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Blackjack Bob Bombs

17 April 2022

Blackjack Bob and I hadn't spoken in a while. I picked up the phone on the off chance he had time at the same time I did.

"Glad you called," he said. "I had a hand for the ages last week, and not in a good way."

I figured this had to be more costly than your average losing hand, so I asked if it involves splitting pairs or doubling down.

"Both," he said. "I played it by the book, but it was an unmitigated disaster. We both know that happens."

Yep, I agreed. Basic strategy plays are probabilities, not guarantees. On something like a pair of 8s against a 10, you'll average a smaller loss by splitting than by playing out the hand as 16. But sometimes you'll just lose two bets.

"This was something like that, except I lost SEVEN BETS."

Ouch. That'll put you in a hole in a hurry.

"Tell me about it," Bob said. "It started innocently enough. Six-deck game, dealer hits soft 17, double after split allowed. I was dealt 2-2 against the dealer's 7, so I split the pair."

Of course, I said. Basic strategy calls for splitting 2s if the dealer has anything from 2 through 7. Exceptions, you just hit the hand if you're not allowed to double after splits.

"It's one of my favorite hands that a lot of people miss. You turn the probability from loss if you hit or stand to a small profit if you hit."

I called up the hand calculator at wizardofodds.com. Under the rules Bob was playing, average outcomes are a 47.5-cent loss per dollar wagered if you stand, an 8.9-cent loss if you hit, but a profit of a tad under 1 cent -- 0.85 cents to be more precise -- per dollar of your original wager if you split.

"And those averages include things like what happened to me," Bob said.

"I bet $25 and I split my original 2-2. On hand No. 1 was dealt another 2 and resplit.

"Back to hand No. 1. Next card was a 9. I doubled and was dealt a 5 for 16.

"On hand No. 2, I drew a 4, then a 5, then a 3 for 14. The basic strategy play is to hit 14 against 7 as you know. I did what I must, drew an 8 and busted.

"On hand No. 3, ANOTHER 2 came up. I split those, and another $25 was on the line. I drew an 8. Time to double down again. This time I drew a 7, so I had 17.

"Finally, I drew another 8 on the last 2, doubled down again, and drew a 3."

What Bob had was a hot mess. One hand had busted and he had doubles on 16, 17 and 13.

"Yes it was. I could hope for a dealer bust. If she turned up 10 for 17, I'd at least salvage a push on one double."

No such luck?

"No," Bob said, "but at least it was quick. The dealer had an Ace down, so she had 18 and beat all my hands. So the final outcome: I lost two $25 bets on the first double down; one $25 bet on the bust hand; two $25 bets on the double down that was a 17, and two $25 bets on the double down that was a 13.

"That's a $175 loss on what started as one $25 bet.

"This isn't my first go-round and we've all seen those swings before. But man, it's still exasperating."
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski