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BLACKJACK ANSWER MAN

By John Grochowski

John Grochowski is a blackjack expert and a well-known and respected casino gambling columnist. His syndicated casino gambling column appears in the Chicago Sun Times, Denver Post, Casino City Times, and other newspapers and web sites. Grochowski has written six books on gambling including the "Answer Man" series of books (www.casinoanswerman.com). He offers one-minute gambling tips on radio station WSM-AM (890) and podcasts are available at http://www.wlsam.com/sectional.asp?id=38069. Send your question to Grochowski at casinoanswerman@casinoanswerman.com.

Q. This isnít a question, but I thought youíd love the story.

I recently returned from Las Vegas and I was playing at a $25 blackjack table. At my table was me at first base, a "kid" about 23 years old (in the middle) and a guy about 50 years old at third base

.The kid and I were both making $25 bets, which we'd increase to 50 (or a little higher) if we got ahead. The guy at third base, though, was betting $2000 a hand. I have to add that the guy was one of those real jerks who we've all played with and we all hate. (Pounding the table, swearing at the dealer, complaining about every hand, etc.) And he was a real bad player, hitting 15 against a 6, doubling 9 against a 2, splitting 3s against a 10, etc.. 

Not surprisingly, he was losing, but coincidentally, the kid and I were both winning. The kid had one of those streaks going that we all dream of (every time he'd hit 15, he'd get a 5 or 6 - if he doubled an 11 against a 10 and got a five, the dealer would end up busting, etc.) and he was winning 9 out of 10 hands. 

The jerk then said to the dealer, "Can I bet on his hand?"

Jerk: Can I bet on his hand?

Dealer: No you can't - but what you CAN do (if he's willing) is give him some chips to add to his bet, but I want to make it clear that it'll still be his hand and his decisions and I'm not going be a referee. It'll be strictly between him and you.

The guy then tried to give the kid four purple chips and said (in a demanding tone), "Add this to your bet."

Kid: I'd rather not do that. I don't feel comfortable about it.

Jerk: You're an a..hole!

Kid: No, I'm not an a...hole. I don't mind losing $25 of my money, but I wouldn't feel comfortable losing $2000 of yours. Sorry.

Jerk: (angrily) You're not only an a....hole. You're a f...kin a...hole!

Kid: OK, how much do you want to add to my bet?

Jerk: Two grand

Kid: Ok. Slide over the chips.

Now, the great part of the story!

The kid now has a bet in front of him for $2025. ($25 of his own money - $2000 of the jerk's money.) He gets 20 with the dealer showing a 7 and says to the guy, "Remember that you called me a f...kin a...hole?"

Jerk: (smiling)  Yeah, but I didn't say you weren't a lucky f...kin a...hole and I'm glad I'm now your partner.

Kid: (sternly)  Well, partner,  I'm not only a lucky f..kin a..hole! I'm a very smart lucky f..kin a..hole! And, partner, you're going to give me a thousand bucks right now - or I'm going to hit the hand!

Jerk: You can't do that! That's blackmail!

Kid: No, itís not blackmail. It might be borderline extortion - but it's certainly not blackmail. Anyhow, you've got three seconds to make a decision - and, by the way, even if I don't draw, we haven't won the hand yet. So, make your decision now!

The jerk gives the kid the thousand. The dealer turns over a 10 and the kid and I left.

And that's the story!

Note: I would have loved to be able to tell you that  the dealer turned over a 9 and drew a 5 - but, the kid (and I) were still delighted the way it turned out!

A. Iím not quite sure what to say to that. Iím laughing too hard. Iíd never have been able to pull that off --- Being a stubborn old cuss, Iíd have just refused the guyís bet no matter what he called me.

Q. My dad is one of those guys who always splits 10s if the dealer has a 6 up. He told me, "The way I look at it, when I have an edge, I want my money on the table. I have an edge with a 20 against a 6, but I also have an edge with a 10 against a 6. So I split and get more money on the table."

You know and I know his edge is a lot bigger if he stands on the 20, and splitting the 10s costs him money. However, he did set me to wondering. Is there ever a right time to split the 10s against a 6?

A. If youíre a basic strategy player, no. Itís always best to stand on 20. If youíre a Hi-Lo counter, and the true count is plus 4 or higher in a multideck game, then you add to your edge by splitting the 10s.

Then thereís tournament play. If youíre in the late stages in a tournament round and you absolutely have to maximize your wagers, then splitting 10s is one way to do it. However, understand that in tournaments, we sometimes have to make all kinds of odd plays that we wouldnít make in a cash game.

Q. I surrendered a 16 against a 10, and the woman next to me said, "Oh, I didnít know you could surrender here. How does that work?" I explained it to her, and a guy at the end of the table snapped, "I guess it depends on whether you came to gamble." After that, he seemed to get mad every time anyone at the table surrendered. What can you say to a comment like that?

A. Iíd have laughed, and then gone on playing the way I want to play. Players who take blackjack at all seriously try to take a little of the gamble out of the game. The elements of chance remain very strong, but if the casino offers surrender, a good player will use it properly to reduce the house edge.

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