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Best of John Grochowski

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The Casino Answer Man

4 July 2000

Q. Here is a question about a murky corner of the basic strategy table for blackjack: Do you hit or stand on soft hands with three or more cards?

The only blackjack book I have at hand is Henry Tamburin's Blackjack: Take the Money and Run. Tamburin says, "As a general rule, a player should never stand on a soft hand that totals 17 or less." I read this to include hands with three or more cards as well as hands with two cards.

I recently purchased an application that allows many ways of practicing blackjack. The application is a solid piece of work that takes into account most rules variations. Plenty of knowledge and care have gone into its creation. If I follow Tamburin's dictum with a soft hand of 17 or less, I get scored with an error. The default strategy table in the application follows the rules for hard hands with all hands of three or more cards.

Example: Dealer's upcard is a 3. You are dealt a 2, a 3 and an Ace. You have a total of either 6 or 16. The way I read Tamburin indicates that the best play is a hit. The application says I should stand.

Am I misinterpreting Tamburin's rule?

By the way, when do you predict that casinos in the area will stop offering blackjack altogether? I don't play often, but it seems that blackjack tables are becoming rarer and rarer.

DG, via e-mail

A. It seems your blackjack application is not quite as solid as you would like to think. It is leading you astray on soft hands.

You are not reading Tamburin wrong. He is correct and your application is in error. It's giving you a strategy play for 16 while failing to take into account that you can't bust soft hands with a one-card draw.

Look at it this way. If you stand on soft 16, how can you win? The only way is if the dealer busts. If instead you hit, what's the worst that can happen? You can't bust the hand, so the worst you wind up with is another hand that can win only if the dealer busts.

There is no downside to hitting the hand, and the upside is that you could draw a low card that will turn your hand into a winner.

As for the diminishing presence of blackjack in local casinos, I don't think it can go too much lower in the mix of games. More than half of all table wagers are on blackjack. As much as table games managers might want to experiment with games with higher house edges, blackjack is their bread and butter.

Q. Why don't you write more about baccarat?

Elvis, via e-mail

A. Elvis? Really? A viva Las Vegas to you, sir.

I try to get to baccarat about twice a year. The problem is that it is essentially a guessing game. Which hand is going to be closer to 9, player or banker? The bettor makes no strategy decisions, leaving not much for analysts except money management and betting systems.

Q. How much lower can the pay table be on Bonus Poker compared with Jacks or Better and still have Bonus Poker be a better game? Is 7-5 Bonus Poker better than 8-5 Jacks or Better? How about 6-5 Bonus Poker?

Frank R., via e-mail

A. The four-of-a-kind bonuses on Bonus Poker add about 1.9 percent to our payback - 8-5 Jacks or Better is a 97.3 percent game with expert play, while 8-5 Bonus Poker is a 99.2 percent game.

On the other hand, we lose about 1.1 percent for every unit decrease in full house or flush payback. So 7-5 Jacks or Better is a 96.2 percent game, and 7-5 Bonus Poker is a 98.1 percenter. Add all that up, and Bonus Poker is a better-paying game whenever the return per coin wagered on full houses and flushes is within one unit of the return on Jacks or Better.

That means 7-5 Bonus Poker is a better game than 8-5 Jacks or Better, and 6-5 Bonus Poker beats 7-5 Jacks or Better, but 6-5 Bonus Poker is not as good as 8-5 Jacks or Better. At the top of the line, 9-6 version of Jacks or Better, with higher pays on both full houses and flushes, is a better game than 8-5 Bonus Poker.


For more information about slots and video poker, we recommend:

The Slot Machine Answer Book by John Grochowski
The Video Poker Answer Book by John Grochowski
Break the One-Armed Bandits! by Frank Scoblete
Victory at Video Poker and Video Craps, Keno and Blackjack! by Frank Scoblete
Slot Conquest Audio Cassette Tape (60 minutes) with Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Slots & Video Poker! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete

For more information about blackjack, we recommend:

The Casino Answer Book by John Grochowski
Best Blackjack by Frank Scoblete
The Morons of Blackjack and Other Monsters! by Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Blackjack! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
Blackjack: Take the Money and Run by Henry Tamburin

For more information about baccarat, we recommend:

The Baccarat Battle Book: How to Attack the Game of Baccarat by Frank Scoblete
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:

The Craps Answer Book

> 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