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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Advanced Basic Strategy

27 April 2003

In one of my recent newspaper columns, we were discussing how blackjack buffs tend to adjust the play of their hands when they see a barrage of big cards or little cards come out. I gave the example of a player who was about to double down with his 6/4 against an 8, then changed his mind when the person just in front of him hit and caught two consecutive 10s. I went on to say that changing horses mid-stream like this is usually wrong, and that you'd have to learn some "advanced basic strategy" to know which hands to do that with. A few days later, I got a letter from a reader who wrote:

Dear Fred,

I have been playing blackjack for 10 years and I never heard of "advanced basic strategy." What's more, I never saw it mentioned in any book on blackjack. How would advanced basic strategy work? I'm curious.

Okay, for this reader and any anybody else who ever flinched at the thought of hitting a four-card 16 -- or at standing with 13 against a deuce when everybody else has big cards, here is "advanced basic strategy" defined.

Your "basic" basic strategy is the lowest level of proper card analysis. It takes into consideration only three cards -- your starting hand and the dealer's up-card. It then goes on to compute your best play assuming that all other cards in the shoe are still available. This is the best that basic strategy can do since basic strategy has no idea which cards have already been played.

So when you play your own hand, if you don't know what's already been played either, then the basic strategy play is your best bet. The truth, however, is that you usually can see eight, ten, or maybe even fifteen other cards sitting right there on the board at the time.

Now, most plays in your standard basic strategy are the right move by a wide enough margin that you should never change them -- no matter what cards you see on board. But some hands are such marginal decisions that a handful of the right cards on board can make an alternate play better than basic strategy -- this time around! Knowing when to "change up" your play with these particular hands then, is "advanced basic strategy."

With a six-deck shoe, there are seven hands that are a close enough call that the cards on board can actually change your correct play. These are called "the Magnificent 7 Hands." I've mentioned them before, and my newly released "Blackjack Bluebook II - The Simplest Winning Strategies Ever Published" lays them all out in graphic detail. The hands and their "advanced plays" are listed below:

Your
Hand
Basic
Strategy
Advanced
Play
9 vs. 2 HIT DOUBLE
11 vs. Ace HIT DOUBLE
12 vs. 4 STAND HIT
13 vs. 2 STAND HIT
16 vs. 10 HIT STAND
A/7 vs. 2 STAND DOUBLE
A/8 vs. 6 STAND DOUBLE

If you want to play these hands above and beyond basic strategy, then every time you're dealt one, take a look around the board. How many 10s do you see and how many "babies" (2s, 3s, 4s and 5s) are out there? Normally, there will be the same amount of babies as 10s But when there aren't, your increased likelihood to catch a big or a little card can make it better to go against basic strategy.

Below is a key example:

   DEALER   
10/?
YOUR HAND
10/6
1ST BASE
8/4/3/5

Do you know what a well informed player would do with your 16 here? He'd stand -- and that would be the correct play! This is not blasphemy. Hitting 10/6 against a 10 would be the right move if no other cards were out -- or if the babies and 10s had been evenly distributed. But with those precious extra babies killed, the right move is to stand. The other six hands all have their own "pivot points" for changing up their plays too. But if you try to get fancy and start reacting to the cards on board with hands other than the "Mag 7," you'll only be beating yourself.

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