John Grochowski

John Grochowski

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. My friends and I were joking about doubling down on blackjack, not that we’d really do it.

But it got us to talking. How high would you really go in hitting or doubling on a soft hand? I guess you’re supposed to hit or double on soft 17, but what about soft 18 or soft 19? Surely not soft 20?

A. In a six-deck game in which the dealer hits soft 17, basic strategy calls for us to double down on soft 19 if doubling is allowed.

Some tables don’t allow soft doubling, and, of course, you can’t double in standard blackjack games if you have three or more cards. In those cases, you’d just stand on your 19.

By the numbers, assuming a six-deck, hit soft 17 game, doubling on Ace-8 brings an average profit of 46.2 cents per $1 of your original wager. If you stand, the average profit is 45.2 cents, and if you hit, it’s only 23.1 cents.

It’s a different situation if the dealer stands on all 17s. Then the average profit of 49.4 cents per dollar for standing beats the 48 cents for doubling or 24 cents for hitting.

Once you get to soft 20, the line on the basic strategy chart is a solid “stand” all the way across.

What about your joke proposition, that it might be worthwhile to double down on a blackjack?

To stick with a six-deck, hit soft 17 game, if the house pays 3-2 on blackjacks, your profit is $1.50 per $1 wagered. If you double down, your profit is 66.7 cents per dollar of your original wager.

Sometimes your double down will win and your profit will be $2 instead of $1.50, but the average result will be a profit drop to 66.7 cents while risking double your original bet.

What if blackjacks pay only 6-5? Surely that must tighten the difference.

It does tighten the difference, but not by anywhere close to enough to mandate a change in strategy. With 6-5 payoffs on blackjacks, your profit per dollar wagered is $1.20. The average profit when doubling down remains at 66.7 cents per dollar of your original wager.

Don’t even think about doubling down on blackjacks. The highest soft total that calls for anything but a “stand” decision is soft 19. With Ace-8, double in a six-deck game if the dealer hits soft 17 but stand if the dealer stands on all 17s.

One last thing. Single-deck games are a little different. Should you find one of those rare beasts, double on Ace-8 vs. 6 regardless of whether the dealer hits or stands on soft 17.

Q. I’ve been reading your columns on new slot machines. Will all those be available everywhere when casinos reopen? Will all of them be online, too?

A. New games don’t go into every casino at once. Sometimes there are differences in when games are approved by state gaming boards. Often, there are differences in slot manufacturers’ marketing goals and needs, and the time it takes to build new games is a factor.

A gamemaker that rolls out a new product in Nevada or New Jersey might not have the capacity to roll out machines for Mississippi at the same time. The gaming board in Pennsylvania might or not be quicker to approve a game than the board in Illinois.

It’s always a wait-and-see situation for players. You can be reasonably sure of a fast rollout in Nevada. That’s by far the largest market, and every manufacturer wants to make sure its games are there. In other markets, rollouts are staggered.