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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Winning Your Blackjack Hands Isn't Supposed to Be Easy

13 August 2006

I was at a $25 blackjack table the other day and the player next to me had just lost about four hands in a row. Out of frustration, he raised his bet from $25 up to $100 on the next hand and was dealt 17 against the dealer's 4. He stayed pat of course, and the dealer went on to make 18.

"Geez! How do they get so lucky? She's supposed to bust there!" complained the player.

The truth of the matter is that the dealer is not supposed to bust when she has a 4 up -- and the player is not supposed to win when he has 17 against a 4. With a 4 showing, the dealer breaks just 2 times out of 5. And with 17 against a 4, the player will lose 7 times for every 6 times he wins. So the next time you lose with that hand, don't go thinking that you got unlucky. Winning your hands isn't supposed to be easy.

Following is a list of a dozen everyday blackjack hands that naive players assume they're supposed to win, but in reality are underdogs and should rightfully be lost – even if the hands are played correctly. To the right are the player's odds against winning each hand.

Hand Odds Against
   12 vs. 4    3-to-2
12 vs. 5 7-to-5
12 vs. 6 13-to-10
17 vs. 2 7-to-5
17 vs. 3 13-to-10
17 vs. 4 7-to-6
17 vs. 5 11-to-10
17 vs. 6    even money   
17 vs. 7 5-to-4
18 vs. A 6-to-5
7/7 vs. 2 8-to-7
7/7 vs. 3 15-to-14

As you can see, the best hand on the chart, 17 against a 6 gives you a 50-50 shot. Notice also, how you're an underdog even with a pair of 7s against a dealer's 2 or 3. Players so often lament that they never seem to make out with splits like these – and in fact, they're not supposed to make out. What they don't see when they split these pairs is that they're losing less money than if they'd just played their 14. That's why they're supposed to split.

So then, what hands are you favored to win in blackjack? Next is a list of some close, but favorable hands for the player, along with their odds.

   Hand        Favored By    
   18 vs. 2       5-to-4   
   18 vs. 8       6-to-5   
   19 vs. 10       8-to-7   
   9 vs. 3       8-to-7   
   10 vs. 9       7-to-6   
   11 vs. 10       6-to-5   
   7/7 vs. 4       25-to-24   
   A/3 vs. 5       8-to-7   
   A/5 vs. 3       even money   

The last hand on the list, A/5 against a 3 is an even money shot – if you play it correctly and just hit. But if you step out of line and double down, then you become a small underdog – for twice the money.

Bottom Line: If you play perfect basic strategy in casino blackjack, you'll win 43½%, lose 48% and push 8½% of all your hands. By doubling down when you're a decided favorite and by being paid 3-to-2 on your blackjacks (as well as winning some "favorable" splits), you become a mere 101-to-100 underdog in the game.

That's about as close a deal as you can get in casino games - you only need a teeny bit of luck to make a winning session on the day. Beyond that, if you can learn to keep track of some cards and use that information properly, you actually become a small favorite to win each day you play. But that's a quantum leap that very few gamblers are willing to take, which is why blackjack is still a profitable game for the house.

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