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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Be Careful From Whom You Get Your Blackjack Advice

16 September 2001

Most blackjack players in the casino are self-proclaimed experts. The guy sitting next to you, the guy watching the game from behind, even the dealer will have some key pointers for you -- usually right after you've lost a hand. The problem is, virtually none of these tipsters are true experts at the game. As a result, you can get a lot of bad advice at the table.

The following blackjack dilemmas are all events that actually occurred at blackjack tables where I was playing. Let's see if you know the right way to handle these tricky situations.

1) The player at third base received a pair of 4s and the dealer had a 5 up. He put up an extra bet and the dealer asked him whether he wanted to split or double down. The player looked at everybody else, now unsure of what to do. Nobody was shy. "Split 'em". "No! Double!" "Just hit the stupid thing, while I'm still young!" came the impatient replies. What would you have done?

2) A friendly girl was dealt a pair of 7s against the dealer's 3 up and had no money left to split. Not wanting to play a 14, she asked if anybody at the table wanted to put up their own $25 and play one of the 7s. Should you take her up on it?

3) The fellow on my left was winning big and had 9 against a 7 up for $50. "Double it man -- you're hot!" urged his buddy from behind. Foolishly, he decided to double down for an extra $25. If you were there, would you have offered to fill in the other $25 to make it a full double?

4) I had a pair of 5s against a face-card, took two hits and then stood with 5/5/4/2. The next card out of the shoe was another 5 which would have given me 21. The dealer turned over a 10 in the hole, looked at me and said, "You know better than that", meaning I should have hit my 16. Was he right?

5) Somebody at my table was playing two hands for $50 apiece and had a 20 and a 14 against an Ace up. Quickly, he tossed a $25 chip onto the Insurance ring. The dealer looked in the hole, turned up a Jack and asked the player which hand he had insured -- the 20 or the 14. That made the player stop and think. Now you stop and think. Which hand would it have been better to insure?

ANSWERS

1) When you're allowed to double down on pairs that have been split, you should split two 4s against a 5 or a 6. The reason is that you will often catch a 5, 6, 7 or Ace on at least one of your 4s and have a good doubling down hand. If you can't double after splits, just hit your pair of 4s, unless it's a single-deck game, then double down.

2) No! If you did, you'd have only a 47% chance to win your bet. Then why is it correct to split a pair of 7s against a 3 in the first place? Because if you don't, you'll only win 38% of the time. As is the case with so many pairs, splitting them merely reduces your loss. But as a bystander, you have no loss to reduce. Stay out of this one.

3) Yes, you should! Doubling with 9 against a 7 is wrong because it reduces your win rate on the hand from 59% down to 53%. Doubling still makes money, but it makes less money than hitting. However, if you have the option to make a brand new bet as a 53% shot, you should take it.

4) Like most blackjack buffs, this dealer thought that 16 against a 10 should always be hit. Fact is, this is such a close call that those dead 4s and 5s in my hand reduced my "hitting" chances enough that I should now just stand. Advanced players correctly stand on 16 against a 10 about 40% of the time.

5) Whether he insured the 20 or the 14, he's still going to come out of it losing the same $50. Even if the dealer doesn't have blackjack and busts after the player busted his 14, the player loses $25 no matter which hand he insured. In fact, in every possible scenario it makes absolutely no difference whether he insured the 20 or the 14. What does that tell you? Insuring 14 is every bit as smart as insuring a 20 -- both sucker plays. (Technically, insuring the 20 is a tad dumber since your hand has killed not one but two 10s).

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

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