Stay informed with the
Recent Articles
Best of Fred Renzey

# Can You Tell a Bad Blackjack Player from a Good One?

18 January 2008

Once a blackjack player learns some proper basic strategy, he rather quickly tends to assume he's an expert at the game. If another player at the table makes a play that doesn't fit into his own repertoire, he'll likely assume that player is a sucker.

In reality, even most experienced veterans haven't bothered to learn all of their proper hand playing strategy. Worse yet, they're unaware that the science of playing some hands can extend beyond "basic" strategy. Oftentimes, the guy who blames another for making a "bad" play is actually a weaker player of the two.

To prove my point, I'm going to give you two lists containing five plays each. One list is all bad plays – sucker moves. The other contains plays that are either flat out correct basic moves, or are so close that they become correct under many conditions. See if you can recognize which list is which.

Player #1

Hits 12 against a 4
Doubles A/8 against a 6
Hits 12 against a 3
Splits 9/9 against an 8
Stands on 8/4/4 against 10

Player #2

Stands on A/7 against a 9
Doubles A/3 against a 3
Insures 20 against an Ace
Stands on A/7 against 3
Stands on 8/4/4 against 7

Which player is the real sucker? The answer? It's player #2. So -- are you one of those people who always thinks the other guy is the idiot? Here's what makes #2's plays so bad.

A/7 vs. 9) 18 against a dealer's 9 is an underdog hand, regardless of whether it's 10/8, A/7 or 9/9. Standing with any of them will win 8 times out of 20. But if it's an A/7 and you hit it, you'll win 9 out of 20. So take your pick –- eight wins or nine wins.

A/3 vs. 3) Conventional table play here is wrong. When you double with A/3, eight hit cards out of 13 will give you a "stiff". With such a low hand completion percentage, you need the dealer to be showing a 5 or 6 up to make doubling down correct. Many other low soft hands against low dealer up-cards fall into this exact same category.

20 vs. Ace) The worst time to bet the dealer has a 10 in the hole is when you're holding two of them yourself. Want to see that a little clearer? Suppose all seven players held 20 against the dealer's Ace up. Which one of them should insure his 20?

A/7 vs. 3) This hand is a favorite to win -– even when you take one blind hit to it. If you can't double the stakes when you're holding the longer end of the stick, what are you gambling for?

8/4/4 vs. 7) With a 7 up, the dealer will break roughly 2 times out of 8. Yet, if you hit your 16, you'll improve it 3 times out of 8. Standing on any kind of 16 against a 7 is the sure mark of a clueless player.

Now what about player #1's moves? He's the guy who'll get bashed by the others for hitting 12 against a 4. Yet it's such a close play that depending upon the other cards on board, hitting is actually correct in about 40% of the cases.

Know-it-alls seem to also go ballistic when somebody doubles on an A/8. Yet, if the dealer hits on soft 17, it's actually correct basic strategy to double A/8 against a 6. In fact, if lots of little cards are on the board, it's basically correct to double A/8 against a 5 or 6 no matter what the dealer does on soft 17.

As for hitting 12 against a 3 and splitting a pair of 9s against an 8, those are simply proper basic strategy plays the typical pseudo-expert doesn't know he's supposed to make.

Finally, you often need such a perfect hit card with 16 against a 10 that if your hand contains any 4s or 5s, you should now stand. Hitting 16 against a 10 in blackjack is analogous to drawing to an inside straight in poker. Where hitting 16 against a 7 is analogous to an open-end straight draw. You've got way more winning "outs" against the 7 up.

Recent Articles
Best of Fred Renzey
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

#### Books by Fred Renzey:

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