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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

18 Is Not a Winning Blackjack Hand

5 June 2005

Did you know that if you were dealt 18 on every single hand for the rest of your life, you'd die a loser at blackjack? That's right -- 18 is just enough to make you a small loser overall.

So what can you do about it? Well, when you're dealt a hand like 10/8, there's nothing you can do. It would be insane to hit a hard 18. But many times your 18 comes in other forms. Look at the following two hands.

A/7
4/2/A/A

Believe it or not, the majority of times you should not stand with these hands. Take the Ace/7 first. How likely you are to win the hand depends primarily upon the dealer's up-card. If she has a deuce through 8 up, you're actually in pretty good shape. In fact, if she has a 3, 4, 5 or 6 up, you're strong enough that you should turn aggressive and double down.

On the other side of the coin, six times out of thirteen, you'll be up against a dealer's 9, 10 or Ace. Now you're in trouble and that means you've got to hit it. In fact, hitting all the way to a soft 19 or a hard 17 will positively improve your batting average against those tough dealer up-cards, even though you'll sometimes bust out trying.

What about that multi-card soft 18 (4/2/A/A)? You have more than two cards, so doubling down is out of the picture. But if the dealer has a 9, 10 or Ace up, you've still got to hit that for your own good. Now look at this next hand.

9/9

This is another 18 that you can do something else with. Against a deuce through 6 up, 18 is a decided favorite to win, so again you're in good shape. However, a total of 9 is just as big a favorite over those up-cards as 18, but for twice the money. That's why splitting the 9s is the better play against small dealer's up-cards.

Against a 7 up though, one 18 makes more money than two hands of 9 each, so there you should just stand. This brings us to two of the trickier situations in blackjack. The first is when you have 9/9 against an 8 up.

Let me ask you something, and think about it before you answer. Which hand would you rather have: 18 against an 8, or 9 against an 8? The answer is, they're both a 55% shot to win. Except when you have the pair of 9s, you can be a 55% shot twice. Therefore, the right play is to split 9/9 against an 8.

Now what about when you have those 9s against a 9? Unfortunately, 18 against a dealer's 9 is practically a 3-to-2 underdog. But 9 against a 9 is a much closer contest, nearly 50-50. So again, you must split the 9's; this time for defensive purposes.

To recap and digest all this, 18 is no great hand in blackjack. If you can play it some other way, you usually should. So double an Ace/7 against 3 thru 6 and hit it against 9, 10 or Ace. Multi-card soft 18s should also be hit against 9 thru Ace. And split your pair of 9s against everything except a 7, 10 or Ace. Now you're giving yourself your best shot with a mediocre 18.

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey