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Feb

09

2017

To Follow or Not to Follow Basic Strategy in Blackjack

Basic strategy charts tell blackjack players the play that’s best for them in every player vs. dealer situation. Those who count cards amend basic strategy to fit the composition of the remaining deck, but for most of us, basic strategy is a solid guide.

That doesn’t mean every player has to like every play.

Recently, I was at a table where a player just couldn’t bring himself to double down on 11 when the dealer’s face up card was a 10 value. The first time he faced the decision with a $25 bet on the table, he said, “Oh, I hate this hand. I never know what to do.” When another player told him, “The book says double,” he replied, “Whoever wrote the book isn’t being asked to throw in an extra 25 bucks when Bill (the dealer) probably has 20.”

Neverthless, given a two-card 11 vs. a dealer’s 10, the best percentage play is to double down. The dealer could have a 10 face down for a solid 20. But that second 10-value will be face down about 30.7 percent of the time. That’s the same likelihood that your next card will be a 10 value. That’s a plus for the player. When the next card is a 10 for you, it turns your 11 into a 21, beating the 20 that second 10 gives the dealer.

A two-card 11 is a stronger building block than a 10. We can see that in the expected wins and losses for the hand.

If you start with 6-5 and the dealer has a 10 up, then per $100 wagered you would expect to win $11.86 if you hit. If you double down, that expected profit increases to $17.85, even factoring in that on losing hands you’d lose two bets instead of one. On other two-card 11s, your average profit per $100 when doubling are $17.84 with 7-4, $17.69 with 8-3 and $17.39 with 9-2.

The hands where basic strategy calls for us to double are situations in which we as players have he edge. We want to drive that edge home even if the bigger bet does make us nervous sometimes.

One Comment
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