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Switcheroo allowed with this blackjack hybrid

23 February 2007

Dear Mark: I just returned from a stay at Harrah's Reno where they were pushing a new game called Blackjack Switch. The player must make two bets of equal size and is dealt two hands. The player then can switch the second card of each hand to improve one or both hands before standing or hitting. The catch is that a Dealer "22" is a push, not a player win, and a player's blackjack pays even money.

Gee, why do I smell a trap here? Only the second cards can be switched, the house doesn't lose when the dealer busts with 22 (the player loses with 22), and a player's blackjack is even money even if dealt before switching. Was I right to give this "opportunity" a wide berth? Mike H.

You're not smelling a trap, Mike, but perfume. What is considered cheating, that of trading cards between two hands, is now legal for those who play Blackjack Switch. Players must make two bets of equal size and they are then allowed to switch the second card dealt to each hand. For example, you are dealt a seven and then a six on one hand, and a five followed by a three on the other. Normally this would give you a 13 and an 8. With Blackjack Switch you can now switch the second card dealt, the six with the three, and you now have two great hands to double down with 5+6 (11) and 7+3 (10).

Granted, Mike, a winning player's blackjack is paid even money, and the dealer is compensated with a push on 22, but, using perfect basic strategy similar to, but — due to the push on a 22 — not exactly like conventional blackjack, the house edge is 0.16% with six decks and 0.18% with eight decks.

Dear Mark: I was recently playing in a tournament, and I was on the button. The cards are dealt and the person first to act goes all in with her chips (about 3,000). The next guy to act re-raises her all in to 6,000 and everyone else folds. When it comes around to me, I call the 6,000 raise, and when they get back to the lady that went all in with her 3,000, she throws her hand in. Another player at the table informs her that she is already "all-in" for her 3,000 chips, to which she replies, "I don't care, I cannot win." But, after some convincing from the player, she asks the dealer for her cards back, which he gives to her. When I asked if this was legal, I was told it was because her cards did not actually touch the muck pile, or another dead card. I thought that the "act" of her throwing her cards in was enough. Can you clarify for me? Eric R.

As for casino Hold'em games, Eric, the rule is that "cards speak." Your poker hand is what it is, regardless of how you call or miscall it. Any verbal declaration as to the content of a player's hand is not binding. If she claimed that the hand is worthless, but in fact she had a straight, her cards speak, and her hand is viewed for its genuine value, that of a straight. Her about-face was legit as long as her cards didn't touch the muck, the pile of discarded cards in front of the dealer, or another player's cards.

That said, I have seen a poker room manager foul a hand of a player who continuously miscalled their hands; but it's discretionary, and it did correct the behavior.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "You can't gamble by the clock. Time can place a limitation on pleasure." Nick the Greek Dandalos

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Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.