Expert Advice

            The internet is a wonderful thing.  You can look up almost anything in an instant.  You can get sports scores, movie times, restaurant maps and loads of news.  Of course, one of the problems is that the quality of news on the internet is not quite what it used to be in the printed newspapers.  I'm an avid baseball fan (Mets specifically).  The number of times I've read a recap of a game and wondered if the writer had even watched the game is staggering.  The article will have wrong information about what happened in the game and wrong background information.  This past season, I flipped through a headline that blared "(Ryan) Howard hits eighth home run against the Mets."  Interesting as Howard plays for the Phillies and the Mets played the Cardinals that night!  It turns out the home run was against the Rockies.


            Most of the time, I've never heard of the person who wrote the article.  There is so much pressure to provide 'news' that many news sources (like Yahoo), just throw any information out there with virtually no fact checking.  In the past couple of years, I've commented on this in my column when a rare gaming article popped up on these sources.  I look at the person writing the column and it is nobody I've ever heard of.  I'm pretty well known in the industry and Yahoo doesn't ask me to write a column, they get someone who seemingly has no special expertise to write whatever is on his mind without much substance behind it.


            Recently, a headline blared something about the 30 things you don't want to do in Las Vegas.  It turns out that only a handful of them had anything to do with gambling.  The ones that stick out have to do with blackjack.  He told people to never split 10's.  Didn't say much more than that.  So, I guess if you are the type of person inclined to split 10's you'll now stop because a complete stranger on the internet with no known credentials just told you not to.  It would seem to make more sense to try to explain to someone WHY you should not split 10's.


            The good news is that I'm hopefully talking to very few of you.  Over the years, my less than scientific observations say that there are fewer people splitting 10's.  Just how bad of a play is it?  Where does one start?  Splitting is done for two reasons.  The first is to improve your hand.  But, this is the lesser of the reasons.  We split 8's because a 16 is just a bad hand, with little upside.  An 8 is not a superstar hand, but you stand a pretty good chance of getting an 18 which gives you a fighting chance.  Better yet if you get an Ace or a 2/3 to Double Down.  But, the larger reason for splitting is to give you TWO chances to win, frequently on hands where the Dealer is likely to bust.  This is why MOST splits take place against Dealer 2 through 6.


            So, why would you split a 20?  and against which card would you want to do it?  I guess using my prior statements you'd most want to do it against a 6.  This way the Dealer has the highest probability of busting while you wind up with a great hand!  Of course, you already had a great hand with a 20.  What are you hoping to get.  If you draw another 10, you're just going to split again.  If you get a 2 through 6, you've now reduced your hand to winning only by the Dealer busting.  But, I won't convince you with logic.  I'll convince you with math.


            If you follow basic blackjack strategy and just happily stick on your 20 against a 6, you'll win this hand 78% of the time and push another 11%.  For every $1 you wager, you'll win 67 cents for an expected value of 1.67.  If you just keep splitting as much as they'll let you (which is usually limited to 4 hands),  you'll wind up wagering about 2.8 times as much.  So, if you're a $10 player, you'll actually wager about $28 in total as you split to an average of just under 3 hands.  Your expected value will drop to 1.16, but admittedly because the average wager goes way up, this is not as bad as it sounds.  But it is still bad.  Overall, you'll win about 45 cents for every $1 in base wager.  So, you're net win gets cut by about 1/3.   I don't know why anyone who thinks splitting 10's is good would simply 'stop' at 2 hands, but if you choose this route, you reduce your win from 67 cents to 56 cents per $1 base wager.


            Given how common a 20 is for the Player, following a strategy of splitting 10's is one which will simply eat away at your bankroll at a rate that will make you wonder what hit you.  So, the unknown guy who wrote the article wasn't wrong, he just didn't bother explaining anything, which as far as I'm concerned makes it nearly worthless.


            He raised two other points not to do that I found intriguing.  One was about hitting a 16 against a Dealer face card.  The other was about NOT hitting a 16 against a Dealer face card.  The point he was trying to make was that no matter what you do here, there will be some who moan and groan.  So what?!  You don't go to a casino to keep the other Players happy.  You go to have some fun and hopefully win.  Hitting a 16 vs. a 10 is a slightly better move.  It has an expected value of 0.428 vs. a 0.425 for sticking.  So, technically, you are better off hitting and I don't recommend sticking on a regular basis.  But most importantly, your decision should be based on the math and not on how the other Players react.


            I wish I understood how some of these writers get their columns up onto major websites.  I'll admit, maybe I'm a bit jealous.  I just think that the average person would be better served by having an expert give them advice instead of some guy with an opinion.