Yesterday I discussed splitting a pair of 9s and how your blackjack strategy should go. Despite the hand total on a pair of 9s being 18, this is still a pair that you will want to split. When faced with a dealer’s up card of 2 through 6 or an 8 was covered yesterday. In those cases you split because the dealer can beat your 18 with three of the five hand totals he could hit to.
See that last line? The reason behind why you are splitting a pair of 9s against those dealer up cards? That is one of the points behind blackjack strategy. It is all well and fine to memorize and then automatically turn out the best play. But understanding why you are making that play is key to mastering your blackjack strategy, and allowing for further blackjack strategy finesses, such as card counting.
Now when you are facing a dealer’s up card of 9 I could simply tell you that you split your pair of 9s there too and be done with it. But since you are interested in mastering your blackjack strategy I am going to tell you why you are splitting those 9s.
Yes, you split a pair of 9s against a dealer’s 9 to improve your standing in that round, but it is just a little harder since the dealer has a 9 too. And there are a few cards that can help you, depending on house rules of course.
If you are dealt a 10 or Ace on one of your split 9s you just bettered your original hand to have a 19 or 20. So you can increase your chances of winning there. And you have a five out of thirteen shot of being dealt one of those cards.
You also have a one in thirteen chance of being dealt a 2, which would give you a hand total of 11. And you of course know that with an 11 your next move in blackjack strategy is to double down.
Finally if you are dealt another 9 you can split again if the house rules allow you to do so. And if they do not you are no worse off than you were when you started. So being dealt a 9 is another one out of thirteen.
So off all the cards that improve your hand or cause your hand total to break even there are seven out of thirteen chances. That leaves six cards that could potentially worsen your hand. But notice that by splitting you have a slight edge in doing so: seven cards can improve your hand while 6 will worsen it.
Now you can see why you need to split a pair of 9s when facing down a dealer’s 9—you have a slight edge in improving your hand. And either improving your hand or minimalizing your losses is desired end result of blackjack strategy.
This morning I began talking about blackjack strategy for when you are dealt a pair of 9s. As you might recall I left off by saying that when holding a pair of 9s when the dealer is showing a 2 through 6 or an 8, the best play to make is to split.
While an 18 is a strong there are three hands that the dealer can hit to with one of those up cards and still beat the player. Three out of the five possible hands I should say. And the last time I checked, that was more than 50%, which puts the player at the disadvantage. So that leaves splitting those 9s.
If you are playing in a game of blackjack that allows for doubling after splitting then you gain a little on your blackjack odds: a 0.15% to your odds in fact. And here is why:
Once you split you have two hands that are starting at 9, which is a nice strong card to start with. Let’s say that your next card is a 2, which gives you an 11. You can double down on that 11 and further increase your chances of turning a profit.
Or if you are playing in a game that allows for resplitting and are dealt another 9 you can split again. Sure you have three hands open at that point, but they all have strong starting points. And resplitting adds another 0.08% to your blackjack odds.
What else can you do with that 9? Well, if you are dealt an Ace, it gives you a hand total of 20. And that is a good hand to stand on. A 10 or a face card will also put you in a nice spot with a hard 19.
Now I have not talked about blackjack strategy when you are holding a pair of 9s and the dealer is also holding a 9. The reasoning there for your blackjack strategy is a little bit different. Whereas splitting against a dealer’s 2 through 6 or an 8 works to help improve your chances of a net gain, splitting against a dealer’s 9 is meant more to reduce your net losses. But I will talk more about that one tomorrow morning.
Every now and then we are dealt what can seem like a strong hand, but in reality it is deceptively strong. I say deceptively strong because while in ordinary blackjack strategy, meaning ordinary hard hands, their hand totals would be fine. But what if they are not ordinary hard hands?
Okay, enough with the mystique. I am talking about those rascally hands that either have Aces or are made up of a pair. In particular I am talking about a certain pair: a pair of 9s.
I know when I have discussed pair splitting blackjack strategy that I have said to pay attention to what the hand total is and to not only focus on the joyous fact that you are holding a pair. In the case of a pair of 9s the hand total is 18. If you were playing this hand out like you would an ordinary hard hand you know that you would stand on an 18. But this is not an ordinary hard 18.
This is a pair of 9s, and because it is not ordinary you want to play it out in the most advantageous way. This means that if the dealer has a 2 through 6 or an 8 that you want to split that pair of 9s.
Let’s compare shall we?
If you were to stand on a pair of 9s against those dealer up cards you would yield a profit over a large number of rounds. In other words you would need to play a lot of rounds and be dealt a lot of pairs of 9s in order to make that 18 profit. This is because of there are only five totals the dealer can hit to that would not bust him, and three of those five beat your 18. The odds on standing on a pair of 9s against a 2 through 6 or an 8 are not with you.
So what strategy options do you have left? You can hit, which is very not smart in terms of blackjack strategy, or you can split. And splitting is the way to go.
Check back this afternoon for the whys in splitting a pair of 9s. After all, your blackjack strategy is not just about knowing what play to make, but about knowing why you are making it.