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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Amusing Anecdotes from the Blackjack Tables

14 December 2007

Blackjack players are a weird breed. You gotta wonder what makes them tick. Ironically, so many of these bizarre characters lead responsible and downright intelligent lives in their jobs and at home. At the blackjack table though, their logic runs amuck. Here's what I mean.

Bad Play Curses Everyone: The man at first base had just made an unusually large bet. The dealer had a deuce up while he was dealt 18. I had 13, which is normally a "stand" situation, although a close one. But this time, because of some extra little cards in the shoe, I motioned for a hit. He rocked back in his chair as if spooked by a ghost!

The dealer finally made 17 and the man exhaled a sigh of relief. "Man, you scared me! Do you always hit 13 against a 12?" he asked. I replied that I only saw 2 at the time I took my hit – not 12. Undeterred, he advised me to not "endanger" everybody else's money at the table by playing my hand "against the book".

Now, it's been illustrated six ways to Sunday in blackjack textbooks that how somebody plays his hands has no effect on the other players' chances. Still, the obstinate myth persists. Most zebras never change their stripes.

Basic Strategy Always Has the Edge: On another day, I was dealt a pair of 6s against the dealer's 2. Knowing it's a bad hand no matter how I played it, I breathed a disgruntled sigh.

Immediately, the player on my left barked, "Split em' up, Man – whatcha' thinkin' about?" I replied that I hate this hand, and asked if he liked it so much, did he want part of it? "Shoot! Sixes against a deuce? I'll take the whole dang hand!", he confidently offered. So he paid me my original bet, took over the hand and split the pair himself.

On one of the 6s, he caught an Ace, and stood with his soft 17. After losing both hands, he explained that he already had too much money involved to double the A/6, so why even hit it? Truth is, doubling would've been wrong – but hitting would've been right. In fact, you should never, ever stand on soft 17.

His main mistake though, was buying a pair of 6s that had only a 45% chance to win each new hand against a deuce if you split them, 38% if you hit and 35% if you stand. There's just no good way out of that hand. With many other hands, basic strategy merely dictates the play that will lose the least.

Don't Mess with the "Flow": Still another time, I was playing with a woman at the table who was switching back and forth from one hand to two. A big player came to the table while she happened to be playing just one hand and soon after, she switched to two hands of $50 each.

The big player had an $800 bet up and said, "Lady, please don't do that – you're messing up my cards! She replied that she'd been betting two hands before he got there. Still the man insisted that she pull her second bet back. When she ignored him, he threw her $50 and said, "Here – that hand's a winner. Now get that blankety-blank fifty bucks outa' there!" How's that for being determined to preserve the "sacred order of the cards"?

When Unsure, Compromise: And finally, one time a fellow next to me bet four chips and was dealt 4/4 against a 4 up. He was determined to do something extra with his hand rather than just hit it, which would've been the proper play. First, he stacked a second bet out there and the dealer asked him whether he wanted to double or split. He mulled it over for a few seconds, then pulled three chips back and left one of them out there, doubling down for way, way less – a pointless play.

At best, he could now win five chips instead of four in exchange for giving up his right to take a second hit. A cardinal rule of doubling down is, if you can't win the maximum by doubling for the full amount, never give up that precious right.

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