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My recent trip to Las Vegas was more personal than business, so I didn’t spend a lot of time scouting out new games. One game that kept popping up without looking for it much was Blackjack Switch.

I found at least one table (and fairly crowded) in about every casino I went to. I didn’t have a lot of time to see how people were playing it either. I find it very hard to believe most people know the right strategy for switching, although many hands are obvious.

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I’m also guessing many people were using whatever strategy they use for regular blackjack to guide them when to hit or stick and this could be rather problematic for their bankroll, too.

To refresh everyone’s memory, Blackjack Switch requires the player to play two hands of blackjack. After the initial two cards are dealt to everyone and the dealer’s upcard is exposed, the player has the option to request the second card from each of his two hands be switched with one another.

So, if dealt a 10-6 and a 5-10, he can change this to be a 10-10 and a 5-6, which is quite a bit better. The big tradeoff is that if the dealer busts with a 22 it is considered a push to any player’s non-bust hand, except for a natural blackjack. It is this rule that makes all the changes to our basic blackjack strategy.

It is nearly impossible to describe the Switch strategy in a column like this. With 10 possible up cards and a couple dozen different combinations of individual hands, there are literally thousands of possible combinations. Instead, I have created a table of expected values for each combination.

You need to add up the two values for your pre-switch hands and the two values for your potential post-switch hands. Whichever provides the higher expected value is the right strategy. Again, many of the hands are obvious, so you won’t need to do this for those.

Easier to describe is the new hit/stick strategy. For starters, throw out most of what you think you know of blackjack strategy. The dealer busts with 22 a lot of the time. These hands becoming pushes means relying on the dealer to bust to provide you with a win is greatly reduced.

As a result of this, we find we double down and split far less often – or more correctly, in far fewer circumstances. We never double down into a 10/Face or an Ace (not even with an 11). The only double down with soft hands are a soft 17 or 18 looking into a 5 or 6. Splitting is reduced quite a bit as well. The rule of “always” splitting 8’s is gone. Don’t split them into 10/Face or an Ace.

The interesting thing is that although there are far fewer conditions in which we double down, we don’t necessarily double down much less frequently. As a result of switching, we create the double down situations far more often. We also wind up with many more strong no-hit hands – which is hardly a bad thing.

The rules for hard hands only undergo a few changes. Don’t yell at a player for hitting a 12 into a 4 as that is the right move. Hitting a 13 into a 2 is also correct. However, 14 and above remain as per normal blackjack – only hit if the dealer has a 7 through Ace as his up card.

Blackjack Switch provides the opportunity for a player to earn the same payback as regular blackjack – about 99.5% – while spicing up the game a bit. The hit/stick strategy is probably a bit easier than regular blackjack, but it must be learned anew.

If you choose to use regular blackjack strategy on Blackjack Switch, you will double the house advantage. More critical is learning when to switch. If you never switched, you’d be giving the casino a nearly 10% advantage.

Of course, even if you just guessed at the switch strategy, you’d probably do better than that – but still be far off from Expert Strategy. Just making a handful of mistakes repeatedly could easily double, triple or quadruple (or worse) the house advantage.

A few months ago, I released Expert Strategy for Blackjack Switch. It is a 14-page booklet that explains the rules of the game and how the strategies (both Switch and hit/stick) were developed.


About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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