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Switch on Blackjack Switch15 October 2015
There’s a lot to like about it, with the chance to turn weak hands into strong ones by switching cards between two hands, and the house edge of 0.58% in a six-deck game with standard rules is right in line with regular blackjack.
Naturally enough, the first focus for most players in on switching strategy. You’re dealt two hands, and you have the opportunity to swap the second cards on each hand.
If one hand has a 5 on the first card and an ace on the second, and your other hand has a 10 on the first card and a 6 on the second, you’re not stuck with a soft 16 and a hard 16. You can flop the two second cards – the ace and the 6, so you have 5-6 and 10-ace. Blackjacks pay only even money in Switch, but an 11 and a blackjack is still a strong position.
That’s an easy call, but there are much tougher decisions on when to split. Let’s say the dealer shows a 7 and you have ace-7 and 10-9, a soft 18 and hard 19. Do you flop the 7 and 9 so you have your strongest possible single hand, a 20, along with a 17? No. Your average return will be higher with 18 and 19 than 20 and 17.
But switching strategies aren’t all you need to know about the game. There’s a wrinkle in the rules that forces some basic strategy changes when it comes time to play out the hands.
The rule that creates a little havoc is that dealer totals of 22 don’t bust. Instead, a dealer 22 pushes all player hands except blackjacks. If you have a blackjack, you still win, but if you’re sitting with other 21s, 20 or any other total and the dealer pulls a 22, you don’t win the hand. You just get your money back.
Some standard plays become less valuable when 22 isn’t a dealer bust. You double down and split pairs less often in Blackjack Switch than in standard six-deck blackjack.
Take double down hands. In standard six-deck blackjack, you’ll double down on 11 against all dealer up cards if the dealer hits soft 17, and against all but aces if the dealer stands on all 17s. In Switch, you don’t double on 11 against 10 values or aces.
If you have a two-card 10, you double against 2 through 9 in most games, but only 2 through 8 in Switch.
With a two-card 9, standard strategy is to double against 3 through 6. In Switch, you’ll double down only if the dealer shows a 6.
Doubling on soft hands is much less common in Switch than in standard blackjack. In Switch, the only soft hands on which you double down are ace-5, ace-6 and ace-7. With ace-5, you’ll double only against a dealer’s 6, and with ace-6 and ace-6, only against a 5 or 6.
Compare that to standard blackjack, where you’ll double on ace-2 or ace-3 against 5 or 6; on ace-4 or ace-5 against 4, 5 or 6, and on ace-6 against 3, 4, 5 or 6. You double on soft totals in Switch, and on the totals that do have double opportunities, you double against fewer dealer up cards.
I enjoy the game, but the changes take some getting used to. You can find full strategies both for switching cards and for hit-stand-double-split decisions from Michael Shackelford at wizardofodds.com.
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Best of John Grochowski