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By John Grochowski on Monday November 28, 2011
blackjack, gaming, gaming-strategy, tourism, tunica
Most side bets at blackjack require you to wager before you see your cards, and they spot the house a big edge. At Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, table game developer Joe Awada showed a different kind of blackjack bet, called Free Draw.
You don’t make the side bet until after you’ve seen your first two cards and the dealer’s up card. At that point, you can make an extra bet equal to your original wager that the dealer will bust.
If you have a soft 17 or less — not hard 17, just a soft 17 or any 16 and under — and you make the side bet, you get a free draw, one card that you can keep if it improves your hand, but discard if it doesn’t. If you have hard 17 or higher, you can still bet the dealer will bust, but you don’t get the free card.
Awada, a former World Series of Poker seven-card stud champion, says that properly used, the option cuts 0.03 percent off the house edge in a six-deck game.
That doesn’t mean the house won’t make money. Like doubling down or splitting pairs, Free Draw is a handy option if you know when to use it — and when not. if you have hard 17 or higher and don’t get the free draw, you should never make this bet. Without getting the free card, it’s a simple bet that the dealer will bust, with an even-money payoff.
There’s an extra layer to think about. If you have 11 and the dealer has 6, you could double down as usual. Or instead of doubling, you could take the free draw and have two shots at improving your hand. If you take the free draw and get a 5 for a 16, you can discard the 5 and get another chance.
Free Draw is an intriguing option, one that deserves a spot on casino floors.