To most people, casino Blackjack is a game of “luck.” They play by hunches and prefer to go on believing the game only involves chance. This, of course, is untrue, and I explained this in my article, “Can You Make Money Consistently by Playing Blackjack?” I urge people to read this article before continuing (by simply clicking on the link).
During the years I played Blackjack professionally, I made many out-of-the-ordinary plays, many times to the shock and horror of other players. Here are the most common ones:
Hitting A7 vs. a 9 or a 10
It’s pronounced “Ace-7” by professionals, or you could say “soft 18.” This is a part of basic strategy and you will come out further ahead in the long run by hitting as opposed to standing. The other players will often not to be able to understand why you’re doing this, and unknowledgeable dealers may also question you. If they had any understanding of the game at all, however, they would know this is the correct play because it’s a part of simple Basic Strategy.
Taking Insurance With Bad Hands
This is another instance where players are greatly confused. They erroneously believe that there are “good hands worth insuring” and “bad hands not worth insuring.” The quality of the hand (cards you hold) has nothing, whatsoever to do with the decision on whether or not to take insurance. The rule is: If you are not counting cards, never take insurance at all, because the odds are against you winning, regardless of your hand. If you are counting cards (involving skill that is legal) and have knowledge of the remaining cards in the deck, there are times when it’s definitely advantageous to take insurance. Again, however, it has nothing to do with the cards you have or the quality of your hand.
Hitting a “Stiff” Against Small Cards
A “stiff” is a bad hand, such as a 12 through 16, where you will need to know whether to draw or stand. If playing basic strategy, there is no decision. You simply follow the rule on whether to hit or stand, depending on the dealer’s up-card. If the dealer is showing a small card the rule is to stand most, but not all of the time.
If counting cards, however, there are times when bad hands should be hit, because you have knowledge that there are an abundance of small cards remaining in the deck. Once, I was playing at table with high rollers in a heated game and knew the deck was extremely loaded with small cards. I actually hit a hard 17 and caught a 4, amazing everyone to the point they shouted out in disbelief.
This play may not be so unusual to some people, but it is often not known when to do it properly. It involves “soft hands,” which are hands that have an ace and another card. The ace may be counted as “1” or “11,” thus giving it a double value. When doubling on such a hand, one may either improve the hand by acquiring advantageous cards or by the dealer breaking.
Basic Strategy specifies when soft doubling should be done, and card counting will provide more opportunities.
Surrendering Certain Hands
Many players are oblivious to the fact that many casinos, especially on the Las Vegas Strip offer “Surrender,” meaning that you may surrender your first two cards by giving up half your bet. There are basic strategy rules for surrender, but the most benefit can be derived when counting cards and having knowledge of the remaining cards. This seems very unusual to many players, simply because they’re completely unaware the rule exists.
Spitting tens is by far the most controversial move that can be executed by a Blackjack player. Other people may become angry because they believe it is a “turkey” play that will somehow jinx the entire table. They are somewhat correct, believing it to be a bad play.
Spitting tens is horrible for anyone who is not counting cards. However, if a card counter knows the deck has a very large number of tens remaining, the play is both correct and bold. I have played hands involving 10 splits up to three and four times when I’ve know the count is very high. Not only do you have a chance of catching tens or aces on the tens you split, but when the dealer has a small card showing, there’s a strong chance he’ll break.
As I explained in “Can You Make Money Consistently by Playing Blackjack?” I do not encourage people to become involved in the game. There are better, more constructive ways to make a profit that involve a work ethic. From a practical point of view, playing conditions have largely deteriorated, which have made things more difficult. I explained this in my previous article, as well.