Poker Columns
Monday, July 13, 2020
open/closeMark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the gambling trenches, working for seven different casinos. He now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer, and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.

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Deal Me In: This rule offers a distinct advantage to the player

Dear Mark: Another player on blackjack game roundly chastised me because I “doubled for less.” It was a $20 bet, and I only put out $10. You would have thought I was responsible for all the bad luck he was having. What are your thoughts on doubling for less? Gary P.

For starters, Gary, it’s your money on the layout, so you ought to be able to play your hand, and bet, any way you choose. How you play your hand only affects the overall outcome of the hand you were dealt, and not that of some buffoon having a bad day hurling insults your way. Your play has no effect on the game in general, especially his misfortune. That said, unfortunately, it does influence the outcome of “your hand.”

Doubling down allows you to double your initial wager and receive one, and only one, additional card for your hand. An example of a doubling opportunity is when you are dealt 11 (6-5, 7-4, 8-3, 9-2) against a dealer's up-card of 6. In this instance, you now have a very good chance of winning the hand by drawing one additional card. Therefore, Gary, I would always recommend that you increase your bet in this advantageous situation.

Personally, I am a big fan of doubling down. Here is an opportunity where you now know what the dealer’s up-card is, and the casino is allowing you to bet more money. When it comes to blackjack, Gary, you need those natural blackjacks, and the ability to both split pairs and double down to bring your bankroll from the negative to the positive. These proper decisions are called basic strategy and have been arrived at by computer simulations of millions of hands.

Always think of doubling down as an offensive strategy that you should use when the chances of winning the hand are better than that of the dealer’s. By betting more when the casino is at a distinct disadvantage, you will increase your potential return more than if you were to just hit your hand. Why, Gary, would you want to shortchange yourself when you have this advantage?

I believe the only time you would ever want to double for less is when you are down to your last chips and can’t afford a full double down. I wouldn’t call this move any kind of an optimal strategy. Still, you will at least know you are doing it when you will win more often than you will lose.

Dear Mark: In poker, why a dealer is always burning a card? Don L.

In poker, a burn card is a playing card dealt from the top of the deck, discarded ("burned") and not to be used by any of the players. Burn cards are typically placed face down next to the discard pile.

Burning a card is done between each betting round and before dealing the next community card(s).

Burning a card is a security measure used to prevent any player from catching a glimpse of the next card up.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "His hands become nervous when he picks up their cards, exactly as if he were holding live birds instead of inanimate pieces of cardboard." – Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) describing Leo Tolstoy at cards

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