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Readers Q&A #26

Dear Expert Guide,

The following question was asked by

Is standing on a hard 16 comprised of 3 or more cards vs. a dealer upcard of 10 a correct change to the basic strategy for double deck games? A few fellow players have told me that they have read that standing in that situation is the optimal move.

Best regards,
The "Ask the Pro" Staff

Dear Kevin,

As a general guideline, for two deck games you should stand on a 16 that has 3 or more cards against a dealer’s 10 if your multicard 16 contains any 4’s or 5’s. There is an exact basic strategy for 2 deck games that depends on the compostion of the cards in your hand. See


Henry Tamburin


Dear Expert Guide,

The following question was asked by

Dear Mr Tamburin

I know of a casino in S.E.Asia in which i seek your expertise in regards of determining whether the casino has an edge over the player - so far - from the information that i have gathered from your various informative articles, it appears that the player may have a very slight edge over this casino and i was hoping if you verify if this is so or not.

The game in question is pontoon, with the following casino rules:

pontoon - 3 to 2
6,7,8 - same suit - 3 to 1
6,7,8 - different suits - 2 to 1
if player has 7,7 of the same suit and dealer has any suit of 7 - and you draw another 7 of your suit - you get 50/1
5 cards total to 21 - 3 to 2
7 cards total to 21 - 2 to 1
insurance offered at 2 to 1

late surrender
suppose the dealer card is an ace and you have a 6 and 5, if you double and say get an 8 but the dealer gets pontoon - they only take a half of your stakes after doubling down, however, if the dealer gets say a 9 - they take all your stake
after doubling down - e.g. say you have 6,4 against the dealers 9 and say you pull a 2 after doubling down, you are allowed to surrender
player reaching 21 gets immediate payout - there is no need to wait for the dealer to determine what his total is (even though the dealer up card is an ace)
player hits on soft 17
doubling after splitting
doubling allowed for any two cards
doubling after pair split
4 decks - however they use a shuffling machine - but it appears that to jam constantly - with the used cards normally slotted back into the machine - jamming up at the mouth of the machine (where used cards are put back)
the spread between minimum and maximum bet is 20 -or a ratio of 1:20 which is very good

Another question that i would like to kindly ask - is with this use of the shuffling machine - ( i am not sure how the shuffling takes place - but i do not thnk it is random in - random out machines) - can you still adopt a card counting system to beat the casino (it appears that this casino - the pit bosses are very inexperienced in detecting such activities).

I am very sure that these rules are very favourable for the player but I would like your expertise in determining this - if the player has a edge over the casino, could you kindly disclose as to what the size of the edge is (should the player play in accordance to basic strategy).

I thank you kindly in advance and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind Regards,

Simon Toh

Dear Simon,

First let me answer your second question about the continuous shuffling machine (CSM). If they are using a CSM, then card counting is futile. There are so,me techniques to beat the CSM’s but very difficult and time consuming to implement (see John May’s Book, Get The Edge at Blackjack).

As to the casino’s edge based on the rules you sent. Here’s what I came up with using a back of the envelope quick calculation. Four decks (-0.48%), double after pair splitting (+0.14%), dealer hits soft 17 (-0.21%), surrender on 2 or more cards (+0.2%), European no- hole card rule (-0.1%), late surrender (+0.08%), 6,7,8 of same suit paying 3 to 1(+0.02%), 6,7,8 different suits paying 2 to 1 (+0.2%), three 7’s scenario (est. +0.1%).and five card 21 an automatic winner and paying 3 to 2(+0.15%). I come up with the casino having a slight edge of 0.1% with basic strategy. However, I would strongly suggest you verify this using Wong’s Blackjack Count Analyzer software and inputting the above rules to determine the exact casino’s edge. You would also have to modify your basic strategy to take advantage of some of the rules. You can find the strategy modifications in Stanford Wong’s book, Basic Blackjack.


Henry Tamburin


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