HOW TO PLAY YOUR 18
by Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin is the author of the "Ultimate Guide to Blackjack" (http://blog888casino/casino-guides/blackjack), editor of the Blackjack Insider Newsletter, and host of smartgaming.com.
There are several ways to get an 18 when you play blackjack. The 18 could be "hard," meaning the hand either doesn't contain an ace, or if it does, the ace is counted as one. (Examples are 10-8, 8-5-5, and ace-4-10-3.) Or you can get a "soft 18," meaning a hand containing an ace that is counted as 11. (Examples are ace-7, and 5-2-ace.) Moreover, you could be dealt a pair of 9s for 18. What follows are the playing strategies for all these "different" 18s (some might surprise you).
The strategy for a hard 18 is simple: Do nothing except stand.
Most players are very happy to be dealt a hard 18. They are ready to break out the bubbly and take their winnings to the bank because they believe they have a big edge regardless of what the dealer's upcard happens to be. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but a hard 18 (e.g., 10-8) isn't such a great hand. Don't believe me? Look at the following table that shows the player's' expectation when holding a 10-8 against all dealer's upcard for a six-deck game where the rules specify the dealer must stand on soft 17 (S17) and players can double down after pair splitting (DAS). (Note: A positive expectation means the player has the edge over the dealer; a negative expectation means the dealer has the advantage.)
PLAYER EXPECTATION FOR 10-8*
The table shows you why you always stand with hard 18 no matter what the dealer shows. In all cases, your expectation is better (i.e., more positive or less negative) when standing compared to hitting. However, when a player stands on 10-8, winning the hand is not always a sure thing. You'll have the edge when the dealer shows a 2 through 8 (all positive expectations) but against the dealer's 9, 10, and ace, you're at a disadvantage (the expectations are all negative). The bottom line is this: Even though you should always stand with a hard 18, the best you can hope for if you were dealt a hard 18 on every hand is to end up about even.
When you are dealt a soft 18, you could stand, hit, or double down. Most players routinely...
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