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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Blackjack Players Who Know the Least Criticize the Most

15 October 2005

I was playing blackjack at one of the local casinos yesterday in their high limit room. There was one other man at the table playing third base. Right off the top of a six-deck shoe, I was dealt 10/2 and he had 10/9 while the dealer showed a 4 for an up-card.

I know this will come as a shock to most of you, but under these circumstances the correct play is to hit – which I did.

"Man, that's just plain dumb", the other player criticized as I caught a 5 to make 17. "Why was it dumb? I only had 12.", I replied innocently, taking the subservient position.

While we were speaking, the dealer turned over a 6 in the hole and pulled a 10 to make 20. As she swept the board, it was apparent that if I stood, the dealer's first hit card would've been my 5, followed by the 10 which would've busted her. Third Base promptly exploded!

"She had a bust card up there, buddy! What do you want to take a chance on breaking for when she's supposed to bust?" So I asked him; "Does the dealer usually break when she has a 4 up?" Without a moment's hesitation, he shot back, "Absolutely! That's why it was stupid to hit that!"

I pushed things a step further by questioning, "How often does the dealer actually bust with a 4 up? His reply was, "Listen, I'm not gonna' give lessons at the table. Simple logic tells you she'll break a 14 more often than you'll help your 12.

"Where was 14?", I asked. "I only saw 4." "Okay, fine." he said, "Play your own money any way you want; but you're not gonna' take mine down with you." And with that he switched tables.

This kind of thing happens to me all the time. I've been berated and called an idiot by more players than any five of you put together. The amusing thing is, most of these condescending players can't play a lick. To them, their losses are always somebody else's fault.

On one point, though. The man was part right. If the dealer really had 14, she'd break it 56% of the time. Problem is with that 4 up, she'll have some other hand 9 times out of 13. And because of that, she'll actually break the 4 only 40% of the time. That makes 12 against a 4 an extremely close decision.

As for you, don't be like the average loser who believes that hitting 12 against a 4 is a sucker play. Hitting it can never be that big a mistake. And when there are just as many (or more) 10s in sight as "babies" (2s thru 5s), hitting is actually the right play!

You see, shallow players look at a basic strategy chart and assume that all the correct plays are equally correct. If the chart says to stand with both 16 against a 6 and with 12 against a 4, they assume it would be equally sacrilegious to hit either hand. In reality, though, standing with 16 against a 6 is correct by a wide margin – where 12 against a 4 is almost a coin flip. But the chart doesn't spell this out.

Are you finding this hard to accept? Well, have you ever played the game of Spanish 21? Ever seen a basic strategy chart for this game? Proper basic strategy is to hit 14 against a deuce! Why? Because the shoe has no 10-spots. Oh yeah, all the Jacks, Queens and Kings are still there, but instead of 96 total 10s, there are only 72 – no 10-spots. Because of that, it's correct to hit a lot more hands.

Now try to understand this. In regular blackjack, if they took two measly 10s out of a six-deck shoe, left the other 94 intact and played with that, proper basic strategy would be to hit 12 against a 4. And there will be many times when you'll be able to see that this is, in effect, the case. When that's true, take a hit.

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