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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Can You Really Recognize a "Ploppy" at the Blackjack Table?

16 February 2003

Once a blackjack player learns some basic strategy, he tends to assume he's now an expert at the game. As soon as another player at the table makes a play that doesn't fit into his own game plan, he'll likely conclude that player must be a proverbial "ploppy".

The problem is that the vast majority of players, newbies and veterans alike, don't know all of their basic strategy and don't understand that the science of playing your hands extends far beyond basic strategy.

As a result, typical players think that many bad plays are smart moves, and that other "advanced" or "neutral" plays are the mark of a bad player.

To illustrate my point, I'm going to give you two lists containing five plays each. One list will be all bad percentage moves while the other will be made up of either neutral or advanced percentage plays.

Player #1
Hits with 12 against a 4
Stands with 16 against a 10
Doubles with A/8 against a 6
Hits with 12 against a 3
Splits with 4/4 against a 5
 
Player #2
Stands with A/7 against a 9
Doubles with A/3 against a 3
Insures 20 against an Ace
Stands with 16 against a 7
Hits with 11 against a 10

So now let me ask you. Which player is the ploppy? It's player #2! If each of those hands were for a $25 bet, he'd be giving away a statistical $1 to $2 extra on every play (compared to playing correctly). If he gave away that much percentage on every hand he's dealt, he'd blow $130 an hour! Here's what makes those five particular plays so bad?

A/7 vs. 9) If a $25 bettor was dealt 10/8 against a 9 on every hand, he'd lose $400 an hour at blackjack. But if he always held A/7 and hit it, he'd cut his losses to $200 an hour.

A/3 vs. 3) Conventional "wisdom" here is just plain ignorant. When you double with any soft hand below A/6, you'll end up with a stiff five times out of eight. And with a 3 up, contrary to popular belief, the dealer will usually make a hand.

20 vs. Ace) The worst time to bet that the dealer has a 10 in the hole is when you're holding two of them yourself. Want to see that a little clearer? Suppose all seven players held 20 against the dealer's Ace. Think about it.

16 vs. 7) Did you know that with a 7 up, the dealer will break just a hair over one time in four (26%)? Why hold your breath for that when five cards out of thirteen (Ace thru 5) will help you big time? When you see someone stand on 16 vs. a 7, even if he holds something like 4/4/4/2/2, it's the sure mark of a sucker.

11 vs. 10) Even when you limit yourself to only one hit by doubling down, your 11 is still a 6-to-5 favorite to beat a dealer's 10 up. If you can't raise the stakes when you're holding the longer end of the stick, what are you gambling for?

Now what about player #1's moves? He's the guy who will get berated by the bad players for hitting 12 against a 4, or for standing with 16 against a 10. Yet percentagewise, both hands are such close calls that you need to see the other cards on board to even know which way is better this time around.

Also, bad players tend to go ballistic when they see somebody else double with Ace/8 against a 6. Well, guess what. If the dealer hits on soft 17, you're supposed to do that! And if there are lots of little cards strewn around the board you should double regardless of what the dealer does on soft 17.

Now, as for hitting 12 against a 3 and splitting two 4s against a 5, those are simply proper basic strategy plays that most know-it-alls simply refuse to make. You hit the 12 because the dealer will break only three times out of eight with a 3 up -- and you split the 4s because if you catch a 5, 6, 7 or Ace you have a good double. By the way, doubling with 4/4 against the 5 would be worse than either splitting or hitting (except for single deck without DAS).


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:

> More Books By Fred Renzey