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John Grochowski

John  Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field. Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago.

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Changing blackjack basic strategy

28 Feb 2019

By John Grochowski
QUESTION: You’ve said of several different blackjack hands that the statistics of basic strategy are a little different depending on the composition of the hand. A hard 16 isn’t exactly the same hand if you have 10-6, 9-7, 8-8, 6-7-3 or 5-3-2-5-A.

What about hands where the basic strategy chart says to make some play all of the time, but the dealer’s up card differs? Surely 10-7 against a dealer’s 6 is different than 10-7 against 10, but we’re told always to stand. Also, the chart says to always split 8-8, but it’s a lot more nerve-wracking against a 10 than against a 6.

ANSWER: Yes, your chances of winning change with different dealer up cards even if basic strategy calls for the same play.

As a player, you’d certainly rather see the dealer show a 5 or 6 than a 10 or ace. But sometimes the same play against different dealer cards is the best you can do, for better or worse.

Let’s look specifically at the two player hands you mention, 10-7 and 8-8.

In a six-deck game in which the dealer hits soft 17, here are your average wins or losses per $1 of your wager for hitting vs. standing, with hitting listed first vs. each dealer up card:

Vs. 2, -53.8/-15.7; vs. 3, -53.4/-12.0; vs. 4, -53.0/8.1; vs. 5, -51.9/-4.6; vs. 6, -51.5/-0.1; vs. 7, -47.8/-10.1; vs. 8,/-50.1, -38.4; vs. 9, -54.9/-42.2; vs. 10, -58.0/-41.8; vs. ace, -57.9/-51.4.

Hard 17 is not a great hand. It can’t win unless the dealer busts. If the dealer makes a standing hand, the best your 17 can do is draw.

But against any dealer up card, your average loss is lower if you stand than if you hit. It’s closest against an ace, where your average loss per dollar wagered is 57.9 cents if you hit and 51.4 if you stand. The difference is greatest vs. 6, where you lose 51.5 cents if you hit and nearly break even at a 0.1-cent loss if you stand.

So yes, the situation changes with the dealer up card, but the best play is always to stand.

With 8-8, look at the numbers for hit/stand/split, assuming the casino allows you to double down after splits:

Vs. 2, -47.1/-28.3/+7.4; vs. 3, -46.4/-24.3/+14.8; vs. 4, -45.9/-20.6/+21.7; vs. 5, -45.1/-16.4/+30.1; vs. 6, -43.8/-12.5/+37.3; vs. 7, -40.8/-48.0/+31.8; vs. 8, -45.3/-51.8/-3.0; vs. 9. -50.6/-53-9/-39.0; vs. 10 -53.5/-53.7/-47.6; vs. ace, -53.9/-59.6/-51.4.

If the dealer shows a 7 or lower, splitting turns a losing hand into a winner. Against a 6, to choose one example, you lose an average of 43.8 cents per dollar wagered if you hit or 12.5 cents if you stand, but win 37.3 cents per dollar of your original wager if you split.

Against higher cards, you’re caught in a losing situation. Against an ace, you lose 51.4 cents per dollar of your original wager if you split, but that beats the 53.9 cents if you hit or 59.5 if you stand.

Starting a hand with 8 is a much stronger situation that starting with 16. That makes splitting 8s the best play regardless of whether if puts you in position to win against low cards or just reduces your losses against 8s or better.

QUESTION: Do casinos have a jackpot button in the back shop where they can reward a loyal player by making a jackpot come up?

ANSWER: No, slot results are determined by each machine’s random number generator. Casinos have other ways to reward loyal players, such as comps or free play through their rewards card programs. They do not interfere with slot results.

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at

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