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Best of Mark Pilarski
Deal Me In: Cheating maneuver allowed on this variant of blackjack7 December 2007
Dear Mark: Have you ever heard of a blackjack game where you are allowed to switch cards between two of your own hands? My friend says he's played it, but I can't believe a casino would allow you to do it. Tim A.
Yes, Tim, there is such a game where casino allows the players to do what would normally put them in the slammer, swap cards between two hands.
Called Blackjack Switch, it is a mutant form of blackjack where a player is dealt two hands and is allowed to trade cards between hands. For example, if the player is dealt a 10-5 and a 6-10, the player can switch the top two cards of each hand to make hands of 10-10 and 6-5. Seemingly, Tim, this is a great rule that favors the player, but unfortunately any gain is offset by the other rules that favor the house. Natural blackjacks are paid 1:1 instead of the standard 3:2, and a dealer 22 is a push.
Blackjack Switch is very popular online, but it hasn't caught on yet at land-based casinos. Although I haven't had a whack at it with live play, at the kitchen table I must say it's fun switching those cards around, even with rules that counter any advantage gained by being allowed to interchange them.
Dear Mark: Is there ever a good time to play on a multiple-deck game? It seems every casino today uses eight decks. Marty D.
Alert readers of this column are suspicious of multiple-deck games and have been schooled in the past that it is to their advantage to play blackjack on a game that trots behind the fewest decks possible. They know a two-deck game handicaps their play by about 0.35%, four decks, 0.48%, six decks, 0.54% and eight decks 0.58%.
So, Marty, although it is usually a good idea to stay away from an eight-deck game, since the casino's added 0.58% advantage makes it a less attractive play for you, as you state, sometimes it's the only game in town. To neutralize that edge, you need to look for liberal rules, like surrender, both early and late, doubling down allowed on any two cards, doubling allowed after splitting pairs, multiple pair splitting allowed, re-splitting aces, dealers that stand on a soft 17, and deep-deck penetration. If you can find these playing conditions, along with your using perfect basic strategy, I'll rubber-stamp "Okay to Play."
Dear Mark: I had a bit of a beef between a player this weekend on a blackjack game and it involved hitting an ace/seven against a nine. I was playing third base, I hit it, but by doing so I ended up taking the dealer's bust card (a jack), which would have went with her nine/six. The dealer instead deals another six for a 21, causing first base to blow up and yell at me for misplaying my hand. Did I? Don B.
Whether or not to hit a soft 18 (ace/seven) when faced against a dealer's nine is probably one of the most misplayed hands in blackjack, yet you, Don, played it properly. The correct strategy for a soft 18 is to stand against a 2, 7, 8, double versus a 3-6, and hit against a 9, 10 or ace.
If you stand on a soft 18, no matter the dealer's up card is, you will win approximately 8 out of every 20 hands. But if you hit until you reach a soft 19 or hard 17, you would win about 9 out of every 20 hands.
Gambling Wisdom of the Week:
Question: What's the difference between a poker player and a dog?
Answer: In about ten years, the dog quits whining. (CasinoWire.com)
Best of Mark Pilarski