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Best of Henry Tamburin

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Advanced basic strategy

11 December 2009

It's no secret that the basic playing strategy is the optimal way to play your hand when the only information you consider is your hand total and the dealer's upcard. This scientifically accurate strategy will cut the house edge to a measly half a percent or so, depending upon the precise rules. But, you can do even better than this by employing some advanced basic strategy plays.

Suppose you are a dealt a 16 against a dealer's 10 (and surrender is not available). The traditional basic playing strategy (often referred to as "total-dependent" strategy) states to HIT your 16, because in the long run, you will lose less money compared to standing. However, what the traditional basic strategy doesn't consider is the make-up of the hand. It turns out that there is a difference between a hand that totals 16 consisting of a two-card 10-6, or 9-7, and another containing, for example, a three-card 4-5-7. Yes, both hands total 16, but with the three-card 16, you are better off STANDING, whereas with the two-card 16, you should HIT.

The reason you should stand on a 16 when your hand contains three or more cards is because your hand contains one (or more) small-value cards that are no longer available in the pack of unplayed cards. These small cards are exactly what you need to make a pat hand when you hit your 16. The fact that a few of them are not available (remember, they are already in your hand) is just enough to shift the odds toward standing rather than hitting.

Another hand where your strategy is dependent upon the make-up of the cards is a starting total of 12 against a dealer's 4 up card. Total-dependent basic strategy states to stand on 12 against a dealer 4. However, there are, in fact, four different ways to be dealt a 12: 10-2, 9-3, 8-4 and 7-5 (6-6 would be considered separately, as a pair to be split), and in the specific case of 10-2, you are slightly better off HITTING against the dealer's 4, whereas with 9-3, 8-4, and 7-5, you are better off STANDING.

Here's another advanced playing technique advocated by author and playing expert Fred Renzey that can further reduce the house edge: make a bet on another player's hand. You might think this is a strange play, but it is perfectly legal (as long as the player allows you to make a bet on his hand). Why would you want to bet on another player's hand? Because with some hands, a player might have a big edge and not realize it, allowing you the opportunity to take advantage of the situation. Here's an example.

Suppose the player next to you bets $20 and is dealt a 7-4 against a dealer's 10. The player might know that the basic strategy for this play is to double down but he may be reluctant to push out another $20 with the dealer showing a 10, so instead he shoves out $10 worth of chips and doubles for less. According to Renzey, "This is when you should spring into action, toss $10 in chips to him, and tell him, 'I'll go with you on this one, partner.'"

Essentially, your $10 is riding on the outcome of your fellow player's hand. But according to Renzey, "You are a 9 percent favorite, so if the player doesn't know enough to take the whole advantage to himself, go ahead and take the rest." Renzey adds, "Getting in one extra double down per half hour for the same amount as your own bets will reduce the house edge by about 0.15 percent."

Here's another example involving pair splitting. Suppose a fellow player splits a pair of 7's against a dealer 6 and draws another 7. The player should resplit, but suppose he hesitates to put out more money. According to Renzey, "Since a 7 against a dealer 6 is an outright moneymaker, you should quickly toss a bet to him and offer to absorb the cost of splitting that third 7. You are a 3 percent favorite, and if doubling after pair splitting is allowed, you'll have a solid 10 percent edge on the hand."

By adding some or all of these advanced strategies to your playing arsenal, you will be improving your chances of winning. Why not give them a try on your next visit to the green felt?

Recent Articles
Best of Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

> More Books By Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

> More Books By Henry Tamburin