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Reader Catches Discrepancy in Blackjack Basic Strategy

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I noticed on your audio that you advise standing on nines versus a dealer’s two. Nonetheless, your strategy card that was included with the audio recommends splitting (SP) nines against a two. Please clarify. Is always hitting, and never splitting fours, the desired play? Rita C.

I believe, Rita, you are indicating the 15-second segment on my Hooked on Winning audio where I gave some uncomplicated rules if you were not in possession of a blackjack strategy card. I stated that following those few simple rules could bring the house edge down to the neighborhood of one percent. One was a tip where I suggested you might “stand on 9’s against a dealer 2.”

When I first recorded Hooked on Winning 18 years ago, I originally worked off a blackjack strategy card that advocated splitting those 9’s except when the dealer shows 2, 7, 10, or an Ace. I more recently found that view of standing on 9’s against a 2 in the minority on the myriad of cards I possessed when it came to splitting 9's. Subsequently, when constructing my own strategy card to go along with my audio product, I changed the advice to split those 9’s to go along with the majority rather than stand in this situation.

Nice catch, Rita, albeit I did make a correction in a column more than a decade ago when but one other reader, like you, caught it.

As for hitting and never splitting 4’s against any up-card, you are precisely right. I recommend just whacking it every time.

Dear Mark: When playing a slot machine, does it matter if I put in a $100 bill instead of in increments like $5, $10 or $20? Sylvia L. time.

It doesn’t matter, Sylvia. The odds stay the same regardless of the amounts or the denominations of your deposits in the machine. This is true for all video machines. That said, Sylvia, if you are always reaching into your handbag for a $5 bill, you are not really physically engaged with the one-armed bandit that has a giant built-in house edge against you. As a result, feeding a machine constantly stops, at least for a small moment, the casino from keeping “up to” 20¢ of every dollar you propagate through it.

Dear Mark: We constantly learn something by reading your column and very much appreciate what you pass along. Thank you! We enjoy video poker, so, is there a better way to play more astutely? Bob L.

Because video poker can be a positive expectation game, it is the one video machine offered that really gives the player a chance to get the best of the casinos. A caveat to that statement is that you must select the best machines, and, just as important, know which cards to hold.

What you never want to do, Bob, and you as well Lois, is use the casino floor as your classroom. So, allow me to recommend to you my favorite book when it comes to video poker.

For the average player struggling to understand and employ the correct strategies for video poker, my choice for an easy-to-grasp, straightforward book is Victory at Video Poker by Frank Scoblette.

When you learn to distinguish the decent paying machines from the dogs, then you can apply the proper approach for the hands that you are dealt, you will watch, with gratification, the direction your hard-earned money starts flowing.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “The first rule of poker, whether you play by western or eastern rules, is put up or shut up!” – Henry Fonda, A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966)