Gambling City

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Awaiting Word From Mount Nebo

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: A couple of thoughts from this ardent fan of your weekly gaming advice column related to the Q&A about what do to with a pair of sixes against a dealer’s deuce in a blackjack game.

First, I am astounded that there are literally scores of blackjack cards (you state you’re in possession of 40). Assuming that each has slightly different advice, that ought to tell players about their reliability/accuracy. I continue to be amazed (i.e. turned off) by people who vehemently proclaim “the book says...” or “the chart says...” Do these folks understand that the chart is not a document Moses received when he went to the mountaintop?

Second, when I started playing decades ago, the first piece of Blackjack advice I got was; “Always split aces and eights. Never split fours.” Now, the rule has changed, and “the book says” to split fours against fives and sixes. I get the idea that this change is probably a product of vastly increased computer power that allows far larger simulations, but the idea that a fundamental rule has been so “flexible,” again suggests that the people who believe “the card” contains some form of Eternal Truth ought to lighten up.
Signed, B. W.

For the most part, Bob, the underlying strategy on the majority of strategy cards runs laterally to all blackjack games, but rule variation call for some form of deviation. This is why each blackjack game has its own specific basic strategy.

Just Google (under Images) “blackjack strategy card” and you will see some subtle differences amidst the multitude of cards that exist, strategy cards that are distinct to some standard blackjack rules set out below.

  • 1 Deck, Dealer Stands on All 17s
  • 1 Deck, Dealer Hits Soft 17
  • 2 Decks, Dealer Stands on All 17s
  • 2 Decks, Dealer Hits Soft 17
  • 4/6/8 Decks, Dealer Stands on All 17s
  • 4/6/8 Decks, Dealer Hits Soft 17

You will also find rule diversity within the games cited above, as in splitting pairs, and games both with and without doubling after splits. Getting my point, Bob?

Undeniably, Blackjack players will always quibble over inconsistencies between the various strategy cards, but what is not up for debate is the value of using basic strategy over just winging it. The Average Joe who plays aimlessly usually gives up an added five percent to the house. For players who follow basic Blackjack strategy and do not consistently change their bet size, the house edge for blackjack games quoted by casinos, gaming regulators, and Yours Truly is between 0.5% and 1%.

Now, Bob, let us center our attention on splitting those 4’s. In my modest opinion, I do not believe you should “always” split 4’s against a dealer showing a five or a six. I would suggest that the only time you split 4’s is if you are on a multi-deck game (6-8 decks), and the casino permits you to double down after the split. If so permitted, then split those 4’s against a dealer 5 or 6. If doubling after splits is not granted, the proper play is to treat your pair of 4’s as a total of eight, and then just hit them.

Am I spot-on regarding the prior statement? Not a chance! However, I can show 10 strategy cards that agree with me, 10 that don’t. We will have to wait for Moses to weigh in and break the tie.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:
Scobe's Seventh Law: “All Blackjack players are experts who are, unfortunately, willing to share their advice for free.”
- Frank Scoblete