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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Dealer's 3-up Causes Many Blackjack Mistakes

21 August 1999

Not considering the dealer's up-card, there are 34 different starting hands you can be dealt in the game of blackjack. That's counting hard hands like 14, soft hands like ace/3, and pairs like 7/7 separately. Now factor in any one of 10 possible dealer up-cards and you have 340 different hands to learn how to play.

I've noticed that the most troublesome up-card for players is when the dealer shows a 3. This is where so many hands get misplayed. How about you? Want to take the acid test? How would you play the 5 hands listed below?

9 against a 3 up
l2 against a 3 up
4/4 against a 3up
ace/2 against a 3 up
ace/7 against a 3 up

The correct answers are DOUBLE, HIT, HIT, HIT and DOUBLE, respectively. If you answered more than two right, you did better than most of the students in my last B/J clinic.

Now, before explaining why you should play these hands as stated, I'd like to mention that many blackjack players perform better on written tests than they do in the casino. Why? Because most players know a better game than they play. Maybe a guy is aware that 12 against a 3 should be hit, but when it comes down to crunch time with a precious bet riding, he's not sure why. Then he starts thinking about how the other players might react if he hits and takes the dealer's bust card. Before you know it, he's talked himself into misplaying the hand! But I'm sure you've never done that, have you?

All right, then. Let's get down to cases.

9 against a 3: This one's not that complicated. The long and short of it is, you'll win the hand more often than not when you hit or double down. But when you double down, it's for twice the money! It's true, when you double and catch a deuce or a 3, you'll wish you could take a second hit. But that occasional mishap isn't enough to erase your edge on the hand. You'll still win it 53% of the time. If that sounds trivial, remember that the difference between winning and losing at this game is measured in tenths of a percent. You must take advantage of small edges when they're available.

12 against a 3: As soon as a player gets two cents worth of blackjack savvy under his belt, he starts thinking, "Don't hit a stiff when the dealer's showing a bust card." The problem is, a 3 up is not a bust card! Five times out of eight the dealer will make a hand out of that 3. So if you stand, you'll only win the other three times that be breaks. Besides that, if you hit, you'll make a hand yourself with five cards (5, 6, 7, 8 or 9), but only break with four cards (10, jack, queen or king). And if you catch an ace, deuce, 3 or 4, you're no worse off than before. Put all the math together and you do better by hitting this hand.

4/4 against a 3: Far too many people develop their own blackjack strategies by watching other players. Perhaps you saw somebody split a pair of 4s against the dealer's 6 up; good idea. Next thing you know, you're splitting those 4s against a 3 up; bad idea. A 6 up and a 3 up are two very different things. You should split 4s only against a 5 or 6 up because you could catch so many cards (two shots at a 5, 6, 7 or ace) that would give you an advantageous double down. (By the way, if doubling down after splits isn't allowed, then you should never, ever split 4s.) Against the 3 up, always hit your hand as a total of 8.

ace/2 vs. a 3: Most blackjack players tend to soft double with ace/baby against a dealer's baby card up, but not with ace/medium against that same small card. This is all backwards. It's a downright shame to double down with a hand like ace/2 against a 3, Why? Because if you just hit it, you'll win 54% of the time. But when you double, you drop to 50% due to all the times you'll catch an ace, deuce, 3, 4 or 9 and won't be able to hit again. Hence, you've given away your natural edge on the hand. You only want to double down when you're the favorite on a hand and remain nearly as favored when limiting yourself to one hit (so that the double bet more than makes up for it).

ace/7 vs. a 3: Now, here's the flip side of the situation above. It's true you've already got 18 against a fairly weak dealer's up-card. However, you'll still win 6 times out of 11 even when you double down. That's because you'll end up with 18 or better more than half the time, and for double stakes. Ace/6 and ace/7 are the hands you should be doubling with against the 3. Taking just one card to ace/baby, you'll make too many bad hands.

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