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# Doubles and soft hands at blackjack

23 December 2018

I’ve often mentioned Bob, my blackjack-playing friend and a retired high school math teacher. A little over a year ago, I also wrote about Mike, Bob’s son, a middle-school science teacher who was drilling himself on strategy for soft doubling.

Mike got in touch with me recently to say he’d mastered soft doubling, but was having a run of bad luck on the hands when playing for money.

“Drilling on the computer worked like a charm,” Mike said. “Once I was getting 100% on trial after trial, I was confident I could apply it in the casinos.

“What’s happened recently is that I’ve been getting small cards on my soft doubles. I double on soft 14, draw a 2 and I’m stuck with a 16 unless the dealer busts. The dealer hasn’t been busting.”

We all run into streaks like that, I told Mike. All you can do is trust the math, make the right plays and take the good times with the bad.

“I do trust the math,” Mike said. “I could hardly do otherwise with Bob as my father. What I was hoping is that you could give me some of the statistics behind soft doubling. I’ll take solace in that until my next winning session.”

I gave Mike a full list of average double down results for each possible soft double opportunity. The list is lengthy and would take up more words than this column is allotted. For now, let’s focus on the soft 14 Mike mentioned.

Assume a six-deck game in which the dealer hits soft 17. Here are the average results per dollar of your original wager for A-3 against each dealer up card:

A-3 vs. 2: Stand, lose 28.5 cents; hit, win 2.2 cents; double, lose 6.4 cents.

A-3 vs. 3: Stand, lose 24.6 cents; hit, win 5.0 cents; double, lose 0.1 cents.

A-3 vs. 4: Stand, lose 19.9 cents; hit, win 8.3 cents; double, win 7.0 cents.

A-3 vs. 5: Stand, lose 15.7 cents; hit, win 11.6 cents; double, win 14.0 cents.

A-3 vs. 6: Stand, lose 11.5 cents; hit, win 14.6 cents; double, win 20.1 cents.

A-3 vs. 7: Stand, lose 47.3 cents; hit, win 7.7 cents; double, lose 18.2 cents.

A-3 vs. 8: Stand, lose 51.0 cents; hit, win 1.6 cents; double, lose 30.6 cents.

A-3 vs. 9: Stand, lose 54.1 cents; hit, lose 7.2 cents; double, lose 44.6 cents.

A-3 vs. 10: Stand, lose 54.0 cents; hit, lose 13.7 cents double, lose 50.1 cents.

A-3 vs. Ace: Stand, lose 59.7 cents; hit, lose 13.5 cents; double, lose 58.4 cents.

Note that against every dealer up card, the worst option is to stand on A-3. That’s obvious when the dealer has a 7 or higher and can make a standing hand with a one-card hit, but hitting or doubling is less ingrained in some players when the dealer has 6 or lower.

When the dealer shows anywhere from 2 through 8, hitting turns a losing hand into a winner more often than not. You’ll still lose some hands, of course, but on the average hitting is a profitable play.

Best of all comes when the dealer has 5 or 6 up, and you’ll average bigger wins by doubling than by hitting. That’s why the basic strategy chart tells you to double on those hands.

As Mike knows too well, sometimes a low card comes after your double and you’re stuck with a weak hand. There are no guarantees, but the play that gives you the best chance at profit is to double A-3 vs. 5 or 6.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
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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.