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Best of Henry Tamburin

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Helping a friend

9 December 2011

A friend decided that she wanted to learn how to play blackjack. I sat down with her and went over the basics of how the game is played, and then showed her the basic playing strategy. I told her she would have to learn the playing strategy and I gave her a software program to use at home to practice the strategy.

The next time we met, she told me she was ready to play her first hand of blackjack in a casino. I said, "Are you sure?" She said, "Go ahead and ask me some basic strategy questions." I proceeded to ask her about a half dozen hands (e.g., you hold a 12 and dealer shows a 3). She answered all the questions correctly. I wished her luck.

A week later, she called me and when I asked her how did there was a long pause. Although she remembered the majority of the strategy, a few hands stumped her. We got together again and went over these hands. I thought it would be educational if I shared with you what had baffled her so you won't have the same problems.

Three-Card Soft Hand

She knew the strategy for soft hands (hands that contain an Ace counted as 11). The hand that stumped her was the following.

She was dealt an Ace-3 and the dealer showed a 3. She knew the correct strategy for this hand was to hit and not double down (you double down only if the dealer shows a 5 or 6). She hit and drew a 4 and now she had a soft 18. The basic strategy for soft 18 against a dealer's 3 is to double down. However, since she already drew a card, the double down option was no longer available to her. She panicked for a moment, not knowing how to play her Ace-3-4. (She doesn't remember whether she stood or took a hit.) I told her that when you have a soft hand containing three or more cards and the double down option is no longer available, then you should follow this rule:

  • Hit if you have soft 13 through soft 17.
  • Stand if you have soft 18 and the dealer shows a 2-8 upcard, and hit if the dealer's upcard is 9, 10, or Ace.

The correct play to the Ace-3-4 against the 3 was to stand. I also gave her a strategy card that shows the playing option for three-card soft hands on the card and told her to bring it with her when she played and refer to it if she was not sure how to play any hand.

Pair of 4s

During her visit to the casino, she decided to switch from a six-deck game to a single-deck game. (She knew to play only single-deck games if a blackjack is paid 3-2 and to avoid any single-deck game that paid 6-5.) She also knew the strategy changes for a single-deck game versus a multiple-deck game (we had gone over them). The hand that stumped her was 4-4 against a dealer 6. For a split second, all that went through her mind was double down 8 against a 6 but somewhere she also remembered that you should split 4s against a 6. Therefore, she didn't know whether to split or double down. I told her the basic strategy for a pair of 4s against a 6 is to split. If you had an 8 consisting of 5-3 and 6-2, then you would double down against the 6. (With any pairs, follow the pair splitting strategy first.)

11 against an Ace

She told me that she was dealt a 7-4 and the dealer showed an Ace and she forgot whether to double down or just hit. I told her the reason she was probably confused is that she was playing a multiple-deck game and then switched to a single-deck game. When she was playing a six-deck game (rules were s17 and das), you should hit against the Ace. However, in the single-deck game (h17 and no das), the correct strategy is to double down an 11 against an Ace. I told her it's best to focus on playing only one game per casino visit so she wouldn't be confused between the slightly different playing strategies.

She also mentioned another thing that happened during her first session that she found odd. The player next to her made a bet for the dealer on his hand. He was happy for the dealer when he won his hand because he thought the dealer would have gotten double his bet (in other words, he tipped $5 for the dealer, won the hand, the dealer won $5 for a total tip of $10). However, instead of putting the $10 in her toke box, the dealer let the two red chips ride on his next hand. Unfortunately, he lost the next hand and the dealer wound up with no tip. My friends question was this: Isn't the dealer supposed to put those chips that he bet for her and the one she won in her toke box?

I told her that when a player makes a bet for the dealer by placing a chip outside of the betting spot (which most players do), the player no longer has control over the chip. The dealer has control and she can place the chips in the toke box or let them ride on the next hand. My advice to my friend is that if you want to make a tip for the dealer, a better way to do it is to place the chip on top of the chip(s) in your betting spot. Here's why.

Bets that are made outside of the betting spot are controlled by the dealer. (As opposed to bets made inside, which are controlled by the player). When you place your chip outside, the dealer will pay herself if the hand wins and earn double the tip (she keeps the original chip you bet for her and the chip won on the hand). If instead, you place the chip inside and the hand wins, the dealer pays you (not herself). You then turn around and give the dealer the chip she won for the chip you bet for her on the hand.

By placing your bet for the dealer inside the betting spot (on top of your chip), you control all the chips (including the one you bet for the dealer). This method of tipping also saves you 50 percent of the money you give to the dealer because you keep the original chip that you bet for her (you only give her the winning chip). Betting this way also gives you the option of wagering that same chip again for the dealer on the next hand. I suggested to my friend to let the chip ride hand after hand until she lost. This will give her a lot of mileage for an initial one chip bet for the dealer, make it look like she is a big spender, and those chips she wagered for the dealer will count toward her table rating (for comps).

After my friend got a few playing sessions under her belt, she wanted to learn card counting. I decided to teach her Speed Count (since math is not her strong point). In just one practice session, she mastered it and found it easy keep the Speed Count when she played blackjack.

The last time we spoke, she told me she loves the game of blackjack, and so far, she is ahead and having a ball. She thanked me for all the advice I had given her. I, in turn, told her she was a great student, and I was happy that she became an advantage player.

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