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Introducing Blackjack Switch – a side game with an element of cheating

Published:

7 Nov 2018

Picture the scenario where you sit down for a game of blackjack and place chips in two of the betting circles.

In one hand you are dealt a king and a four. In the other, you receive a seven and a jack. The dealer is showing a nine.

Optimum blackjack strategy suggests that in this situation you are best served to hit on the 14 and stand with the 17, which you do.

The hit brings a queen, thus busting the first hand. The dealer flips another queen to make 19. Therefore, you lose both hands.

However, how different the hand could have played out if you were able to mix up your original four cards into two hands of your choosing.

The logical switch would have been to put the two picture cards together to make a hand of 20 and to play the seven and four as an 11.

You would have stood on the 20 and hit (or doubled down) on the 11. We know that the hit was revealed to be a queen, turning the 11 into 21.

The end result is two winning hands against the dealer 19 and a complete reverse of the initial outcome.

Obviously, in a traditional game of blackjack, such a switch would clearly be a method of cheating. Yet in the variant of the game called Blackjack Switch, this is exactly what you are expected to do.

Although it should be pointed out early that once the dealer has dealt a player two hands, it is only the top cards which can be switched with each other.

The Trade Off

The gains from playing Blackjack Switch are fairly obvious in that it gives players a much higher opportunity to secure at least one lucrative blackjack hand to take on the dealer with.

From four cards, players would be right to feel aggrieved if unable to play one hand of 18 or above or a hand with strong potential, such as a 10 or 11.

But given that this blackjack variant, invented by Geoff Hall and patented almost a decade ago, offers such a positive scenario to players, it would be foolish to think that casinos have no way of strengthening their position too.

And there are two ways that the casino’s edge is boosted.

The first is that a player is only paid out at 1/1 for any blackjack present in one of their two hands.

In regular blackjack, the payout on a blackjack is 6/5, although some casinos still offer the more generous 3/2 that was previously much more widely available.

The other mark up for the casino is that if the total of the dealer hand is exactly 22, then it is not a bust. A total of 22 remains a bust for a player.

Instead, 22 is classified as a push hand for the dealer, meaning it is regarded as a tie with any non-busting player hand, regardless of its total.

The only exception that beats a dealer 22 is a player blackjack straight from the deck and not one achieved by switching or splitting cards.

Strategy

There are obvious switches for a player that take little in the way of thought to carry out. The example above that creates two hands of 20 and 11 is a prime example.

However, other quartets of cards are not so straightforward to switch. The best play may not always be to identify the best single hand possible and then just fudge together the remaining two cards.

After all, a win for the strong hand and a defeat for the weaker one will only result in a player breaking even in that specific hand.

Take the scenario that a player has a blackjack in one hand, with the other featuring a king and a three.

The blackjack will only pay at 1/1, while hitting on 13 could result in a bust with just one extra card. This would result in a player ending the hand neither in profit or loss.

But would the pair of hands be stronger if they were switched, so that the two picture cards were put together and then the ace played alongside the three?

This does mean breaking up a blackjack, which may be considered ludicrous by some.

Yet, a win for the hand of 20 would still pay at 1/1, like the blackjack, while the soft 14 arguably has some versatility and at least has the potential of improvement with no risk of busting.

Of course, whether this is the optimum play may hinge on the dealer’s upcard. For example, if it is a 10, it would make more sense to retain the blackjack ahead of risking the 20.