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Best of John Grochowski

Gaming Guru

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

6 May 2008

Q. What can you tell me about Blackjack Switch? I saw a table and was intrigued, but couldn't bring myself to sit down and play without learning more about the game first. I guess I lack a little of that gambling spirit.

A. If the gambling spirit includes going into a game unprepared, I guess I lack it too. Far better to be prepared than to learn as you go while risking real money.

The most important features of Blackjack Switch are that we play two hands at once, can switch cards between hands, and a dealer hand of 22 pushes player hands of 21 or less. All that forces strategy changes on the smart player.

At the start, you make two bets of equal size, and you're dealt two hands face up. If the dealer has an Ace or 10 face up, he or she will check for blackjack first. If the dealer has blackjack, all bets are settled and there is no Switch opportunity.

If the dealer does not have blackjack, player has the option of swapping the second card dealt on each hand. For example, if you're dealt Ace then 4 on the first hand, and 7 then 10 on the second hand, you can flop the 4 and 10 so you have Ace-10 on the first hand, and 7-4 for a double-down opportunity on the second.

However, if the order of cards dealt on the second hand was 10-7 instead, the decision would be much more difficult. Swapping would give you hands Ace-7 and 10-4. Is that better or worse than Ace-4 and 10-7?

Most of the choices are going to be easy and apparent, but some won't be. Most players aren't going to worry much about the close calls, but for those who really want to learn the game, there's a way through a handy dandy chart on Michael Shackleford's outstanding Web site wizardofodds.com.

The chart gives us the value of each hand vs. each possible dealer up card. Let's assume the dealer shows a 6, just to show how this works. The value of Ace-7 against a 6 is .1779 --- we'll average 17.79 cents in wins for every dollar wagered. Other relevant values are -.211 for 14, -.0984 for 17 and .0365 in Ace-4.

Best decisions are reached by total hand values. If we don't switch the cards in our sample hand, we have Ace-4 (.0365) and 17 (-.0984) for a total of -.0619. If we do switch, we have Ace-7 (.1779) and 14 (-.211) for a total of -.0331. It's a losing hand either way, but average losses are lower with the switch, so we make it.

If you want the most out of the game, I'd play around with it a little at home, dealing sample hands and checking the charts, getting a feel for which ones are close calls and which aren't.

The other major difference between Blackjack Switch and regular blackjack is that 22 rule. It's a necessary rule --- without it, the opportunity to switch would give players an edge. Casinos would be giving money away. The house keeps its edge by having 22 push against player non-blackjack hands of 21 or less. You can find a special basic strategy on wizardofodds.com to accommodate for the rule. A couple of examples: We don't split 8s against 10s or Aces as we would in regular blackjacks, and we double down on 11 only against 9 or lower, with 10 only against 8 and lower and with 9 only against 6.

Q. You've written that royal flushes come in video poker about once per 40,000 hands. So why don't they pay more? For a $5 bet, a royal pays me $4,000. Shouldn't I get more like $5 times 40,000, or $200,000? Why the big shortfall? Do the casinos need to bleed the money that bad?

A. You're ignoring the payoffs on all the other winning hands. If casinos paid true odds on royal flushes, then for the game to be an even bet, there would have to be no payoffs on any other hands. There would be a big zero on high pairs, two pair, three of a kind, straights, flushes, full houses, straight flushes --- all the hands that keep us in the game when we're not drawing royals.

It wouldn't be hard to design a game like that. It'd be all or nothing. But nobody would play it. There would be hours, even days at a time with no return.

By the way, if a casino was foolish enough to waste floor space on a game that had a near-true odds payoff on royal flushes and no payoffs on anything else, royals would come up more frequently than once in 40,000 hands. Why? Strategies would change. Anyone playing such a game would never hold a pair, or a flush, or a straight. The only cards they'd ever hold would be high cards of the same suit. And it'd be an awful, boring game with ridiculous expense between big payoffs.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski