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The "Poor" Perfect Blackjack Plays

6 Feb 2022

By John Grochowski
With the holidays past and the New Year begun, it was back to work time.

For Blackjack Bob, that meant back to the tables.

"Apparently my play isn't to everyone's tastes," he said as we had a coffee morning via Zoom.

I asked if he was annoying everyone with plays they think are close calls.

"You know how it goes," he said. "Insurance, splits, soft hands ... I play them all wrong.

"It was mid-morning and the casino wasn't very crowded. I was the third player at the table. A man who was probably 40, maybe 45, was at first base. He kept giving little snorts and chuckles every time I took flak. I'm sure he knew what was going on. He played perfect basic strategy.

"At third base was a kid. Well, to me he's a kid. Mid-20s, wore a Cincinnati Bengals jersey. He wasn't as good a player, but he thought he was. The dealer was a woman, maybe 35. She agreed with the kid."

I asked if that meant Blackjack Bob was getting dealer lectures. I used to get them years ago, but not so many in recent years.

"Right. I don't hear it much from dealers anymore, either, but this one felt compelled to give her two cents. and the kid egged her on. He kept telling me, 'You should listen. She sees a lot more hands than you.'"

Were there specific hands that were the problems?

"The usual suspects," Bob said. "They didn't like that I hit soft 18 against 10. The kid said, 'You can't seriously hit 18!' The dealer shook her head and said, 'You might win a hand that way, but this game will grind you down if you go hitting 18s.'"

Bob and I both know soft 18 against 10 isn't a winning hand, but average losses decrease if you hit rather than stand. In a common six-deck game where the dealer hits soft 17, you'll lose an average of 17.96 cents per dollar wagered if you stand, but only 14.29 if you hit.

"My refusal to take even money on blackjacks was a sore point, too. It came up three times. I declined even money three times. The dealer never had a blackjack and I collected my full 3-2 payoffs. Nevertheless, I got the old "insurance is the only sure way to earn money in the casino lecture." And I got it in stereo.

I've had the impression more players had learned to steer clear of insurance, which includes even-money, since Bob and I started playing in the 1980s. It would be a break-even bet if a third of the cards were 10-values, but they make up only 30.8 percent of the deck.

"But the one that really got them is when I split 8s against a 10. The first time, the kid started chanting, 'No, no, no, no, no,' and the dealer said, 'Honey, I rarely see that play work.' I got a 10 on one 8 for 18, but drew a 7 and a 6 on the second for 21. The dealer had a 10 down for 20.

"I hadn't answered the critics to that point. My plays are mine, and others don't bother me. But I finally said, 'Now you've seen it work. I push. If I'd hit or stood, I'd have lost."

The dealer said, "This time, I guess," but the kid said, "You take ridiculous risks." I had to laugh.

I said, "That's me, living on the edge."

I told Bob he always did, making those correct plays. He said, "Just call me Evel Knievel," and took another sip of coffee.

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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