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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Some Blackjack Hands Are Best Played Two Different Ways At Times

19 February 2000

I realize that if you're a staunch basic strategy player, you've disciplined yourself to religiously play the same hand the same way every time. But the cold, hard fact is this: Some hands should be played differently when certain cards have come out of play.

Then why doesn't the basic strategy advise you to do that? Because it can't! The basic strategy has no idea which other cards may have been dealt out. So you know what it does? It assumes that only 3 cards have been dealt —- your 2-card starting hand and the dealer's up-card. Then it goes on to calculate the odds, figuring that all the other cards are still available — even if it's the last hand of the shoe!

For most players that's fine since hardly anybody knows what's been dealt anyway. Without knowing which cards to eliminate, you really can't eliminate any and should just follow the basic strategy verbatim.

There are ways, however, to play some hands a bit more accurately than blind basic strategy. You see, some hand decisions are so close that the mere "composition" of your hand can tell you it should be played differently from the basic strategy. A perfect example is when you have 16 against the dealer's face-card.

When a basic strategy chart says to hit 16 against a 10, understand that it's referring to a "starting" hand like 10/6. Now any time you hit 16, you need a 5 or lower to stay alive. And when you have 10/6 against a 10 up, the basic strategy assumes there are 96 deuces through 5s, but only 94 10s left in the six-deck shoe. Using those proportions, it finds that you'll win the hand a mere 1/2% more often by hitting than by standing. Thus you should just barely hit --- When you're holding a 10/6.

But what if you're holding 8/5/3? Well, now there are just 94 deuces through 5s, but 95 10s remaining. That's a 3 card flip-flop from the previous case, and because of that you're actually better off standing. This is something the basic strategy doesn't consider. In fact, against a dealer's 10 you should stand with a "built up" 16 if your hand contains any 4 or 5, since that eliminates such a valuable card. But you should still hit with something like 6/8/A/A.

That's how easy it is to play 16 against a 10 a bit more accurately than simple basic strategy. But if you want to go one step further, you can tweak your play a bit more on 9 hands, even with a six-deck shoe. Here they are:

  1. 12 against a 4
  2. 16 against a 10
  3. 13 against a 2
  4. 9 against a 2
  5. A/6 against a 2
  6. A/7 against a 2
  7. A/8 against a 5
  8. A/8 against a 6
  9. 11 against an Ace

Now here's what to do. First, let's categorize all 2s through 5s as "baby" cards. Next, notice that when the shoe is full it contains the same number of 10s as babies. Now, each time you're dealt one of the 9 hands above, scan the board. How many 10s vs. babies do you see (including your own hand and the dealer's up-card)? All 9 of these hands are such close decisions that a modest shift in the supply of 10s versus babies will render a non-basic strategy play the superior choice.

Example #1) Anytime there are more 10s on board than babies you should hit 12 against a 4, otherwise follow the basic strategy and stand.

Example #2) With 16 against a 10, stand whenever there are more babies on board than 10s, otherwise just hit. This is more accurate than basic strategy or hand composition due to the additional information it considers.

Example #3) If there are at least five more 10s on board than babies, hit 13 against a deuce.

Examples #4 through 8) With at least five more babies on board than 10s, double down with 9 against a 2, Ace/6 against a 2, Ace/7 against a 2, Ace/8 against a 5, and Ace/8 against a 6.

Example #9) With at least six more exposed babies than 10s, double down with 11 against an Ace.


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:

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