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Going Beyond Basic Strategy

27 June 2002

By John Grochowski

Nearly all players will benefit by learning basic strategy for blackjack and following it to the letter. But advanced players should understand that basic strategy is ... well ... basic, and there are some things they can do to get a little extra out of blackjack without counting cards.

Fred Renzey, author of the Blackjack Bluebook, is really strong on giving players steps they can take to improve their games. His book singles out seven close-call hands in which the percentages can swing just enough to make a play beyond basic depending on what other cards are on the table, even in multiple-deck games.

Basic strategy players are used to hitting 12 if the dealer shows a 2 or 3. But what if the dealer shows a 4? Most of the time we stand, but this is one of Renzey's close calls. We hit 12 vs. 4 if there are more 10-value cards on the table than there are 2s, 3s, 4s or 5s.

The other close calls:

  • With more 2s-5s than 10s, stand on 16 vs. 10.
  • With five more 10s than 2s-5s, hit 13 vs. 2.
  • With five more 2s-5s than 10s, double down on hard 9 vs. 2, Ace-8 vs. 5 or Ace-8 vs. 6.
  • With six more 2s-5s, double on 11 vs. Ace.

For such plays that go beyond basic, Renzey's Blackjack Bluebook ($14, Blackjack Mentor) is a valuable resource that has a prized place on my casino bookshelf.

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, with podcasts at Look for John Grochowski on Facebook ( and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).

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