with a brief revision of the terminology for table positions in blackjack.
Key Positions at the Blackjack Table
Live blackjack tables typically have a semicircular shape and can accommodate up to seven seated players, although most live dealer variants allow you to bet behind (i.e. bet on other participants’ hands) when there are no vacant seats.
There are three key positions at the blackjack table and all of them borrow their names from baseball. Those three seats in relation to the dealer are as follows:
Three Key Positions
The first-base seat is the first betting spot on the player’s far right and immediately to the dealer’s left. First-base players are always the first to receive their cards as dealing starts from this position. Respectively, you will be the first to make playing decisions if you take this spot.
The third-base seat, also called the anchor, is the last table position at your far left if you are already seated and facing the dealer. Not counting the dealer, third-base players receive their cards last and are also the last to act on their hands.
This spot is ideal for rookies who are still learning basic strategy as they will have plenty of time to make playing decisions without slowing down the game.
The shortstop seat is the middle position at the table. Some people prefer it because they believe it enables them to prevent undesirable players to their left from joining the game mid-action.
Other Players’ Decisions Have No Impact on Your Odds
Some people wrongfully assume the decisions of players seated in the first-base and third-base positions can affect the odds of the entire table. The first base, they reason, sets the tone for any given round, while incorrect playing decisions from the third base can improve the dealer’s winning chances.
Things Basic Strategy Players Must Consider before Taking Seats
The bottom line is seat position is mostly relevant to inexperienced basic strategy players and card counters but we shall get to this later. We now offer you a few hints that will help you improve your expected value if you rely on basic strategy alone.
2Check Out The Blackjack Payout Before You Join Any Live Blackjack Table
This is easily one of the most essential things to consider as blackjack payouts can have a dramatic effect on your overall expectation if reduced.
Always look for tables that pay at odds of 3 to 2 and avoid those where blackjacks pay at lower odds of 7 to 5, 6 to 5, or 1 to 1. These reduced payouts will decrease your long-term expected value by -0.45%, -1.39%, and -2.27%, respectively.
3Look For Busier Tables Where Most Seats Are Taken
This probably sounds counterintuitive but basic strategy players are better off joining fuller tables rather than playing heads-up against the dealer or with one other fellow player only.
The reasoning behind this tip is that you will play fewer hands per hour on a busy table, exposing a smaller percentage of your bankroll to the house edge. This will extend your longevity at the live blackjack tables because the casino’s statistical advantage will get distributed among more players.
4The Card Shuffling Policies
Pay attention to the card shuffling policies at the live blackjack tables. Does the dealer reshuffle the decks manually or does she use a continuous shuffling machine for this purpose? In the second case, the dealer would load the discards back into the shuffling machine after each round of play.
You will again go through more hands per hour because the dealers at such tables never pause for manual reshuffles. In turn, this results in greater theoretical losses per hour for recreational players as they end up exposing more money to the house edge in machine-dealt games.
5Scan The Table Layout For the Dealer’s Standing Rules
If it reads ‘Dealer must hit soft 17’, you better take your action elsewhere as this, too, increases the house advantage by 0.22%. Preferably, you should look for tables that require the live dealers to stand on all 17s as they put you at a smaller disadvantage.
6Look For Live Tables With Player-Friendly Rules
Including resplitting, doubling down after splitting, and doubling on any starting total. Surrendering is rarely possible in live dealer blackjack but scouting for tables with this rule is worthwhile as it also leads to a house-edge reduction.
To our knowledge, some live blackjack tables by Ezugi support early surrender against the dealer’s ace. Late surrender is available at some Visionary iGaming live casinos provided that the dealer does not turn out to have a blackjack after the peek.
Table Position Is Relevant for Card Counters Only
Seasoned basic strategy players should experience no issues during their gaming sessions regardless of which seat they occupy at the live tables. Seat position could only matter for advantage players who know how to count cards.