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# All Those Little Blackjack Mistakes Add Up

21 March 2008

I just returned from a Caribbean cruise. One of the men at our evening dinner table was also a frequent blackjack player in the casino, and I mentioned I had written a blackjack book.

So, one morning, the two of us kicked back out on the sun deck, and discussed various strategy points of the game. I had already seen him make the mistakes of a typical player, and he wanted to know what was wrong with them. Here's what we covered.

Even Money: Our first topic was taking Even Money on blackjack against an Ace, which he had always done. I explained that when the dealer has an Ace up against your blackjack, she's got almost exactly 4 chances out of 13 to have a 10 in the hole.

So, say you bet \$20 and have blackjack against an Ace 13 times. If you always take Even Money, you'll collect \$20 all 13 times for a total payoff of \$260. But if you just let it go, you'll push those 4 times the dealer has the 10 underneath – then get paid \$30 the other 9 times for a net payoff of \$270. This is just a sample cross-section of how you'll do each way with all those blackjacks over your lifetime.

Although the difference boils down to a little less than a dollar per hand at these stakes, you'll generally be dealt about 85 hands per hour. This is only one mistake. It's typical for a \$20 bettor to throw away \$20 per hour in pure mistakes. Now here's another one.

11 against a Face: This fellow didn't double down with 11 if the dealer showed a 10. Fact is, if you just hit your 11 against a 10 up, you'll go 39/31 after you have this hand 70 times (adjusting for pushes). But if you double down and buy a small card, you'll be stuck standing on a "stiff" (12 through 16). Perhaps surprisingly, that'll only reduce your overall won/lost record to 38/32.

Now think it over. Winning 39 and losing 31 at \$20 apiece earns \$160 net. Winning 38 and losing 32 at \$40 each earns \$240. That's 50% more net profit on the fourth best starting hand you can ever be dealt. But it's only the fourth best hand if you optimize all its potential.

Ace/Tiny vs. Tiny: Like most players, he also didn't differentiate between hands like A/3 against a 3 -- and A/6 against a 6. He just doubled them all. I explained the key difference.

When you take one hit to any hand from A/2 through A/5, there are only 5 cards out of 13 that will give you a "made" hand (17 through 21). With A/2 for example, the only cards that would help you are a 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8. With the other eight cards, you'll be stuck holding a stiff, needing a dealer bust.

But when you have A/6 or A/7, it's exactly reversed. Now you'll make a completed hand 8 times out of 13 (check for yourself). Since you won't need a dealer bust nearly as often, you should double down much more aggressively with A/6 and A/7 (do it against any 3, 4, 5 or 6). But with the "Ace/Tiny" hands like A/2 or A/3, you need the dealer to be showing her very weakest up-cards (5 or 6). As a simple guide, you can just remember this rule of thumb; Ace/Tiny against a Tiny is a bad double.

12 against a "13": Here's a misnomer that gets most players into a world of trouble, including my new friend. Incorrectly assuming the dealer has a 10 in the hole, they look at their 12 against a 3 and call it "12 against a 13".

If the dealer really did have 13, then yes, you should really stand. The problem is that, in reality, the dealer will have some other card in the hole roughly 70% of the time. If you stand, you'll need a dealer bust –- or you're dead. And with a 3 up, the dealer busts just 37% of the time. Hit that hand.

Fix these and the other slew of mistakes you're probably making, and you'll save one whole bet an hour, on average.

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Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send \$9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

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Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send \$9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009