BLACKJACK: HOW TO DEAL WITH A MULTI-CARD HAND
By Charles Jay
Let’s say you’re sitting at a blackjack table, whether it’s in a brick and mortar situation but preferably online here at Superior Casino, and you’re playing the Basic Strategy you’ve probably read about somewhere, practiced at home and by now have memorized by heart. You’ve been dealt a 10 and a 2 for a hard total of 12. The dealer has a ten showing. Of course, since it is dictated by Basic Strategy, your move in this situation is to hit.
Okay, so you call for the hit and now you wind up with another two. That gives you a three-card total of 14 on your hand.
So what now?
Sure, you know the Basic Strategy which applies for two-card combinations, but what about three cards, or four, or even five?
This is often the first point of confusion for people who are relatively new to the game; in many cases, it’s something they may not have thought of before.
But there is no reason to become despondent. The answer to this problem, in fact, is very simple: when you encounter a multi-card hand, all you have to do is plug the total right back into the Basic Strategy and go from there.This means that if you’re dealt three or more cards which total 11 or less, you will hit that hand. When your cards total 12 or more, your response would be exactly the same as if it were a two-card hand. For example, a 5-7-3 combo would total 15 and you would hit when the dealer shows an upcard of 7 through Ace and stand when the dealer shows 2 through 6.
Alright, that covers the HARD hands (not the difficult ones but those without an Ace). Now what about multi-card SOFT hands (those with an Ace)? The critical thing, as always, is to refer to the hand as an ace and the sum of the other cards. For example, the hand of A,7 is referred to as “Ace-Seven” rather than “Soft 18” or “8 or 18”, as the dealer might refer to it.
The hand A,3,3 is also “Ace-Six”, because you’ve added the sum of the other cards. Just add those other cards up and plug the hand into your Basic Strategy for the correct play. To exemplify how the rule works, the hands which total Ace-Three through Ace-Six are always hit; Ace-Eight through Ace-Ten (21) always call for you to stand. Naturally (if you pardon the pun), there should never be a three-card hand of Ace-Two, because hopefully, the aces will have been split the first time (another critical part of Basic Strategy you shouldn’t screw up on).
Now let’s go over what may be the only possible exception to these basic rules. That’s the case of the multi-card hand that adds up to Ace-Seven. Basic Strategy mandates that you stand against a dealer’s upcard of 2,7, or 8 in this situation. Otherwise, you will hit. Of course, always remember that with multi-card hands, any two-card Basic Strategy rule which dictates that you double down means that you’ll HIT, since obviously you can’t double a three-card hand (well, there are exceptions to that, but not enough to cover here).
How about when you hit your multi-card SOFT hand and it becomes a HARD hand? In other words, you have an Ace-Seven then get a six which leaves you with 14 and without the flexibility you might have if it was still 11 or under as a total? This, for some reason, becomes a very uncomfortable situation for some people. But it’s actually quite easy to proceed. Simply plug it in once again to your Basic Strategy for hard hands, and you’ve solved your problem.
If you are so motivated, it’s worth it to practice this technique at home in Superior Casino. Configure your own drills where there is a constant dealer upcard and then take out most of the ten-value cards (10,J,Q,K), leaving mostly aces and low cards (2,3,4,5,6) in the deck, so that it will demand quick decisions on multi-card hands. This is a great way to avoid this kind of confusion in the future.