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Holdem Blackjack Hand Analysis

Elvis Elvis

Holdem Blackjack Hand Analysis will without doubt improve a player’s performance over time. Analysing hands will give you the ability to make correct decisions in the future. It’s not easy, but with determination and practice anyone can improve their Holdem Blackjack hand analysis skills.

Anytime you have 21 on the last betting round, your only worry is how to get as much money into the pot as possible. We’ll be discussing that another time. It’s when you don’t have 21 and are faced with a decision to call or fold that we’ll be discussing here.

To call or not to call – that is the question

Your choices in the above hand are to fold, call or raise. With a 20 hand you can never be sure that you are on a winner so we can usually rule out a raise as an option. So we are left with folding or calling.

Ok, you don’t have a lot of time before the ticker times you out, but you should at least be looking at your pot odds. You’ll be able to make a good educated guess at what the best play is by comparing your pot odds with the likelihood that you have him beat. In the above hand you have pot odds of 3000:1000 or 3-to-1. Hmmm… that’s not too bad. Based on the pot odds, your experience, what you know about the player and how the betting developed during the hand, you call.

You flip the cards and he has 19. You win the pot!

Although you called and won the hand this doesn’t necessarily mean you made the right decision. If you had more time you could have analysed the hand, but it’s not always practical to do that with the ticker counting down. However, you can use your past experience of analysing hands to help you make an informed decision.

If you are unsure that you made a correct decision during a game – analyse it in your own good time. Then when you’re faced with the same situation again, you’ll know that by calling (or folding) you are are likely to be making an informed decision.

Analysing your playing decisions is a very powerful way to strengthen your game. Do it!

Holdem Blackjack Hand Analysis

Analysing Holdem Blackjack hands

Should you have called in the above hand? Let’s do some analysis. There are three possible ranges of hands that your opponent could have that interest you:

  • 21 = you lose 1000
  • 20 = you tie and win 1000*
  • 19 or less = you win 3000

To work out if calling is the best play you’ll have to assign a %-chance that your opponent has each of the above hands. When you have done this you can work out your long-term expected value (EV).

Expected Value (EV)

The EV of a bet (or a call in this case) is how much you will win in the “long run” by making that bet. To calculate your EV in this case, you take each possible outcome (range of hands) and multiply it by the probability (%-chance) of that outcome happening. You then add the numbers of each outcome to find your EV. It’s easier to show how EV works than explain it.

So let’s assign a %-chance to the range of hands your opponent might have and work out the EV (we’ll discuss how to assign a %-chance to a range of hands later):

  • 21 — 40% chance your opponent has this hand
  • 20 — 40% chance your opponent has this hand
  • 19 or less — 20% chance your opponent has this hand

So:

  • 40% of the time you’ll lose 1000 chips (-1000*40% = -400)
  • 40% of the time you’ll win 1000* chips (1000*40% = 400)
  • 20% of the time you’ll win 3000 chips (3000*20% = 600)

EV = -400 + 400 + 600 = +600

So we were right to call in the above hand!

A different player

Let’s say we played the above hand against another player. This player hardly ever bluffs and usually has 21 when he bets big. We’ll have to assign a different set of %-chances to this player:

  • 21 — 70%
  • 20 — 20%
  • 19 or less — 10%

So:

  • 70% of the time you’ll lose 1000 chips (-1000*70% = -700)
  • 20% of the time you’ll win 1000* chips (1000*20% = 200)
  • 10% of the time you’ll win 3000 chips (3000*10% = 300)

EV = -700 + 200 + 300 = -200

Uh-oh! It’s marginal, but it looks as if we should fold against this player.

How to assign %-chances

This is the tricky bit. It’s always just an estimated guess when you assign %-chances to a range of hands. However, the more you do it, the more accurate you’ll become and the richer you’ll be.

Usually there are 3 ranges of hands you need to assign %-chances for.

  • Hands that beat you
  • Hands that tie with you
  • Hands that you win against

Some general guidelines

When assigning a %-chance, it’s probably best to start with the hands you win against. Included in this range are bluffs made by your opponent.

Card gambling games such as poker induce people to bluff. People love to bluff and even the tightest player in the world bluffs. I bet you bluff too, don’t you? The structure of Holdem Blackjack seems to induce people to bluff more than in poker. With this in mind you should almost never say that your opponent is not bluffing (unless you have a very good read on your opponent or there is some heavy betting action). You should nearly always assign at least 10% to this range. Hands that you beat are not always bluffs though. Your opponent may genuinely feel that he has you beaten sometimes. Depending on your opponent and how the betting has developed during the hand the range could be anything from 10% to 50%.

When you have decided on the %-chance for the hands you win against, the remaining % has to be divided between the hands that beat you and the hands you tie with. Generally you should assign a higher %-chance to tied hands the better your hand is. For example it will be more likely that you have a tied hand if you have 20 than if you have 16.

Your accuracy at assigning %-chances will largely depend on your hand-reading skills. Knowing the pip-value of winning hands at showdown can also help you in your analysis. We’ve collected data from real games that show the % breakdown of winning hands at showdown at different stages of the game.

The final word

As can be seen Holdem Blackjack hand analysis requires some work. It’s like a lot of things in life there is no short-cut. Because of this a lot of players won’t bother.

It’s not easy to accurately analyse a Holdem Blackjack hand while playing, but you should always be looking at your pot odds. Generally the better your pot odds the more likely you are to call. If you’re not sure that the pot odds are good enough, analyse the hand after the game. You’ll be able to go back to the hand by looking in the Log Viewer from the lobby at the poker room where you play.

If you take just a few minutes analysing one tricky hand after each session, your play will steadily improve. You’ll start to recognise situations you’ve been in and know whether a play is EV positive or not. After a while you may even be able to do Holdem Blackjack hand analysis while playing. It does become easier with practice and you will eventually start to play instinctively correct. It’s worth doing. Good luck!