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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Players' Blackjack Questions Reveal Strategy Concerns

22 July 2001

Here are some blackjack inquiries I've received from readers of my newspaper column over the last couple of months:

Q) If blackjack is such a close game, why is it that I never seem to win as many hands in a row as I lose?

Anonymous player at the Grand Victoria Casino

A) You're right. You will have longer losing streaks than winning streaks in blackjack. That's because your chances to win any random hand is 43%, but your chance to lose it is 48% (with a 9% chance for a tie). What pushes the bottom line so close to 50-50 are your bonus payoffs for blackjack and your winning majority of double downs. Still, that 48-43 disparity in the hand by hand odds makes you a 67-1 shot against winning your next five hands, but only 38-1 against losing the next five. After all the smoke clears with double downs, blackjacks and pair splits, though, you should be 51-51.5-10 on 100 average hands (provided you played them all right).

Q) Can you give some convincing reasons why I should double down with 11 against a face-card? The dealer has 20 so often with a 10 up that it just feels suicidal. I've been burned too much and made to feel stupid!

Ned from Aurora

A) Ponder this question. Which card is more likely to be a 10, the dealer's hole card or the next one out of the shoe? If you're honest with yourself, you have to admit both chances are equal. Well, when you have 11 against a 10 up, the dealer gets her hole card and you get the next one out of the shoe. If they're both 10s, you win! In fact if they're both 9s, 8s or 7s, you win. Bottom line is, when you double with 11 against a 10 you'll win the hand six times for every five times you lose. Just do it!

Q) Can you explain why they always say that high cards help the player? Why isn't a dealer's 20 just as good for the dealer as a player's 20 is for the player?

Sandy from Mount Prospect

A) Actually, a dealer's 20 is just as good as a player's 20. There, everything's even up. It's all those other hands that are not even at all. For example, a player's blackjack is 50% better than a dealer's blackjack since it pays a 50% bonus. A player's pair of Aces is much better than a dealer's pair of Aces because the player can split them into two 11's, where the dealer must play one soft 12. When doubling down, catching a 10 will usually win you a double bet -- but the dealer can never double down. These are the things that make high cards more valuable to the player.

Q) I've got a problem jeopardizing my hand when I have a soft 18. Yet, I know I'm supposed to double against a small card and hit against a high card. How much difference can it really make if you just always stay on an Ace/7?

Ron from Addison

A) Basic strategy says you should double with Ace/7 against a 3, 4, 5 or 6 and hit against a 9, 10 or Ace, but stand against all else. If you always stood, you'd be misplaying seven hands out of 340. That in itself will increase the house edge by 0.05%. What will it cost you in dollars and cents? If you're a $10 average bettor, you'll lose about an extra 50 cents per hour -- but why do it?

Q) With a six-deck shoe, how many small cards do you have to see on the board with no 10s before insurance is the right move?

Player asked the dealer at the Horseshoe in Hammond, IN

A) The right answer is 25. Then there would be 287 unseen cards with 96 of them being 10s -- just under 2 to 1 odds. Problem is, you'll never see that many in a row. If you're not counting all 10s right from the git-go, forget about insurance.


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