BLACKJACK SCHOOL – 10,10 vs. 5

June 4th, 2008

Charles Jay’s
BLACKJACK SCHOOL
Designed to help you play a better game

WHAT DO YOU DO?
10,10 vs. 5

THE SETUP: You’ve sat down and get yourself involved in a multiple deck game where Doubling-down after split (also known as DDAS) is one of the available options. You’re dealt a pair of cards with ten value (either 10, J, Q or K), and the dealer flips over a five, which is commonly known as a “stiff” card. Your eyes pop out of your head. “Wow,” you say to yourself, “Here’s an opportunity to get a lot of money on the table against this horrible card. How could I possibly pass up on that?” You have a real temptation to put the maximum amount of chips on the table, in an effort to capitalize on the situation. Should you?

So…..

What do you do?

CJ’S WAY: Put your eyes back into your head. This is a scenario where you could very easily shoot yourself in the foot by doing the wrong thing. Do not flip the switch. Do not take more chips out. Do not pass “Go.” Do not try to collect $200. Wait a minute, I’m getting carried away with myself……You get the idea. Stay right where you are.

WHY WE DO IT: If you do what I suggest, and hold back from splitting this hand up, you are going to win about 78% of the time, compared to losing 11% of the time. Your positive expectations go way, way down when you vary from that. Even when the DDAS option is open to you, you will suffer 34% losses when you split these cards up. When you stand with 20 you are going to gain approximately 13%. As you should know by now, we are looking for the highest percentage play for each situation. Therefore, there is no plausible reason to do anything else than that which yields the best value.

Splitting tens against a five can be advantageous if you are counting cards and are in a situation where you can implement that practice. However, if you are a Basic Strategy player, you must operate on the principle that breaking up winning hands is not a winning policy. It will not be often that you find relatively opportunities to win hands. When they are laid out before you, you can’t blow the chance!

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BLACKJACK SCHOOL – Designed to help you play a better game

May 15th, 2008

Charles Jay’s
BLACKJACK SCHOOL
Designed to help you play a better game

WHAT DO YOU DO?
A,5 vs. 2

THE SETUP: You’re playing in a game where soft doubling is allowed. The dealer gives you an Ace and a five and then flips up a two. The hand of Ace-Five gives you a total of either 6 or 16 – it’s your choice as to which way it will work better for you. Your options are to stand, hit, or double down.

So……

What do you do?

CJ’S WAY: When you think about it, standing on this hand doesn’t make a lot of sense. What you need to resist is the temptation with the idea of doubling, just because the dealer isn’t showing an upcard that is classified as “pat.” What you need to do here is HIT this soft hand.

WHY WE DO IT: Essentially, there are two questions we’re asking ourselves – (A) Is the Ace-five (remember to call it that, not 6 or 16) strong enough to double with?; and (B) Is the upcard the dealer is showing (the two) vulnerable enough to double against? The answer to the first question is, generally, yes. The Ace-Five gives you that total of 6 or 16, and you could wind up in a lot worse condition. In point of fact, you WILL double this hand against the dealer’s upcard of 4,5, or 6. However, the answer to the second question is, NO, the two does not provide enough of an opportunity to double on this hand. It allows the dealer too much of a chance to attain a solid or standing hand. The bottom line, mathematically, is that with this hand you have an overall negative expectation; you will win 1% MORE and lose 1% LESS if you hit the hand as opposed to doubling it.

————————————

WHAT DO YOU DO?
A,5 vs. 7

THE SETUP: You are playing in a game which features soft doubling. You are dealt an Ace and a five, while the dealer shows a seven. You can’t bust out with one hit in this situation. Obviously, when soft doubling is available to you, you’re always looking for a chance to exercise it. Here we may have one of those chances.

So……

What do you do?

CJ’S WAY: No, it doesn’t. No doubling here. You must HIT this hand.

WHY WE DO IT: Remember that the Ace-five gives you a total of either 6 or 16. Certainly this doesn’t constitute a hand that’s good enough to double with against a dealer’s seven. Examining the math, doubling on the hand produces a negative expectation. You will, in fact, lose over NINE more hands per hundred than you will win. That represents about a 20% deficit, which is what you ant to avoid. However, considering the alternative, when you simply hit the Ace-five against the seven, you’re actually looking good. Leaving all pushes between the player and dealer aside, when you hit this hand you will win and lose almost exactly the same amount of times. That becomes essentially a break-even, which represents a better way to go than doubling in this scenario, where you are putting more money into play and at risk.

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NOT-SO-SWEET SIXTEEN

April 3rd, 2008

Charles Jay on Blackjack
NOT-SO-SWEET SIXTEEN

With the Sweet 16 of the NCAA basketball tournament upon us, it’s a reminder that having a 16 dealt to you at the blackjack table is decidedly not very sweet. In fact, it’s a horrible hand to have, since you can easily “bust” (go over 21) with a hit, and it’s not very advantageous to stand with it.

So if you’re sitting in a game and get a 16, how are you going to handle it?

Suffice it to say that this is a hand which is probably misplayed by a most people. On a psychological level, you may in fact be scared to hit a 16. That’s understandable, since in all likelihood you’re going to break 21. But there is a hard reality, which is that the best way to help yourself here is to hit the hand, that is, against the so-called “pat” upcards that run from the seven through the Ace (it goes without saying, at least we think, that you will stand against anything from a two through six as the dealer’s upcard, because those are generally bad cards for the dealer). If you think about it for a second, the dealer has to play by strict house rules in the casino which require him to hit on a total of 16. And if you notice, he winds up making hands to beat you, to the point where there is a house advantage to blackjack. That is no coincidence, believe me.

You need to operate on that principle too. Hitting hands is the best way you have at your disposal to make hands, and when you are playing against a dealer who is most likely going to make a hand for himself, there’s no way you can preserve your bankroll in this case while employing a “no bust” strategy. Experts also call that a “no-win” strategy.

Let’s take the example where you’re going against the dealer’s weakest “pat” upcard – the seven. If you stand in this situation, you are going to win 26% of the time and lose 74%. If you hit, you’ll win only 27%, which is only a small improvement but an improvement nonetheless. More importantly, you’re going to wind up losing less, to the tune of 67.5% (with the rest being pushes). So by hitting the hand, you are, for the most part, making an attempt to SAVE some of your bankroll.

As an addendum to this discussion, let’s make sure we’re very clear as to what to do in one particular situation – when you have a 16 and the dealer is showing a ten (or ten value card, like a Jack, Queen or King).

That puts you into one of the tougher spots a blackjack player can find him/herself. There is virtually no chance at all to win the hand. The necessary point of focus here is how you’re going to LOSE LESS on the hand. More so than some of the others, this is a very close call. Let’s say you took the posture that you were always going to stand on this hand. That strategy would bring you a defeat 77% of the time, which constitutes roughly the number of times the dealer is going to be pat with a ten showing. Hitting the hand will obviously leave you busting out quite a bit, and you will win 2.7% less. But you will also LOSE 3.1% less, making it a slightly better decision to hit the 16 here. Minimize your losses when you can.

Because it counts for something.

I’ll tell you one instance where you can indeed get a “Sweet 16.” It’s when you are dealt a pair of eights. In this case, they are indeed “Elite Eights,” because you will always split them. It’s a much better opportunity, especially if you can take advantage of doubling down after splitting.

That counts for something too.

Try it for yourself at Superior Casino.

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WHY DO YOU PLAY DIFFERENTLY WHEN THE DEALER HAS A TWO SHOWING?

January 16th, 2008

Blackjack
WHY DO YOU PLAY DIFFERENTLY WHEN THE DEALER HAS A TWO SHOWING?
By Charles Jay

When the dealer has a 5 or 6 showing, the player has, basically, a very easy decision to make. If, let’s say, you’re the player, and you’ve got a bad hand, you stand, banking on the hope that the dealer will bust. If you’ve got a good hand, depending on the nature of the hand, you will stand (if you are pat), double, or split. The 5 and 6 are the worst upcards the dealer can have, and if the opportunity presents itself, you have to get as much money on the table as possible to take advantage of your position.

But how do you approach the situation if the dealer has a two showing? Standard rules of the Basic Strategy (i.e., the set of playing rules that outline what to do in every player vs. dealer situation) dictate that there are two sides to the hitting/standing decision chart – the “low” cards (2 through 6) and the “high” cards (7 through Ace). An imaginary line is drawn between these two groups; for example, with those hands commonly known as “stiff” hands (12 through 16) you would usually hit against the high cards, and stand against the low cards. There is also no soft doubling against the high upcards.

There is one notable exception, however, and that is when the dealer is holding a two on top. The two is indeed in the “low card” group, but because it is the lowest of the low, it is the hardest to play against. A dealer with a five showing will bust 43% of the time, and with a six it will happen only 42% of the time. When a dealer has a two as his upcard, he will bust only 35% of his hands. Now the difference may not seem like a lot, but it really is when taken in this context – when we conceive theory in the game we speak in terms of how much each strategy decision will work out in the LONG run, since, of course, anything can happen in the SHORT run. Looking at it this way, the seven or eight less breaks per hundred hands add up big time over the course of a great many hands. It is a plain fact (and a pain fact too, as we allow for the validity of that typo) that the dealer with a two on top will usually have to draw two ten-value cards to bust out; anything less and the chances are considerable that his hand will be pat.

The strongest dealer upcards, in order, are the Ace, ten-value cards, nine, eight, and seven. Next in line is the two, and it is in fact such a respected and feared upcard that many count systems do not even include the two as a low card for the purposes of determining the plus-minus value of cards, preferring to leave it neutral instead, along with the 7,8, and often times, the 9 (“neutral” meaning, of course, that it is of equal value to both player and dealer).

To deal with the relative strength of the two, some subtle exceptions in the Basic Strategy are, of course, in order. For instance, when presented with a 12 against the dealer’s two, the player will always take one hit. This play is also appropriate when the player has a three, by the way. Remember to take ONLY ONE HIT in this situation, though. Any denomination, even the lowest value (an Ace) would add up to at least 13, and, when this three-card is plugged into the Basic Strategy, the correct move is to stand against stiff upcards.

Also, the player’s nine is doubled on the 3 through 6 upcards, but not against the two, however, because the nine is simply not a strong enough hand to make it mathematically feasible. And please – never, EVER double any soft hand against the dealer’s two. Let a signal go off in your head when this situation arises.

Practice and learn how to deal with a dealer’s upcard of two. It may be a small card, but can figure BIG in some important decisions if not played correctly.

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