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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

The Most Likely Way to Win the Hand is Not Always the Best Play!

3 July 1999

Here's a simple blackjack question for you. When you have 16 against a dealer's ace showing, what's your most likely way to win the hand? By hitting, of course. If you stand with your 16, you're a 5 to 1 underdog to win. If you hit, you're only a 3 to 1 dog. So your best play is to hit.

Let's try another. When you have ace/7 against a dealer's 6, what's your most likely way to win the hand? By standing. If you stand, you'll win 16 times out of 25 (counting ties as a half-win and a half-loss). What about if you double down, you ask? Oh, then you'll only win 15 times out of 25 (again, after adjusting for ties). So then, standing must be the best play, right? Wrong!! Why? Because winning two bets 15 times out of 25 makes more money than winning one bet 16 times out of 25.

Let's say you bet $10 on each of the next 25 hands and were dealt ace/7 against a dealer's 6 all 25 times. If you always stand and the odds run true to form, you'll win 16, lose 9, and make a net profit of $70. Now if you double down instead, you'll wreck some of your 18s by catching a 4, 5,6, 7 or 8. Of course, you'll also improve your hand once in a while too, by catching an ace, deuce or a 3. Finally, many other times you'll still finish with 18 because you caught a face-card. All in all, though, you'll win 15 times, lose 10, and net a cool $100 profit (5 net wins x $20 each). Since winning $100 beats winning $70, doubling down is your best play.

That's the tricky part about so many hands in blackjack. The most likely way to win it is not necessarily the best play. In fact, that's true with most of your double downs. You actually cut down on your win percentage, but increase your overall earnings through greater volume in favorable situations. It's like the local grocery store paying $1.60 for one gallon of milk, then selling it for $2.00. If they can sell two for $1.90 each, they make more money.

Lots of players are hesitant to double down when they feel they're jeopardizing a probable winner by taking one more card. If that sounds like you, let me remind you of two very important facts:

  1. The best blackjack player in the world loses more hands than he wins.
  2. The best blackjack player in the world wins more money than he loses.

How can these both be true? He puts extra chips out there every time he has an edge, and that includes doubling down. Never turn your back on an edge. If you haven't done too well lately doubling down with ace/7 against a 6, so what! You'll still do better doubling with it in the future than if you stand. That's what you have to remember.

Other hands that fall into the category of winning less often but making more money when you double are situations like 11 against a face-card; 10 against a 9; 9 against a 3; and ace/7 against a 3, 4 ,or 5, as well as the 6 just discussed. But there is one other hand that is the absolute drop dead classic example of this basic principle, and you've had it scores of times. Think hard. Can you come up with it? It's blackjack against an ace up.

When you're dealt that pretty hand for the same $10 against an ace up, if you play it safe and take even money, you'll do much better than just win 16 times out of 25. You'll flat out win 'em all for a nifty $250 profit. But if you simply take your chances, although you'll have to settle for a push just about 30% of the time, you'll win $15 enough times to earn you $260 over the same 25 hands. That's about one whole extra bet every 25 blackjacks against an ace up.

So, why the devil would you want to give away that extra 10 bucks when you know darn well you're going to be in that same situation again and again? Even if it's just a one time deal, this is merely a small random piece of that bigger picture that says you make more money by taking your chances. This game is tough enough to beat as it is without throwing your money away.

I figure I made an extra $300 last year the times I had blackjack against an ace up and didn't take even money. So -- why shouldn't you?

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