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Blackjack basic strategy quiz - answers

17 May 2008

It's been a while since I've popped a quiz, and a while since I've delved into blackjack basic strategy. See if you know the best way to play the following five hands, all among the most-often misplayed hands in the game.

For all hands, assume a six-deck game in which the dealer stands on all 17s, you may split and resplit any pair except aces, which you may split only once, may double down on any first two cards, and may double down after splitting a pair.

1. You have a pair of 8s. The dealer has a 10 face up.

A. Hit.
B. Stand.
C. Split the pair.

2. You have a 9 and a 7. The dealer has a 7 face up.

A. Hit.
B. Stand.
C. Hit if the dealer has been hot, stand if the dealer has been busting a lot.

3. You have an ace and a 7. The dealer has a 10 face up.

A. Hit.
B. Stand.
C. Double down.

4. You have a 7 and a 5. The dealer has a 2 face up.

A. Hit.
B. Stand.
C. Stand if you're sitting at third base, hit from any other position.

5. You have an ace and a 6. The dealer has a 7 face up.

A. Hit.
B. Stand
C. Double Down

ANSWERS

1. C. Dealt 8-8 against a dealer's 10, split the pair. The best play with a pair of 8s is to split no matter what the dealer has face up. That's a concept most players can handle until they see the dealer turn a 10 face up. Then they get cold feet. "Why split when the dealer probably has a 20," I've been asked. "I'm just setting myself to lose two bets."

Well, the dealer doesn't "probably" have a 20. The face down will be another 10 value only about a third of the times we have a chance to split. (We know the down card isn't an ace because the dealer checks the down card with a 10 up, and takes our money without opportunity to split if there's an ace down to complete a blackjack.)

The choice remains to play the hand as a 16, or make a second bet and start two hands with 8s. Even though you're betting twice as much money to split, in the long run you'll lose only half as much by making the split.

2. A. Dealt 9-7 or any other hard 16 against a dealer's 7, hit. This is not a close call, although players seem to think it is. "I'll give the dealer a chance to bust his 7" is something I've heard time and again. Problem is, the dealer busts with a 7 face up only 26% of the time.

It's actually more important to hit 16 against a dealer's 7 than against a 10. That's because on the occasions you draw a low card, you have a greater chance of beating a dealer hand that doesn't bust than when the dealer starts with 10. Card counters know there are some common situations when it pays to stand on 16 vs. 10. Not so when the dealer has a 7.

3. A. Dealt ace-7 when the dealer has a 10 face up, hit. The same goes for ace-7 when the dealer has a 9 or an ace up. Your soft 18 will lose more often than it wins, but you can improve your chances a bit by hitting. Even if you draw a bad card from 4 through 8, you get another chance to hit.

4. A. Dealt a 7 and a 5 when a dealer has 2 up, hit. Even including multiple draws, the dealer busts only 35% of the time when starting with 2. Your best chance to win this hand is to hit.

Some players are reluctant to hit when sitting at third base. They fear taking the dealer's bust card and costing the whole table money. Two points: You don't know whether a bust card is coming, and you're as likely to help the table as hurt it by hitting. Second, unless the other players are reimbursing you for a lost wager if you stand, you owe them nothing. Make the best play for your own hand.

5. A. Dealt ace-6 against a dealer's 7, hit. Most players I see today know not to stand on soft 17, even if they don't get the fine point that they should double down when the dealer shows a 3 through 6. But some hit the wall when the dealer has a 7. Maybe they're assuming the dealer has a 10 down, and are willing to have their 17 push a dealer's 17. The dealer has a 10 down only 30.8% of the time, though. The best a player 17 can do if the dealer doesn't bust is to push — the player can't win the 74% of the time the dealer makes a 17 or better.

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:

The Craps Answer Book

> 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:

> More Books By John Grochowski