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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

A Twist on Tricky Blackjack Hands

27 May 2006

I've said this before -- most blackjack players consistently misplay the same hands as each other. In workshop seminars, I've preached the percentages of playing these hands different ways. Still, most weren't convinced and went on doing things their old ways.

But what about all you readers out there? How can I convince you to do the right thing? Today let's try a novel "either/or" approach, and you can make up your own mind. Here's hand #1.

DEALER
10/?
YOU1st BASE
5/3  6/210/6

You're playing two spots for $25 each. First base also has a $25 bet up and complains out loud about having a crummy 16 against the dealer's 10. You whine even louder, saying that at least he has only one poochy hand, where you've got two of them. Then first base says, "If you think you're in such bad shape, I'll give you a $25 chip, and switch hands with you." Should you take him up on his offer?

Notice that this is essentially the same as just playing out a pair of 8s -- or splitting them. Bottom line is, first base on average will lose more money on his one hand than you'll lose on your two combined. That's why splitting the 8s is a must. Now try hand #2:

DEALER
10/?

YOU
6/2

You hit and catch a 10 to make a hard 18. Just as you're about to wave the dealer off, a baldheaded pit boss wearing an earring who looks incredibly like Howie Mandell comes over and says, "I'll make you a deal. You can either stay pat with your 18 – or keep on hitting. If you catch an Ace, deuce or 3, of course you've just made 19, 20 or 21. But if you bust, I'll let you subtract ten points from your total and either stay, or keep on hitting until you stop or bust."

Then this mysterious pit boss points his finger directly in your face and sternly asks, "Deal – or no deal?" Which way appeals to your gut instincts?

This of course is the same as having A/7 against that 10 up. Fact is, if you turn down his offer and stand, you'll win your hand 41% of the time. But if you keep hitting, you'll win it 43% of the time. Why do so many of you keep going with the 41%? Now try hand #3:

DEALER
3/?

YOU
2/3

You've been dealt the lowest start in the game – 5. But this week the casino is running a promotion on that hand. If you double down and catch a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6, they'll add ten points to your total and give you credit for 17 thru 21. But if you catch a 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King or Ace, you're stuck with 12 thru 16. Should you double down, or just hit this hand like usual?

The first thing you should notice is, there are only five cards that will make you a hand, while eight cards will leave you with a stiff (12 thru 16). Secondly, you should understand that the dealer completes her own hand five times out of eight when she has a 3 up. If you can only take one hit, you'll lose this hand a bit more often than you'll win it.

Now take a second look and you'll see that this is the same deal you've got when you double down with A/4 against a 3 -- which is why doubling with that hand and several others like it is wrong. Good soft doubles either require the dealer to have a very weak up-card, or you to have an A/6 minimum. Check your basic strategy chart.

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:

> More Books By Fred Renzey