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Best of John Grochowski

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Blackjack Switch

16 November 2010

When it comes to blackjack, I'm a bit of a purist. I don't make side bets, regardless of whether the offering of the day is Royal Match, 21 + 3, Lucky Ladies or anything else that requires a separate bet.

I'll play variations such as Spanish 21 or Super Fun 21 just about long enough to make sure I really understand what's going on when I write about them. Games like that, with scads of unusual rules, require learning a separate basic strategy to knock the house edge down to its minimum.

Nevertheless, a little variety can be fun sometimes, and I had a good time in a relaxed sort of way recently when I sat down to play a little Blackjack Switch. I had to do a little guessing on some of the plays, then I checked myself once I got home and could look at a specially adapted strategy table.

In Blackjack Switch, you start with two bets of equal size and are dealt two hands. When it's your turn to make decisions, you may switch the second cards.

Whenever I've seen Blackjack Switch, it's been a six-deck game in which the dealer hits soft 17. Players may double down on any two cards, including after splitting pairs. Blackjacks pay even money in Switch instead of the standard 3-2. That's only to be expected, since Switch brings an increase in the number of blackjacks.

The bigger negative is that dealer 22s result in a push. The consequence of all that is that the adapted basic strategy calls for us to be a little less aggressive, splitting pairs and doubling down a little less often. Given a starting hand of 10, we double down only if the dealer's up card is 2 through 8, instead of the usual 2 through 9. You can find a full basic strategy table at wizardofodds.com/games/blackjack/switch/.

The bigger strategy issue is when to switch. A classic switch example came on my fourth hand. The first card on my first hand was a 5, and the first card on my second hand was a 10. Then I was dealt an Ace on the 5, and a 6 on the 10.

At a regular blackjack table, that would be bad news — a soft 16 with ace-5 and a hard 16 with 10-6. In Blackjack Switch, I was able to signal the dealer to flop the second hands, moving the Ace to go with my 10 and moving the 6 to go with my 5. Now I had a blackjack on one hand, and could play the other starting with 11.

Not all Switch decisions are quite so neat. What if the dealer has a 7 up and you're dealt an ace, then a 7 on one hand, and a 10, then a 9 on the other? Do you play it as 18 and 19, or switch to strengthen one hand to 20 and weaken the other to 17?

For those who want to get deeply into Switch strategy, there's a chart on wizardofodds.com that gives relative value of hands. It'll tell you that in that situation, 18 and 19 is a stronger combination than 17 and 20, so you'd decline to switch.

That's a matter for home study. During my session, players were relying on each other, as on the hand when one woman was convinced to switch so that her two 16s became a 20 and a 12.

"I'm just a beginner," she said.

"That's all right," another woman answered. "We were all beginners once."

Players nodded, and the dealer grinned. It was just a friendly moment, at a relaxed game.

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