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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Joe Blackjack Doesn't Play As Well As He Thinks

9 July 2005

Yeah, I know you. You're Joe Blackjack -- the kind of player who figures he knows everything there is to know about casino 21. You've been playing the game forever and you even keep a blackjack strategy chart in your wallet. Well Joe, let's find out just how much you really know.

I'll ask you about a few everyday blackjack hands, and you tell me what to do with them. But I'm warning you in advance, you'll probably get most of them wrong. I know, because I've been there when you misplayed them -- time after time. The game is your standard six-deck shoe where you can double down on split pairs. Ready? Go!

Ace/5 against a 3
4/4 against a 4
10/2 against a 3
8/4/2/2 against a 7
Ace/7 against a 9

The absolutely correct plays are to hit all five of them! So, Joe Blackjack, how many did you get right? The average Joe misses four out of five. Here are the whys and wherefores.

A/5 vs. 3: Most players soft double when they should hit, and stand when they should soft double. The key factors are the dealer's up-card and your kicker (the card next to your Ace). If the dealer shows a 5 or 6, you should double with any soft hand up through A/7. Against a deuce, never soft double at all. But against a 3 or 4 only, play by the "Rule of 9". R09 says to add your kicker to the dealer's 3 or 4. If they add up to 9 or more, double down. If not, just hit. In this case, your kicker (the 5) plus the dealer's 3 equals only 8, so you should just hit it.

4/4 vs. 4: A seasoned Joe Blackjack knows to just hit something like 5/3 or 6/2 against a weak dealer's up-card. But when that same total of 8 comes in the form of two 4s, something snaps in Joe's mind and strangely, he feels compelled to double down. Yet, where doubling is concerned, all forms of 8 are the same. How about splitting? You should split 4s against a dealer's 5 or a 6 only.

10/2 vs. 3: I've pounded on this one many times before. Joe B/J has an aversion to hitting this hand, but hitting wins more often than standing. End of story.

8/4/2/2 vs. 7: Joe knows deep down that he should hit 16 against a 7. But a slow, torturous 16 like this one pushes him beyond his self discipline and he'll stand with it almost every time. Joe doesn't understand that more than twice as many hit cards will win for him when his 16 is against a dealer's 7 than against a 10. Because of that, hitting any kind of 16 against the 7 is an absolute must.

A/7 vs. 9: When I tell my seminar students they'll win this hand 40% of the time if they stand and 45% of the time if they hit, they don't seem to care. Three months later when I bump into them at the casino, they still don't hit it. Go figure.

Now look at these next two hands:

7/5/4 against a 10
4/4/5/3 vs. an Ace

7/5/4 vs. 10: The correct play is to stand. This is no misprint, Joe! I know that chart in your wallet says to hit 16 against a 10 -- but your chart addresses starting hands only. You see, playing 16 against a 10 is actually a very close call. With 10/6 you have 189 hit cards that will bust you and 48 that will make you 20 or better. With 7/5/4 there are 190 busting cards and 46 will make 20 or better. Whenever your 16 contains a 4 or a 5, it becomes correct to stand with it against a 10, but hit all the rest including stuff like A/6/8/A, etc.

4/4/5/3/vs. Ace: This one you have to hit no matter what. That's because the dealer gets to go around twice with her Ace and will bust only one time in six. Against a 7 or higher showing, the only 16 you'll ever stand on is against the 10.

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