Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Best of Alan Krigman
I hate to be the bearer of sad tidings. Especially because it's a double whammy.
The first piece of the bad news is that 18 pales before 20, even with a weak dealer upcard. As an example, consider standing on either total against five. An 18 should win 53.9 percent of the time, lose 33.9 percent, and push the other 12.2 percent. This puts expected profit at $53.90 - $33.90 or $20 for every $100 bet prior to the deal. Conversely, 20 should win 77.9 percent of all hands, lose 10.8 percent, and push 11.3 percent. Here, expected profit is $77.90 - $10.80 or $67.10 per $100 initial bet.
Here's the rest of the bad news. When two-card totals are involved, 10 is a better starting point than nine. But this isn't true for the single card resulting from a split in multideck games where players can double down after splitting.
Intuitively, the reason for this is simple. Except under rare circumstances, well outside the criteria governed by basic strategy, no draw to a 10 after a split will yield a total correct for doubling. However, after splitting nines, pulling a deuce will add up to 11; this is suitable for doubling with any dealer upcard on which the original split was proper.
I'll pin down the splits by quantifying expected earnings, with the chances of doubling included in the results. Again, pretend the dealer is showing a five.
Splitting 10s, expected net is $51.00 per $100 initial bet. This is below the $67.10 expected by standing on 20, so it's not the preferred option.
Of course, when I explained this to the person who asked, I didn't have the numbers handy. Instead, I used qualitative phrases like "busts less than half the time" and "make more by standing." He answered, "that's your opinion, and maybe that's what the guy who wrote the book says. But I don't have to agree."
"You're wrong and you're right," I replied. "Wrong because basic strategy in blackjack isn't a matter of opinion. It's the set of decisions that maximizes player expectation in a shoe not biased by cards previously drawn. Right because maximum expectation isn't always the same as the greatest chance of winning a hand or even a session. Right because you can lose playing by the book and win bucking the percentages. And right because we live in a free country and you're gambling with your money, your self-esteem, and your entertainment experience." Still, as Sumner A Ingmark, who some have the opinion is a poet, once wrote: