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Mark Pilarski's Corner



Testing your Snapper knowledge
by Mark Pilarski

1. High table minimums and low table maximums is to the player's advantage.
a. True
b. False

2. Early surrender is a better player option that later surrender.
a. True
b. False

3. The blackjack game where you see the dealer's hole card in advance is better than the standard blackjack game.
a. True
b. False

4. When the deck is rich in aces and face cards, it favors the player.
a. True
b. False

5. You should never double down for less in blackjack.
a. True
b. False

6. When you have a 16 in blackjack, you should surrender against a face card.
a. True
b. False

7. Doubling down on a 10 against a dealer's 10 is predicated by using perfect basic strategy.
a. True
b. False

8. Following a never-bust strategy is smart play for the new player on a shoe game.
a. True
b. False

9. Always look for a game where the dealer hits a soft 17.
a. True
b. False

10. According to blackjack basic strategy, in all playing scenarios you should hit a soft 17 (A-6), but you should never hit a hard 17.
a. True
b. False

11. Playing video blackjack pays the same as the table game.
a. True
b. False

12. The casino has to many advantages over the player to overcome the game of blackjack.
a. True
b. False

13. If the dealer miscounts the player's total and starts to pay off on a losing hand, the player expected to correct the dealer.
a. True
b. False

14. When you have a 20 and playing on a single deck game, you should always take insurance.
a. True
b. False

15. You should stay on your 15s and 16s to avoid busting when the dealer is showing a 7.
a. True
b. False

16. Multi-Action blackjack is not for the timid of heart.
a. True
b. False

17. On a shoe (multiple-deck) game, you are giving an edge to the casino.
a. True
b. False

18. You have a better chance of getting blackjacks on a single versus multiple deck game.
a. True
b. False

1. False: Quite the contrary. It is a huge advantage for the casino, and here's why. Casinos win for two reasons. First, a statistical edge (percentage advantage) on each and every game, and second, they have a whole lot more cash and staying power than you do. For the latter, it's a simple concept called "gambler's ruin." In essence, it's how long will it take you-with your limited bankroll-to lose everything to a casino, which has a relatively infinite wad of cash. So even if you do have a short-term winning streak when the house has this infinite stake, they can, and will, always outlast you.
Now to the situation of playing the high minimums/low maximums limits. This scenario eliminates low-stakes betting (high minimums); plus, the ability to parlay your winnings by increasing your bets (low maximums) is removed. Unfortunately, when you play under these conditions, depletion of a low roller's bankroll in a matter of minutes is not uncommon.

2. True: Early surrender permits a player to relinquish half her wager even if the dealer has a blackjack. With late surrender, if the dealer possesses a blackjack, the player loses her complete bet.

3. False: Stick with the old tried and true, as this form of blackjack is not worth playing. Because you lose pushes and only receive even money on blackjacks, the house edge is 2% higher than normal blackjack.

4. True: There are two reasons for this. First, blackjacks will appear more often when there is a higher proportion of aces in the deck, and, as you know blackjacks pay the player 3 to 2. Second, the dealer will bust more when he has a "stiff" (12 through 16). The player, given the same opportunity, would stand on stiffs, whereas the dealer is forced by the rules of the game to hit away and hopefully bust.

5. True: Never is the correct answer. Because you only double down when you are more likely to win the hand than lose, you always want to wager the maximum amount. It is the double downs and blackjacks that take your blackjack play from the red to the black. Do not shortchange yourself in these situations.

6. True Surrender is an option in which the casinos allow players to "surrender" half their original bet total after they have examined their first two cards and have viewed the dealer up card.
If the casino's blackjack rules permit surrender, jump on their offer. Let's face it, a 16 is a garbage hand faced off against a 10. The best move when dealt dealer debris is to relinquish half your bet. Never think of surrender as giving up half your wager, just getting back half your probable loss.

7. False: Blackjack is a game in which the proper hit, stand, splitting and doubling decisions are necessary to cut the house edge down to a minimum. These proper decisions are called basic strategy and have been arrived at by computer simulations of millions of hands.
This case in point, doubling down on a 10 against a dealer 10 is NOT one of those times. Basic strategy dictates you hit your hand, not double down. This stratagem is the same for both single and multiple deck games.

8. False: Over the years, I have seen many losing players employ this never-bust strategy. Right off the top, they are giving the house a 5% edge. Strict basic strategy, which obviously recommends hitting plenty of stiff hands, cuts the house edge to a half of one percent on six-or eight-deck games.

9. False: When you play a game in which the dealer hits a soft 17, you give the house an additional two-tenths of one percent. With a soft 17 showing, an Ace, 2, 3 or 4 improves the dealer's hand and a 10, Jack, Queen or King leaves it of equivalent value. Eight of every 13 cards either improves the dealers hand or it stays the same. If any of the other five cards are drawn, the dealer still has a chance to convalesce his hand with another draw.
For the above reason basic strategy dictates that you the player should always hit a soft 17, or double down against a dealer who's showing a 3, 4, 5, 6.

10. True: Unfortunately, a 17 in blackjack is a damned hand, a dud over the long haul. The alternative strategy of hitting a hard 17 would only multiply your losses. Nevertheless, with a soft 17 you at least have the possibility of taking another card, which could improve your hand. This is why basic strategy charts dictate either hitting or doubling down, never standing on a soft 17, but staying on a hard 17.

11. False: Unless you find a machine that pays you the true value of a blackjack (3 for 2), look at most video blackjack machines with a jaundiced eye. Most machines pay even money on natural 21s. Because you can expect a snapper every 21 hands in live play, the loss of that bonus will cost you an additional 2.3 percent. Considering that blackjack has a house advantage of less than .5 percent to a knowledgeable player, you are giving away the farm here. Other machines round down on blackjack payoffs. If you do happen to find a machine that pays the bonus for a blackjack, make wagers in even amounts so you can get the maximum value of a blackjack (a payoff of $3 for every $2 wagered). And what will a dollar wagered get you for a blackjack? Just a buck, so always bet in two-unit increments.

12. False: The ONLY advantage the casino has over the player in blackjack is that the casino plays last. If you bust and so does the dealer, the house already has your money in the tray. Player skills, or lack of them, are really what are going to determine your success in a casino. The casino doesn't beat you; it merely gives you the opportunity to beat yourself.

13. False: The short answer is false. You do not have to inform the dealer that he has made a payoff mistake. When I pitched cards, players never informed me that I had made an error (of course I'm exaggerating just a little bit, but that's how I remember it!).
Nevertheless, virtue, honesty, even altering your karma comes into play. Only you can decide where your integrity lies.

14. False: Who is holding at least two of the cards the dealer needs to make their blackjack? YOU. Insuring a hand composed of two 10 cards on a single deck game gives the house a 14.3% edge, making this one of the worst bets in the casino.

15. False: The dealer's chances of having a 17 or more when he shows a 7, 8, 9, 10 or ace are between 74% and 83%. Correct basic strategy dictates that you always hit your 15 or 16.

16. True: Multi-Action multiplies the urge for most players to misplay their hands. Far too many players employ a never-bust strategy because they are afraid of losing all three bets at once. They stand on a 12 regardless of the dealer up-card. They wish, hope and pray the dealer will bust on one or more hands. This can be a bankroll-killer. At a $5 minimum table, if you are not willing to risk $15 on a hit/stand decision, you should not be playing Multi-Action.
Secondly, your blackjack bankroll has to be higher. Five-dollar players have to make $15 worth of bets. A few triple losses and you're in the keno lounge begging for free drinks.
Finally, many times the house rules of Multi-Action are inferior to that of regular blackjack. An example of this would be not being able to double down after splits on a Multi-Action game.

17. True: Compared to a single deck, a two-deck game handicaps your play -0.35%, four decks, -0.48%, six decks, -0.54% and eight decks -0.58%. As you can see, it is always to your advantage to play on a game that offers the fewest decks. Also note, the house edge goes up substantially when you go from one deck to two, but the change is less dramatic as you add more decks.
So how much is this costing you in dollars and cents? If you were to play 100 hands per hour at $5 per hand, each -0.1% would cost you approximately 50¢ per hour. Playing on a game with two decks versus one will cost you $1.75 per hour, with each additional deck costing you increasingly more.

18. True: Blackjacks, which pay 3 for 2, occur more frequently on a single deck versus multi-deck games. Example: Let's say your first card is an Ace. On a single deck game, 16 of the remaining 51 cards, or 31.37 percent, are the face or 10-value cards that would complete your blackjack. On a six-deck game, 96 of the remaining 311 cards, or 30.87 percent, would give you your snapper.

 

Let's see whether you can answer three simple questions. What should you do with a 12 against a three? How about an Ace/3 facing a five? Should you split a pair of 7's eyeing a seven? Your replies should be "hit, double and yes."
What I ask all blackjack players who want to go it alone without a casino cheat sheet is: "Do you really know your basic strategy cold?" I have found, in 18 years of casino employment, that most players who believe they are experts at basic strategy misplay about 15 percent of their hands. The basic strategy chart, my laminated crib card being a matrix of 270 hand situations, is designed to give you a concise and definitive play for every starting hand you will be dealt. Using a card will drop the casino edge to less than one percent.

So are you reading this and playing blackjack without a basic strategy card? Well, because you are a regular to this web site, allow me to send you a laminated Blackjack Strategy Card-FREE. Yes, those same ones you see in gaming publications and casino gift shops for up to $5 can be yours at no cost. All I ask is that you send a self addressed stamped envelope (SASE) to: Winners Publishing, ATTN: BJ Strategy Card, P.O. Box 1234, Traverse City, MI 49685
It is this web site's way of saying thank you for stopping by. Enjoy, Mark
*For overseas mail, please include $2 US Funds to cover postage costs.