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Best of John Grochowski

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Splitting 10s Is a Bad Play

11 July 2006

Al is an old friend, someone I've known since before I played my first hand of video poker, took my first spin of the reels on a slot machine or bought my first book on blackjack basic strategy.

Not since before I'd played my first hand of blackjack, though. I'd put in my time as a bad blackjack player before learning when to hit, stand, double down and split pairs.

Al knows all the basic strategy plays. And he knows he shouldn't split 10s.

He does it anyway, at least when the dealer's face up card is a 6.

"The way I look at it," he told me, "is that with a 20 against a 6, I have an advantage. But I also have an advantage with a 10 against a 6. And when I have an advantage, I have to take full advantage by getting my money on the table, right? The way to increase my bet and maximize my advantage is to split the pair."

Other players don't always see it that way.

"Oh, they get mad at me," Al said with a laugh. "They think I'm taking extra cards and somehow that's going to keep the dealer from busting. They lecture me, yell at me, and when things go badly and I do take the dealer's bust card, I've even had people leave the table, screaming all the way. One woman threw her cards at me once. They don't seem to notice when I save the table, when the cards I take would have given the dealer a 21."

I told him I was with him that far. Extra cards you take are as likely to help other players as to hurt them. A smart player treats bad plays by others as if they don't matter, because in the long run, they don't. If you can't bring yourself to do that, the next best thing is to walk away if another player is upsetting you, just for your own peace of mind. But do it without badgering the other player --- he has the right to play his own hand as he sees fit.

"I knew you'd agree with that. But you said 'bad play.' I take it you disagree with me on splitting the 10s."

Yep. Splitting 10s is a bad play, one a non-card counter should never make. It is true that once you split 10s against a 6, you still have an advantage, and it is true that splitting the pair enables you to get more money on the table in a situation in which you have the edge. That's important. When we double down, for instance, it's because we're in a situation in which we have an edge, and we want to take full advantage by increasing our bets. We lose more hands than we win at blackjack, so a big part of being a successful player is maximizing profits when we have an edge.

But --- and this is a very big "but" --- our edge when we have 20 vs. a dealer's 6 is MUCH larger than when we have 10 vs. a dealer's 6. Starting with 20, we win an average of $70 per $100 in wagers. Split the pair and start with two hands of 10 vs. a dealer's 6, and our profits decrease to $43 per $100 in original wagers.

Let's say we're making $10 wagers, and we face the decision on whether to split 10s vs. a 6 100 times. Stand on the 20, and for our $1,000 in total wagers, we expect our profit to average $700. Split the 10s instead, adding another $10 wager each time, and we increase our risk to $2,000. While we're increasing our risk, our average profits drop to $430.

More risk, less profit is not the way you maximize an advantage.

Al took all that in, and gave it a big "maybe."

"I didn't realize the numbers were that extreme," he said. "Maybe I'll cut back a little."

Just cut back?

"I've gotten to where I enjoy the looks on other players' faces when I split."

I tried.

* * * *

A couple of notes from the Chicago area boats:

**A while back, slot director Don Juzwiak from the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City asked me to evaluate their video poker. He wanted Blue Chip to be competitive with the best video poker casinos in northwest Indiana, he said.

Now, I'm told, the upgrade is complete, with a number of games that will bring players 99-percent-plus with expert play. I'll go take another look, and report back soon.

**Harrah's in Joliet has opened the new Mosaic restaurant and Sheer cocktail lounge, aimed at bringing spirit and atmosphere of Las Vegas to Joliet. Mosaic, open 4-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday, offers a wide range of foods from Asian to Tex-Mex, with a stop for burgers and steaks. Entrees range from $8.95 to $25.95.

Sheer, meanwhile, is a stylish lounge with martinis and specialty cocktails along with beer and wine. It's open 4 p.m.-midnight Sunday-Thursday, and 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com, and to his casino talk show from 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday on WCKG-FM (105.9), streaming at http://1059freefm.com.

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:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski