Monthly Archives: December 2013

Pilarski on gaming: ‘Never’ is wise when the question is splitting fives

QUESTION: I got into disagreement with a player on a blackjack game over splitting 5s when the dealer was showing a six. Granted, I am no expert, but I told him he should never split 5s.

Instead, he should double down. I posed the question to the dealer, and she stated they were not allowed to give advice.

My two-part question is, was my advice of doubling down the correct call, and, is the dealer allowed to offer his or her opinion on a blackjack game on how to play a hand? — Craig H.

ANSWER: You were correct, Craig, but let’s first review the two rules your question posed.

In blackjack, when you double down, you double your original bet after your first two cards. When doing so, you only receive one more card.

When splitting pairs, if since your first two cards are the same denomination, you are allowed to make a second wager equal to your first. Each of those matching cards, in this case the 5s, becomes the starting point of a separate hand.

Anytime you are dealt a two-card hand of 10, not only are you in possession of a potent starting hand, but also an excellent opportunity on which you can double down. The only thing splitting 5s will do is give you two mediocre starters.

Here’s why: A dealer will only bust 43 percent of the time with a 5 face up, and 42 percent with a 6 showing. Additionally, more than half the time a dealer will make a hand of 17 or better.

By splitting a pair of 5s, you are put yourself in an inferior position since the dealer is more than likely not going to bust. Doubling down those 5s is the correct play.

So, readers, commit this rule to memory. When you have a pair of 5s, double against a dealer’s 2 through 9, hit against a 10 and an ace, but never split them.

I cannot speak for all casinos’ internal rules and regulations regarding doling out advice, but some allow it, some don’t. When I worked the Green Felt Jungle, two of the joints I worked in didn’t care one iota, just so long as it was prior to me peeking under my Ace.

All you can do is ask to see if it’s allowed. Caveat Emptor: Just because you are seeking, doesn’t mean the dealer’s guidance is any good.

As a substitute, I highly recommend that all players use a basic strategy card. A strategy card will give you the concise and definitive play for every starting hand. Using a card will lower the casino edge down to less than 1 percent.

As long as you do not bring a blackjack game to a dead halt, most casinos will allow you to use your strategy card right at the table.

As for providing advice to fellow players, I have always recommended not giving solicited or uninvited help. The player who asked, or took your guidance, will usually end up being upset with you if your recommendation ended up causing a losing hand.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “From all my reading of the history of gambling from the beginning of civilization to the present, I must say that the present-day Vegas gambling is the most regulated and most honest that has ever existed.” — Mario Puzo, Inside Las Vegas (1976)


Original article available here