The GameMaster's Blackjack School
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Lesson 13:The Advanced Course - Part 1
The most powerful (legal) means of overcoming the casino's edge
in Blackjack is to vary your bets according to the true count. Additional gains of .2 to
.3% are available to those who also vary the play of their hands according to the true
count. You undoubtedly have had situations where the count was sky-high and just knew that
hitting that 12 against the dealer's 3 was going to get you a face card. There is a point,
as measured by true count, where standing with a 12 against a 3 is more profitable than
hitting. This is called a 'basic strategy variation' and you'll learn a lot of them in
Basic Strategy Variations
Modifying the play of your hand according to the true count will
occur about 10% of the time. Should the count drop, you will double less, hit 'stiff'
hands more and split pairs less often. As the count goes up, you will double more often,
hit 'stiffs' less and split pairs more. For each basic strategy play, there is only one
variation. For example, the variation for the hand 10, 6 versus 10 is to stand instead of
hit; you would never double and you obviously may not split. Another example is 5,4 versus
2. Basic strategy says to hit, but if the count is high enough, you would double this
hand. A good example on the minus side is A-2 versus 5; basic strategy says to double, but
if the count is below 0, you should just hit. The easy way to remember something like that
is "Double Ace-2 vs. 5 at 0 or higher." Broken down into the 'shorthand' of a
flashcard it is A-2 vs. 5 = 0. (Yes, we'll be going back to our old friends, the
The Power of Basic Strategy Variations
The value of any variation is determined by how often it will,
on average, be used. If you play 100,000 hands of Blackjack a year ( about 20 hours a
week, year round), you can expect to see a hand of 16 vs. 10 about 3500 times (3.5%).
That's actually the number 1 non-insurance situation. Any variation here has considerable
value, simply because you'll be using it relatively often. Conversely, you will receive
9,9 vs. 2 only 43 times in that 100,000-hand sample, so the variation here is of little
value, because you'll rarely use it. The frequency of hands allows us to prioritize the
learning of basic strategy variations.
One of the most important variations from basic strategy is the
insurance bet. Since the dealer will show an Ace as an up card about 7.5% of the time,
knowing when it's profitable to take insurance is very important. If you are playing at a
six deck game, insurance is worthwhile when the true count is 3 or higher. You should
always make the insurance bet at that point, regardless of what cards you're holding,
since it has no relationship with your hand. The High/Low counting system has an
'Insurance Efficiency' of 80% which means that 8 out of 10 times you'll be doing the right
thing when you make an insurance bet based on the true count.
As I mentioned earlier, considerable value is gained by learning
those variations which involve starting hands of 12-16 vs. any up card, since those are
the hands you'll see most often. In fact, fully 54% of all your hands will be 'stiff' at
some point in the playing. This is a good place to make an important point basic strategy
variations apply not just to your starting hands, but also to hands composed of 3 or more
cards. You will stand on A, 2, 10, 3 versus 10 if the count is 0 or higher, as well as a
hand of 10, 6. Doubling (or not doubling) is next in importance and splitting/not
splitting pairs is least important.
The Value of Basic Strategy Variations
It's safe to say that utilizing these variations will increase
your winnings by 10% in the six-deck game. But there's a major side-benefit to them as
well. By using these variations, you'll look more like a 'gambler' in the casino. Hitting
16 against 10 some of the time and standing on it at other times is typical gambler
behavior. For those casino supervisors who know proper basic strategy (damn few!), seeing
you double A,7 versus 2 is crazy, just as standing with 15 against a 10 is 'chicken'. Yet,
all of those are -- at certain counts -- the correct play.
If you play at a single-deck game, the value of variations to
basic strategy soars to 25% or more. If you spend any time at those games, you must learn
In the next lesson, I'll show you how to learn these variations
As always, if you have any questions, e-mail me at email@example.com and Ill get back to you
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