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Your Chances of Busting are Not as Great as You Think

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: Why would my blackjack cheat sheet tell me to hit a pair of 6's when the dealer is showing a 2, and possibly bust, but it tells me to split those same 6’s if the dealer is showing a 4-6? T. R.

A blackjack strategy card (cheat sheet) is based on the mathematical probabilities of blackjack, and it provides you advice on the best decisions to make with every possible situation during each hand.

One of the most misunderstood facets of playing blackjack is that of splitting a pair of cards, especially 6’s. Awareness of when to split pairs, take a hit, or stand, is imperative to your play. When to hit, stand and split is also predicated on “Composition Strategy.” Composition strategy not only takes into account the dealer's up-card, but the total amount of cards in your hand, plus, which cards make up that total.

Plenty of Blackjack players avert hitting those 6’s because they believe the dealer “always” has a 10 in the hole. Erroneously they stand, thinking the dealer will bust out. The actual deal here, Tim, is when you’re holding a 12 (6’s), only four cards will bust you; The 10, Jack, Queen, and King. You not only have a 65% chance of enduring a hit, but five additional cards, a 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9, will give you a hand of 17-21. Further, if you do stand, you will win only 35% of the time and lose 65% of the time. In this way, Tim, as your cheat sheet dictates correctly, you hit a pair of 6’s against a 2 and split the pair against the dealer's 3, 4, 5, or 6.

The single exception, if you can find a single deck Blackjack game; you would split the 6’s versus a 2.

Dear Mark: When in Las Vegas and given a choice at multiple casinos, how is one to choose which is the best? M. G.

The character and atmosphere of every casino is different. Some have low table minimums and dealers that love to interact with players. Others require more sizable bets and feature dealers that are far more aloof. Some casinos are so welcoming that you’ll want to move to Las Vegas, and scrounge all day in a sportsbook – hmm, sounds like a retirement plan to me. Others make you feel uncomfortable just being there at a blackjack table. The only way to figure out what’s best for you is to play at a few casinos, and see which one fits you best.

Furthermore, all players, whether newbie or not, should always pursue the best odds, rules and playing circumstances for the casino games they will be playing. Find a hand-held blackjack game with rules that are favorable to the player, single zero roulette, the top paytables in video poker, slot machine games that advertise a return of 98-plus percent payoffs, and a low limit, 10X odds crap game.

Taking it easy in a keno parlor mooching gratis drinks might seem relaxing, but when you are impoverished because you didn’t shop for value, that comfy feeling goes away quickly.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:
“Slot machines are the cotton candy and the McDonald's of the casino. Everyone knows that they're bad for you, but few can resist their junk-food appeal.” – Andrew Brisman, The Mensa Guide to Casino Gambling