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Best of Henry Tamburin

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Bad blackjack advice

21 October 2017

I was enjoying myself playing and winning at blackjack when a young lady took a seat next to me. It was obvious after a few hands that she didn't have a clue as to how to play the game so she boldly asked the young dealer for "advice" on how to play her hands. I sat there in amazement as the dealer was instructing her on how to play her hands.

What disturbed me most was that better than half of the advice that she gave her was wrong. Her bankroll rapidly evaporated as she continued to make terrible plays at the advice of the "expert dealer.”

I have no grudges to bear against casino dealers. They have a very tough and demanding job. But dealers are trained to deal the cards and the vast majority of them have no knowledge of winning blackjack play.

I mentioned the above recent incident because, in fact, I've witnessed an increase in the number of players asking dealers for help on how to play their hands. For some reason blackjack players believe that if a person deals the game, that person must be an expert on how to play the hands. Unfortunately, this is not true. Most dealers that I've observed know very little about basic strategy, and absolutely nothing about card counting. Telling players to insure their blackjack hands or never to split a pair of 8's when their upcard is a 10 is simply wrong advice.

The policy in most casinos forbid dealers from advising players whether to hit, stand, double down or pair split. This is for security reasons to prevent any possibility of a dealer and his player-friend taking advantage of the casino. However, when novice players openly ask a dealer for advice, they usually respond with a suggested strategy. Often, it's an incorrect strategy.

Dealers aren't the only ones giving misinformation about blackjack playing strategies. I recently picked up a newsletter that was in the racks in a casino that offered "helpful hints for table game players from the grand institute of fun and games professor." On blackjack the advice was:

1. Split eights unless the dealer shows a 10-value card.
2. Always split aces.
3. Double down on two card combinations of 9, 10, 11.
4. Don't take a hit on a possible bust hand (12 or higher) if the dealer's up card is a 6 or less.
5. If you lose more than five times in a row, move to a different table, don't fight the cards.

The first piece of advice is wrong. For every $100 you bet holding a pair of 8's vs. a dealer ten upcard, you will on average, gain $5 more by splitting rather than hitting. Standing on a pair of 8's vs. a dealer 10-value card is an even worse strategy.

The bottom line is that a pair of 8's is a bad hand. You should always split 8's against any dealer upcard to get a fair chance at some winning hands. Against a dealer's upcard of 3 to 7 you will usually convert a losing hand into a winning hand by splitting the 8's. In the case of a dealer's upcard of 2, 8, 9, 10 or ace, you will probably lose by splitting but you lose less.

Always split aces is sound advice; however, to double down on two-card combinations of 9, 10 and 11 is nonsense unless you specify against which dealer's up card. The fact of the matter is that you should only double down on two card combinations of 9 if the dealer's up card is 3, 4, 5, 6 (multi-deck game with dealer standing on soft 17, S17).

If the dealer has any other up card, you should never double down. Likewise, you should double down on two-card combinations of 10 only if dealer's up card is 2 through 9 and double down on 11 only against dealer's up card of 2 through 10 (again, assuming a typical six-deck game with S17 and DAS). (Note: The above is the mathematically correct doubling strategies for 4-, 6- or 8- deck games when the dealer stands on soft 17 (with single or double deck games, the doubling strategy is slightly different) ).

The casino newsletter advises to not take a hit on a possible bust hand (12 or higher) if the dealer's up card is a 6 or less. The mathematically correct play when you hold a 12 against a dealer's up card is 2 or 3 is to hit. Although this is a close play, the percentages are still in the favor of hitting 12 on dealer's 2 or 3 and standing on 12 against dealer 4, 5 or 6.

The point I want to make is that players should not rely on casino generated publications or the advice of dealers to learn blackjack playing strategies. If you have to ask a dealer how to play your hand, then you don't belong on the blackjack table.

There are plenty of good books, instructional videos, even hand held basic strategy cards that you can take with you on the tables that will give you correct strategies on every hand. It’s the smart way to play blackjack.

(Read Frank Scoblete's "Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge!")


Henry Tamburin, Ph.D., is the editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter (www.bjinsider.com) and host of smartgaming.com. Visit Henry's website at www.smartgaming.com.
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:

Winning Baccarat Strategies

> More Books By Henry Tamburin