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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Gain an Edge at Blackjack Using Hand Interaction

11 November 2001

Okay, so you're not a finely honed professional card counter. However, you do have your basic strategy down pat and you wish there were some down-to-earth ways to eat into that last half percent advantage the house holds over you. Well, there are!

One way is to learn to play the "Magnificent 7" hands more accurately than basic strategy by "tweaking" your play according to the cards on board. This technique was outlined here a few months ago. But today I'm going to highlight another way to pick up a definite edge here and there without counting cards. It's called Hand Interaction.

What's Hand Interaction? How many times has the player next to you doubled down for less, or asked if you wanted to split his pair with him--but you shied away not knowing if it was a good deal? These opportunities come up several times a day!

Let me stress that any double down which is a correct basic strategy double will win more often than it will lose. Therefore, if you see somebody making a proper double for less than the maximum, you'll have an automatic edge if you jump in and take the rest of it.

For example, many players are squeamish about doubling with 11 against a face-card, even though they know they're supposed to. So they compromise and double for less. This play will win 6 times out of 11. That's a 9% edge! You never have that when you make a bet on your own hand before the cards are dealt. But here, you already know you'd have an edge going in. So if he doesn't want to take full advantage, you take it!

Now this next part may be tricky to digest, so read slowly. Some improper double downs will also give you an edge. Look at the illustration below.

DEALER
?/7

PLAYER
5/4

I've seen many players double with this hand and it hurts them. You know why? Because they've changed a 59% winner into a 53% winner by preventing themselves from taking a second hit if they catch a small card. Nevertheless they still make money, but they make less money. You, however, are just sitting there watching them play a 53% shot which still carries a 6% edge. If he's doubling for less, get your own money over there and fill in his double.

How many other incorrect double downs are worth interacting with? I've listed them all below. Whenever you can get a piece of somebody's proper basic strategy double or any of the improper doubles listed below, you'll have a built in edge on the play--some as high as 20%!

8 against a 5 or 6
9 against a 2
9 against a 7
11 against an Ace
A/2 against a 4
A/3 against a 4
A/7 against a 2
A/8 against a 3, 4, 5 or 6

Now what about pair splitting? Often, a player would rather play one 8 than a total of 16, so he offers the other 8 to anyone willing to put up the money for a split. Be careful here. Many splits are correct basic strategy simply because they reduce one big statistical loser to two smaller ones. But they're still losers!

The only splits you should step in and take from another player are listed below. They'll all win more often than they'll lose. Any others are underdogs and should be avoided.

2/2 against a 4, 5 or 6
3/3 against a 4, 5 or 6
4/4 against a 5 or 6
6/6 against a 5 or 6
7/7 against a 4, 5 or 6
8/8 against 2 through 7
9/9 against 2 through 8
10/10 against anything
A/A against anything

Now, how much can all this interacting help your game? It depends. The typical interaction play gains about an 8% edge. If you can pick up two plays an hour, each for about the same amount as your own average bet, that will net you about a 0.15% gain over your current position in the game without interaction.

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