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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Blackjack Side Bets Are For Suckers--All Except One!

15 July 2000

Casino gambling has entered the age of rampant entrepreneurism. Throngs of new casino games and optional betting propositions for existing games are just waiting for gaming commission approval. Blackjack already has various optional wagers on some of its tables.

The bad news is, virtually all the new optional betting props are sucker bets. That's because inventors dream up new ways to bolster casino profits, then sell their ideas to the casinos.

A couple of years ago, a new side bet for blackjack called "Royal Match" popped up. You could bet that your starting hand would be suited. If it was, the side bet paid 5-2 odds, regardless of the outcome of your hand. If you were dealt a suited King/Queen, that paid 25-1. It may sound like good fun and games, but the house had a 6% edge on the bet, rendering it senseless from a strategic point of view.

Now, there's another optional blackjack side bet called "Bet the Set." Here you can bet you'll be dealt a pair on your first two cards. It pays 10-l odds--unless your pair is suited, which pays 15-1 odds. The gimmick may be different, but the story's the same. They've got the best of you by 10.6% -- another waste of time and money for a serious player.

Still another blackjack option is called "Guarantee 20." Whenever the player is dealt a pat 20, he can accept a 50% short payoff on his hand before the dealer gets her up-card. In addition, if he takes the "guarantee" and the dealer turns out to have blackjack, the player receives a full 3-2 payoff! This works out closer to a fair gamble than most new blackjack props, but they've still got you by 2% -- so what's the sense?

The only optional play for blackjack I know of that's not a sucker play is an old one, and it's not available in many casinos. It's the "Surrender" option.

Surrender is my kind of play. Why? Because if you play surrender correctly, you actually gain a little percentage from the house. if you play it incorrectly, you can give them back even more. That's how it should be. If you have the skill to do something right, you should gain something. Let the casinos' profit come from the multitudes who do it wrong.

So what is "surrender" and how does it work? If you're dealt a bad hand that you figure has little chance to win, you can get out of the hand by giving up half your bet. You must exercise your surrender option on your first two cards and you can't do it if the dealer has blackjack.

The classic example of a good surrender hand is when you have 16 against the dealer's 10. Once she checks her hole card and doesn't have blackjack, you can hit, stand or surrender. Why should you surrender 16 against a 10? Because if you play it out, you'll win fewer than one hand in four, and that makes surrendering the better play. Because you'll actually win with 16 against a 10 less than one fourth of the time, that makes surrendering the cheaper way out!

What other hands should be surrendered when the option is available? It depends somewhat upon the rules. In the most standard type of blackjack game (six-deck shoe, dealer stands on soft 17), there are four hands that give you less than a 25% shot at winning and should be surrendered. They are:

15 against a 10
l6 against a 9
l6 against a 10
16 against an Ace

If the dealer hits soft 17, that drops three additional hands below the 25% mark and those should be surrendered to. They are:

15 against an Ace
17 against an Ace
8/8 against an Ace

In "stand on soft 17" shoe games, proper surrendering will save the basic strategy player 0.07% in his overall game. If the dealer hits on soft 17, it's worth 0.10%. But if you keep any sort of tabs on high and low cards, surrender can be worth much more. A full-fledged card counter who uses a 1-16 betting spread gains about 0.30% in shoe games. That's primarily because of all those times he'll be dealt a 10/5 or 10/6 against a 10 or Ace with a huge bet up there. At the same time, surrender serves to smooth out the bumps considerably.


For more information about blackjack, we recommend:

Blackjack Bluebook: The Right Stuff for the Serious Player by Fred Renzey
Best Blackjack by Frank Scoblete
The Morons of Blackjack and Other Monsters! by Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Blackjack! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
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