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20 September 2013
By Mark Pilarski
Dear Mark: A couple of thoughts from this avid fan of your weekly gaming advice column related to the Q&A about what do to with a pair of sixes against a dealer's deuce in a blackjack game.
First, I am amazed that there are literally scores of blackjack cards (you state you're in possession of 40). Assuming that each has slightly different advice, that ought to tell players about their reliability/accuracy. I continue to be amazed (i.e. turned off) by people who vehemently proclaim "the book says..." or "the chart says..." Do these folks understand that the chart is not a document Moses received when he went to the mountaintop?
Second, when I started playing decades ago, the first piece of advice I received was, “Always split aces and eights. Never split fours.” Now, the rule has changed, and "the book says" to split fours against fives and sixes. I understand that the change probably is a product of vastly increased computer power that allows far larger simulations, but the fact that a fundamental rule has been so "flexible," again suggests that the people who believe "the card" contains some form of Eternal Truth ought to lighten up. Bob W.
For the most part, Bob, the basic strategy on the majority of strategy cards runs parallel to all blackjack games, but rule variations call for some deviation. That is why each blackjack game has its own individual basic strategy.
Just Google (under Images) "blackjack strategy card" and you will notice some subtle differences among the multitude of cards that exist, strategy cards that are particular to some standard blackjack rule sets below.
• 1 Deck, Dealer Stands on All 17s
• 1 Deck, Dealer Hits Soft 17
• 2 Decks, Dealer Stands on All 17s
• 2 Decks, Dealer Hits Soft 17
• 4/6/8 Decks, Dealer Stands on All 17s
• 4/6/8 Decks, Dealer Hits Soft 17
You will also find rule variations within the games mentioned above, like splitting pairs, and games both with and without doubling after splits. Getting my point, Bob?
Unquestionably, players will forever quibble over discrepancies between the different strategy cards, but what is not up for debate is the value of using basic strategy over just winging it. The Average Joe who plays haphazardly usually gives up an additional five percent to the house. For players who follow basic strategy and do not systematically change their bet size, the house edge for blackjack games quoted by casinos, gaming regulators, and Yours Truly is between 0.5% and 1%.
Now, Bob, lets you and I center our attention on splitting those 4’s. In my humble opinion, I do not believe you should “always” split 4’s against a dealer showing a five or a six. I would recommend that the only time you should split 4’s is if you are on a multi-deck game (6-8 decks), and the casino allows you to double down after the split. If permitted, then split those 4’s against a dealer 5 or 6. If doubling after splits is not allowed, the proper play is to treat your pair of 4’s as a total of eight, and then just hit them.
Am I spot-on regarding the above statement? Not a chance! However, I can produce 10 strategy cards that agree with me, 10 that don’t. We will have to wait for Moses to weigh in and break the tie.
Gambling Wisdom of the Week: Scobe's Seventh Law: "All blackjack players are experts who are, unfortunately, willing to share their advice for free." - Frank Scoblete
13 September 2013Dear Mark: When I play roulette, I take your recommendation and search for a European wheel with the single zero. Single zero games are rare. While chatting over some different wagers with me on my last casino visit, the dealer mentioned a bet in roulette that begins with the letter "L." Do you know what wager he was talking about? Bruce S. ... (read more)
6 September 2013Dear Mark: While on a cruise playing blackjack, there were two players and myself playing on the table. The first player was dealt a blackjack, the other player had a thirteen, while I, playing third base, had a seven. The dealer had an Ace as an up-card, and proceeded to offer even money to the player who on first base had a blackjack. ... (read more)
30 August 2013Dear Mark: Are the cards behind the initial five shown already in place behind each shown card, or are they dealt off the top of a deck? For example, the cards are shown in this order: 4-5-5-6-7. Does it matter which five you hold or throw away trying for the straight? Frank K. Back in the day, Frank, most video poker machines operated using parallel dealing. ... (read more)