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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Which of These Blackjack Hands Would You Rather Play?

5 March 2000

I often have a hard time convincing blackjack players that it's correct to play some particular hands a certain way. On those occasions, I find it helpful to put that player into a similar game situation, then let him make his own decision. As a prime example, here's a blackjack riddle for you.

You and a friend are playing at a $50 table. You're both betting $50 per hand, but he's playing two hands at a time while you're playing just one. On a particular deal, the board looks like this:

 DEALER
?/10
 
HAND #1
5/3
HAND #2
6/2
YOU
10/6

Being first to act, you lament out loud, "Not 16 against a 10 again. I'm sick of this hand!" But before you act, your friend says, "You're sick? Look at me. I've got two losers against that miserable face-card. I'd trade places with you in a minute!"

Well, what about it? Would you trade your hand for his two and put up the extra 50 bucks to get rid of your 16? Don't decide yet. What if I told you that you'd lose 77% of the time if you held onto your 16, but you'd lose each of the other two hands 62% of the time if you put up the extra money and switched? Now you have what you need to know to make the right decision.

The answer? You should jump on your friend's offer and switch places in a heartbeat. Why? Because even though you'd be risking twice as much money in two probable losing situations instead of one, you're still more likely to lose less money by going with the other two hands.

If you play out your 10/6 and lose 77 times and win 23, that puts you 54 bets down. But if you take the 6/2 and the 5/3, you'll lose 62 times and win 38 times twice each. That leaves you only 48 bets down on the two smaller hands combined. Furthermore, spreading your results over two hands rather than one gives you a chance to average out your results as opposed to a one shot "all or nothing" deal. Clearly, the odds are less dismal with your friend's two hands rather than with your one.

I imagine that many of you chose the right answer immediately upon looking at the two choices. Without even knowing the odds, going up against the dealer's face-card with something like a 5/3 instinctively feels more palatable than with a 10/6, even if you have to do it twice rather than once.

Then why did I dream up such an obvious riddle? Because it's exactly the same as the decision you face every time you're dealt a pair of 8s against the dealer's 10. Either play out the 16 once, or double your stakes and play out an 8 twice. Even though you're an underdog in both spots, it's actually more frugal to put up the extra bet and improve each hand from a 23% shot to a 38% shot. That's why you must always split a pair of 8s against that ominous looking face card. I hope that seeing the situation from a fresh angle puts your mind to rest about this hand.


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:

> More Books By Fred Renzey