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THE TOURNAMENT ZONE:

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE HALF SWING

by Ken Smith

 

Tournament expert Ken Smith has appeared on all four seasons of GSN's World Series of Blackjack, and had several appearances on the Ultimate Blackjack Tour on CBS. He is the author of the e-book. How to Win More Blackjack Tournaments: Tips, Tricks, and Strategies to Supercharge Your Game. Ken hosts the popular website www.BlackjackInfo.com as well as the online tournament community at www.BlackjackTournaments.com.  You can subscribe to his free email newsletter at http://www.blackjackinfo.com/news/. Ken also recently released his new pocket blackjack strategy cards, which are available in our BJI store.

In the last two columns, I examined the appropriate strategy for a player who needed a full swing of a single opponent to win a tournament round. "The Mythical Twelve Percent", looked particularly at this situation:

Player Bankroll Bet
Adam $100 $100
Bob $201 $50

Adams only chance was to win this final hand while Bob lost it. No other outcome would allow Adam to advance. The 13.6% chance of Adam to advance with optimal strategy is reasonably close to the widely quoted 12% figure, but as I noted then, most players mistakenly apply that number to a wider variety of situations. Today, I'll highlight a much more common situation where a swing is needed. Consider this final hand:

Player Bankroll Bet
Adam $100 $100
Bob $105 $100

Adam's bet here leaves a lot to be desired. By going all-in, he has eliminated the opportunity to double-down or split. This is, however, a very common mistake made by novice players. With such a small deficit of $5, his best bet here is probably $25, which gives him several extra ways to win. No matter what Adam bets, Bob should match it here. Now that Adam has gotten himself into this situation, what are his chances?

This is arguably the most common situation where I see players misquote the 12% number. Bob, after taking a bad beat on this hand, might easily get up from the table lamenting the fact that he had the lead, the high, and the low, and was once again bitten by that "12% swing factor". We'll see that he is substantially underestimating Adam's chances, even with no double or split options.

The main distinction between this situation and the one in the previous column is that Adam can win this round with only a "half-swing." That is, he can win by pushing while Bob loses, and also by winning while Bob pushes. For example, if Adam makes 18 and Bob makes 17, Adam wins the match if the dealer lands on either number.

What we need here is a Tournament Situational Strategy, utilizing all the information available to the player. In Adam's case, his strategy should take into account his hand, Bob's unplayed hand, and the dealer upcard.

The first chart (below) presents Adam's optimal strategy by providing the hit targets that he should use for hard and soft totals. Let's assume that the cards are dealt and Adam has A-4, while Bob is dealt T-7. If the dealer has a 4 up, we can use all that information to look up Adam's best strategy in the first strategy chart. The first row of that chart applies whenever the dealer upcard is 2 through 6. If we look across to the column for 17 (Bob's hard total), we see the advice "h18s19," which means that our hard-hitting target is 18, and our soft-hitting target is 19. Adam should continue hitting his hand until he reaches either of those targets, or busts trying. Here is one possible resulting hand: (Ace-4-3-9-Ace). Notice that Adam appropriately hits his three-card soft 18 here.

A second chart handles Adam's strategy when Bob's hand is a soft total, from (A-A) to (A-9). Absent from both charts are Bob totalís of 21, as Adam can't win without a blackjack in that case. The third and final chart shows the best strategy for Bob to use to defend his lead, once Adam's hand is complete.

So, what is the bottom line?...

Want to read the rest of this article?

This article is now included in a new BJI e-book publication called, "How to Win EVEN MORE Blackjack Tournaments - Volume II" by Kenneth R. Smith. It it available exclusively in the e-book...

How to Win Even More Blackjack Tournaments - Volume II

NEW E-BOOK BY BJI AUTHOR KEN SMITH!
How to Win EVEN MORE Blackjack Tournaments
Volume II... only $14.95

Ken Smith's second e-book on tournament blackjack contains more of his winning strategies that have made him one of the best tournament blackjack players in the world.

Only $14.95 (US), available immediately after purchase as an Adobe Acrobat PDF e-book for viewing and printing on your computer.

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