BLACKJACK: The importance of Basic Strategy for 21

On the plane home the other day, I realized that I’ve been playing A7-3 incorrectly at the Blackjack tables in Vegas for years.  I’ve also been occasionally playing 66-2 and 99-7 incorrectly at most of the tables that I play.  I mean, for all the time that I’ve spent learning the game, ways to get an edge, and suppress the house’s advantage, I’ve been playing some of the basic starting hands just plain wrong and while I’m embarrassed about it, I’m glad I caught them.  (Thank you Fred Renzey.  Your book really does rule and it was worth re-reading.  I learn something from it every time I go through it.)

A7-3 normally looks like 18 versus a dealer 3.  Things are looking good at this point for most people.  After all, why would you turn down what looks like a pretty good winner?  Well, the problem is that a STAND on this hand is dead wrong and the move that I’ve been guilty of for years of table play. 

A7-3 = DOUBLE DOWN
Yes, you read that correctly:  The proper Basic Strategy play for A7-3 is to DOUBLE DOWN, as it is against a deal 4, 5, & 6.  The odds are that doubling down is simply a more profitable play than STANDING.  This is one of those chances where you get a to extract a little more cash out of the casino by pushing your bet,  It’s also one of those moves where people leave money on the table because they either stand or hit, but simply never consider doubling their bet size.  Obviously this is doubly important when the shoe is rich.

And then there’s 66-2, which looks like a 12-2 play which in virtually all books is a HIT… a tough one, but it’s a HIT.

66-2 = SPLIT
Yet another sketchy scenario, at tables where Doubling-after-Splitting is allowed, 66-2 is a SPLIT, and not a HIT like I’ve normally been playing it.  It turns out that you can take a a few cards after the split and turn your hand from a complete loser to a winner after splitting, especially if you have the chance to hit a 5, then double down to essentially balance out a potential loss with the other side of a split.  Again, this is only for tables with DAS which is most of the Vegas strip’s properties however in these cases, 66-2 is a SPLIT.

This is another one that bugs me:  I’ve been missing on 99-7 for years.  99-7 looks like a sure fire splitting opportunity, after all having two hands starting with 9’s against a dealer 7 looks pretty good.

99-7 = STAND
There was a older gentleman at 3rd base during my last trip to the Venetian that summarily corrected me on this play telling me, "Son – that’s a chump’s play.  Learn your tables:  You always split 9s except against a 7 or X."  I stopped to think about it for a minute  and it rang true… 18 against a dealer 7 did make a lot of sense but I didn’t have my strategy card in front of me (my bad) so I couldn’t look it up but I took his advice and won the hand when the deal flipped a K.

Goes to show you that everyone can learn something at any time and sometimes old ways die hard.

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