How House Blackjack Rules Affect Basic Strategy

Question: Back when I first memorized blackjack basic strategy, I learned that against a 5 or 6, I should always split 4s. But recently a friend of mine, who is a regular blackjack player and, as far as I know, plays perfect basic strategy, told me that he hits 4s. So which one of us is right, should I hit it or split it?

Actually, both of you are right, but it all comes down to where you play.

The basic strategy you learned, where you split 4s against a dealer 5 or 6, is based on a certain set of house rules. Specifically, this course of action is the best if there are multiple decks, and if you are allowed to double after splitting. If those are the rules where you play, then keep on doing what you're doing.

However, if your friend plays at a different casino where the player is not allowed to double down after splitting, then he is doing the right thing. When you split 4s, you are likely to end up with good doubling hands. But if you can't double again, then you can't maximize your winning potential against a 6. And if the dealer is showing a 5, then splitting without doubling actually turns into a losing play.

So, if you can double after splitting, feel free to split away against a 5 or 6. But if you can't, then take a normal hit against a 5 or a 6.

One other note, the above guidelines are for multi-deck blackjack games. If you're playing single-deck, then things change a bit. In the rare event that you find a good single-deck game which pays 3-2 on blackjacks, then you should absolutely play, but you'll have to change your splitting 4s strategy.

In single-deck, if you can double after splitting, then split against not only a dealer 5 and 6, but also against a dealer 4. But if you can't double after splitting, then instead of taking a regular hit, you should actually double down against a 5 or a 6 and hit everything else.

About The Author

Journalist and author John Grochowski is one of the foremost experts on casinos in America. He writes a syndicated weekly gambling newspaper column and he is a frequent contributor to gambling magazines, websites, and radio programs. His books include the best-sellers The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Casino Answer Book.

  • "Speed is good for the casino but bad for you. The more times you play per hour, the more the house edge compounds and makes it more likely that you will lose overall."

  • "When all the bets are placed, the dealer spins the wheel as a rubber flapper at the top flaps between the different stops. Whichever stop the flapper rests on when the wheel stops wins."

  • "If you turn over a playing card, the chance it will be red is 0.5, or 50%. If the casino was fair, it would pay you $1 for a $1 bet. But if a casino pays you $0.90 instead, it has a 5% edge."

  • "You can't control luck, but you can control how well you play any game which relies on skill. Study and practice the game as much as possible before you play for real in the casino."

  • "The roulette wheel is always kept spinning at a constant rate, even if no one is currently playing. The ball is spun in the opposite direction in order to ensure more randomness in the result."

X