Stay informed with the
Recent Articles
Best of Fred Renzey

# Hand Interaction: The Neglected Side of Blackjack Strategy

10 May 2003

As soon as a blackjack player learns all his basic strategy, he usually either progresses to card counting or stagnates right where he's at. That's because most people think there's nothing in between. Ahh, but there is!

What would you do if the player next to you had a pair of 7s against a 3, but was out of money? So he asked you if you'd like to put up a bet and take one of his 7s so he could split the other. Should you do it?

Or what if that same player had a \$25 bet up and was dealt a total of 9 against the dealer's 7, and decided to double down for just an extra \$10? Should you offer to fill in the remaining available \$15?

These and many other "hand interaction" opportunities come up every time you play blackjack. Yet, most players don't know what to do with them. You know why? It's because you play blackjack by rote. You stand with 12 against the dealer's 6 not because you've figured out the odds, but because somebody else has and told you the answer. But if you knew all those odds, you'd know what to do with the two hands described above.

Let me show you how many ways you could gain an edge by interacting with other player's hands at the blackjack table. Following is a "Hand Interaction" quiz. Use your best blackjack card sense to answer them. The questions have been designed for the six-deck shoe, but would apply virtually the same way to hand held games. You've already seen questions #1 and #2.

3) An acquaintance next to you has blackjack against an Ace up for \$50. He's the type who always takes even money and you've told him it's a bad play. So he turns to you and says, "Well then, give me \$51 and you can have my hand." Should you buy it?

4) You have 18 against an 8 for \$25. The player next to you offers you \$26 for your hand. Should you sell it and take the \$1 guaranteed profit or just gamble on maybe pushing, maybe winning and maybe losing?

5) You and the player next to you have been taking each other's action all day and now you have 7/7 against a deuce. What's your best percentage move?

6) Now you've got 17 against a 7 for \$25. The guy next to you offers \$24 for your hand. Do you sell it or play it?

1) No. Splitting 7/7 against a 3 is proper basic strategy only because it loses less than playing a 14. But each 7 still loses money. As a bystander, you have no loss to reduce, so just stay out of this one.

2) Yes. Doubling down with 9 against a 7 is the wrong play for the person holding the hand because it makes less money than just hitting. But even when taking just one card, it still wins 53% of the time. Get your money over there.

3) Buy. Four times out of thirteen you'll lose \$51 and nine times you'll win \$24. Even when paying this 2% bonus, you'll still have roughly a 2% edge on the deal.

4) Play your hand out. A made 18 against an 8 up is a 5-to-4 favorite. Your edge lies in buying somebody else's 18 against an 8 when they have one. Paying an extra dollar on each \$25 still gives you a 6% edge.

5) Give him one of your 7s and split the other. If you stand, you'll lose 65% of the time. If you split both 7s, you'll lose two hands 54% of the time each. But if you give one away, you'll lose just one hand 54% of the time.

6) Your hand is a 5-to-4 underdog. Dump it. Giving away \$1 on the deal is cheaper than losing nearly \$3 by playing it out (your averaged expected loss).

Counting pair splits, double downs, buyouts and selloffs, there are over 50 profitable hand interaction deals you can make with players at your table. If you don't want to learn to count cards, you can still help yourself significantly by learning the odds and wheeling deals at the table.

How much can it help? The typical hand interaction play renders about a 6% edge. The trick is to interact with players who bet higher than you do. If you can make one deal every half hour for triple the amount of your own bets, you can completely wipe out a typical six-deck basic strategy disadvantage.

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:

Blackjack Bluebook II
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:

Blackjack Bluebook II