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Frank Scoblete - Aces and Eights and Destiny

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  • Frank ScobleteThe problem with real life is that it is maddeningly and consistently inconsistent. Change is the norm; reversals of fortune routine, betrayal de rigueur. Just when you think you have a handle on something, it turns out that there are so many exceptions to the rule you were about to create that the rule seems wrong.

    Even trite and seemingly true statements such as ?there are two sides to every story,? fail to take into account that sometimes there are three, four, five or more sides to some stories. Still other stories are all but unfathomable.

    A simple perusal of history shows us the inconsistency of events spread over time. World War II saw America engaged in a life and death struggle with our bitterest enemies, Germany and Japan. Now, these nations are our friends. Of course, our country exists as a result of a war against England and, for a while there, England was to the United States what Godzilla was to Tokyo. Now, England is our best friend and Godzilla helps out Tokyo by battling all those other monsters who attack it. You just can?t be positive in life about anything ever.

    Except in gambling. There, certain things are as solid and as true and as consistent as, well, as...not like anything in real life!

    Take blackjack as an example. There is one and only one way to play certain hands for the basic strategy player. [Quick refresher: Basic strategy is the computer-derived rules for the playing of every player hand against every possible dealer upcard.] You don?t have to think; you don?t have to wonder; you don?t have to ponder.

    Take a hand of 16. No matter how you slice it, a hand of 16 is a rotten hand. Hit it and you?ll bust over 60 percent of the time; stand and the dealer will have to bust. You?ll be a big loser when you stand as well, around 70 percent of the time.

    But a 16 composed of two 8s is an entirely different matter. In fact, very few players even think of two 8s as a 16; they merely think of it as an opportunity to split. It is an absolute truism in blackjack that every time you see those two 8s, you split them. Yes, you split them against aces and 10s and deuces and 3s. You split them against everything that dealer shows.

    That is a clear, concise, precise and ironclad rule! No exceptions. No debates. You won?t have to worry that ten years from now, after some peace treaty, your enemy is now your friend and you?ll have to hit those 8s. No sir, you split them in the past, you split them today, and you will split them in the future.

    Does this mean that a pair of 8s is a winning hand? Against some dealer upcards it is -- specifically 2 through 7 (assuming you can double after splits). You will win more money by splitting than you will by standing or hitting.

    But a pair of 8s is a losing hand against 8 through ace. So why do you split? Because you actually lose less money by splitting than you do by standing or hitting. A starting hand of 8 is a stronger starting hand than 16. When you split, you give yourself a starting hand of 8. Again, a starting hand of 8 against 8s through aces is a loser but it loses less.

    It is also a truism that you always split aces against every dealer upcard and for essentially the same reasons. You will win more or lose less when you do so. A 2 or 12 composed of two aces is not a very strong hand to hit. But a single ace is a very powerful card. It can be paired with a ten approximately 32 percent of the time for a 21 (give or take depending on the dealer upcard/number of decks); it can be paired with a 9 approximately eight percent of time for a total of 20, and it can be paired with an 8 approximately eight percent of the time for a total of 19. That means approximately 48 percent of the time (again give or take), you have a strong possibility of a winning hand -- as the average winning hand in blackjack is approximately an 18.8. Splitting a pair of aces is a winning move in most cases.

    Of course, even though the rule for aces and eights is ironclad, the results in the short term can be disheartening. Split your 8s against a dealer upcard of ten and get a ten on each half of the split. If the dealer flips over a 20, you?ve just lost two bets instead of one. Ugh! Some people, realizing that possibility, hesitate to split those 8s against a ten. Simple logic, however, can come to the aid of our faltering hearts as those two tens land, bing! bong! on our split 8s. If the dealer has a ten up, and you have two tens, the likelihood of another ten in the hole is much less than it would be had we gotten any other cards on our split.

    It is no different with those two aces. Split and get a two on one ace and a three on the other ace. Then look across the table at that big, fat dealer ten. You have four non-tens sitting right in front of you. It?s an air-gulping moment for sure as the dealer flipped over his hole card to reveal another big, fat 10 (or even a 7, 8, or 9).

    Okay, the rule is ironclad. Split aces and eights, period. But the destiny of the hand after it is split is not engraved in stone. You win some; you lose some. However, in the long run (that glorious long run!), you will win more money or lose less money, guaranteed!, if you follow the rule. That?s a fact. There?s no two sides to the story of splitting aces and eights.

    Some of Frank's most popular books can be purchased by clicking one of the image links below:

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