Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Best of John Grochowski
Misplayed blackjack hands23 June 2009
The first time I ever played in a casino, I went straight for what I thought was a familiar game.
Turns out I didn't know it all that well. I don't remember the cards when I made a bad play, but I heard a woman behind me say, "He shouldn't have done that, should he?" A man responded, "Shhh."
I knew I had more to learn if I was going to play the game, so I studied basic strategy before my second trip to Las Vegas. Then I started to notice which hands are misplayed most often. Let's check out a few.
Soft 17 vs. any dealer up card: When you have 17, you can't win unless the dealer busts. If the dealer makes 17, you push, and if he makes anything better, you lose. So why stand with soft 17 — a hand including an Ace counted as 11, such as ace-6, ace-ace-5, ace-2-4? Draw a high card, and the ace becomes a 1 instead of 11 — ace-6 plus a queen is still 17. Never stand on soft 17. If the dealer shows a 3 through 6, double down. Otherwise, hit.
Soft 18 vs. any dealer up card: Soft 18 is a little better than soft 17 — at least you can win without the dealer busting if the dealer has 17. But when the dealer has a 9, 10 or ace face up, your hand needs some help. You'll lose more often than you win in those situations, but you improve your chances if you hit the soft 18. Stand if the dealer shows a 2, 7 or 8, double down against 3, 4, 5 or 6, but hit against 9, 10 or ace.
Hard 12 vs. 2 or 3: Players worry about drawing a 10 and busting their 12. The 10-values are the most common cards in the deck, but they make up only 30.8% of all cards. How often will a dealer's face-up 2 be accompanied by a 10 face down, then another 10 on the next card face up? Only about 9.5% of the time. And the dealer busts only 35% of the time with a 2 up and 38% of the time with a 3 up, so waiting for the dealer to bust is a losing strategy.
Hit hard 12 against a 2 or 3, as well as against 7 or higher, and stand against a 4 through 6.
Hard 16 vs. 7: Players seem to think this is a close call, and will take their chances on the dealer busting rather than risk busting themselves. Problem is, you can't win with a 16 unless the dealer busts, and when the dealer starts with 7 he makes 17 or better 74 percent of the time.
Actually, you gain more by hitting 16 against a 7 than you do against higher cards. If you get a small card and improve your 16, you'll win hands against a dealer's 7 that you'd lose against a bigger card. Hard 16 vs. 10 is a borderline hand that will sometimes have card counters standing. Hard 16 vs. 7 is nowhere near the border. Hit.
8-8 vs. a 10 value: Why split 8s against a 10, players wonder, when a 10 on each 8 for two 18s just means a double loss if the dealer turns up a 10 to complete a 20? That's going to happen sometimes, and you're going to lose more than you win when you split 8's against a 10. It's not a winning move, but it's a great defensive measure. Each hand that starts with 8 is in a much stronger position than a hand that starts with hard 16. With the split, you'll win one or both hands often enough that you'll lose only about half as much money by splitting the 8s as you would have by playing out the 16.
Blackjack vs. ace: If you've played much blackjack, you know the drill. You have an ace and a 10 value, and the dealer has an ace up. The dealer asks if you want even money. Some even urge you to take it. "The only sure win in the casino," I've been told.
Problem is, that sure win costs you money. Let's say you have a $10 bet. Take even money, and you take a sure $10 payoff. Decline, and you'll win $15 if the dealer has anything but a 10 value face down, but you just get your bet back if the dealer has 10, jack, queen or king.
Taking even money would be a break-even play if a third of the cards were 10 values. But since 10 values are only 30.8% of cards, your blackjacks are worth more in the long run if you decline even money. Sometimes you'll groan when the dealer has blackjack and you get no payoff, but those 3-2 payoffs when you win are worth the occasional pain.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at email@example.com.
Best of John Grochowski