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Best of John Grochowski

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Double Attack Blackjack

19 July 2011

Blackjack players feel pretty good about their hands when the dealer has a 5 or 6 face up. Some even refer to the them as "bust cards," although even with 5 or 6 up, the dealer still makes hands of 17 or better more often than not.

What if the dealer got his or her up card first, before dealing to players? Would you be willing to go on the attack, and double your bet without seeing your cards?

That's the premise of Double Attack Blackjack, a game I spotted recently. You begin play by making a bet, and have the option of making an additional Bustit wager, a side bet that the dealer will bust in three cards.

The first card dealt is the dealer's face-up card. Once you've seen that card, you have the opportunity to raise your bet up to the amount of the original wager. If you started with a $10 blackjack bet, you can wager up to an additional $10. Then you get your first two cards.

There are some pluses and minuses among other rules. On the plus side, the dealer stands on all 17s, players may double down on any number of cards, including after splits, and late surrender is offered. Offsetting all that are a couple of negatives: Player blackjacks pay only even money, and the game uses a 48-card "Spanish" deck, with the 10-spot cards removed.

Michael Shackelford's website, wizardofodds.com, says the house edge is 0.62% with a specially adapted basic strategy. For starters, it's best to raise your bet whenever that opening dealer up card is anything from 2 through 8. You'll wind up pressing the attack 58.3% of the time.

Getting the most out of the game also requires basic strategy adjustments after you've seen your cards, and the Wizard of Odds site has a complete strategy table.

One difference from regular blackjack: You'll hit hard 14 versus a dealer's 2 or 3, as well as 7 on up, and hit 12 or 13 against any up card. That's because of the decreased chance of busting with fewer 10-value cards in the deck.

Let's say you have an 8 and a 6, for a total of 14, and the dealer has a 2 face up. In a regular six-deck game, there are 309 other cards, and 143 of them are 8s, 9s or 10-values that will bust your hand with a one-card hit. That's 46.3% of the remaining cards.

But in Double Attack, with the 10-spots removed, there are 285 cards in addition to your two and the dealer's up card, and 119 of them are 8s, 9s or faces. The percentage of cards that will bust your 14 drops to 41.8%, and that's enough to force a strategy switch.

The shortage of 10-values also changes double-down strategy. We still double on 11 against any dealer's face-up card, but double on 10 only against 2 through 8, instead of 2-9, and double on 9 only versus a 6, instead of 3-6.

Let's run some numbers here, too. If I have a two-card 10 and the dealer has a 9 face up in regular six-deck blackjack, then 96 of the remain 309 cards are 10-values that will give me a 20, and another 24 are aces that will give me 21. So 120 of 309, or 38.8%, will give me a 20 or 21.

In Double Attack, there are four fewer 10-values per deck. Now only 96 of 285 cards, or 33.7%, will give me 20 or 21. That's not enough to induce me to put extra money on the table and limit myself to a one-card hit.

Shackelford's adjusted basic strategy also calls for us to double less often against soft hands. We don't double on any soft hands below 16. Our only soft doubles come on soft 16 versus a dealer's 6, soft 17 versus 4, 5 or 6 and soft 18 versus 5 or 6. Here, we're not looking for 10 values to improve our hands, but we would like to see them to bust the dealer, and the 24 10-spots aren't there.

As for the Bustit bet, it pays 3-1 when a face card as the third card causes the dealer to bust, 6-1 on a 9, 8-1 on an 8, 10-1 on a 7, 15-1 on a 6, 50-1 when the dealer has 8-8-8 of the same color, and a 200-1 bonanza on 8-8-8 of the same suit. The house edge is 8.01%.

I'd avoid the Bustit bet and play the main Double Attack game only after spending a little time on the basic strategy chart. It's a fun variation with a relatively low house edge, but a blind attack is likely to backfire.

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:

> 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