Friday, November 6, 2015

When not to double down, or why Jeb should avoid casinos

Blackjack is a pretty straightforward game. It's easy to learn and play, and the strategies that are most likely to be successful are fairly simple, as well. Thus, it's a very popular game in casinos because people believe they have a good chance of beating the house (to be clear, though, the odds always tilt to the house regardless of the strategy employed, which is why casino owners love to see people at the blackjack tables).

Here's a pretty good chart (be sure to use the "4 or more" decks setting for basic casino blackjack) on what one should do in casino blackjack, based on the player's hand and the dealer's face-up card. The player is usually allowed to double down—which means doubling one's bet and taking one and only one more card—after the second card is dealt. The chart is based on the assumption that the dealer will be required to take a hit (another card) if the house's total is sixteen or under and will be required to stand (no more cards) if the house's total is seventeen or higher. So, if a player's total is nine, ten, or eleven, doubling down makes sense if the dealer's face up card is three, four, five, or six.

Why? Because of the preponderance of face cards in the deck. If the player has already been dealt two non-face cards, odds are good that the next card will be a face card, which would give the player a nineteen, twenty, or twenty-one. Those are tough hands for the dealer to beat or even push (tie), given the dealer's face up card. Because the dealer is likely to either have a face card in the hole (the face down card) or get one when the dealer hits, or both.

When not to double down also a pretty ease thing to understand. Obviously, the player should never double down when a hit could cause a bust (a total over twenty-one). Seriously. No matter what the dealer has showing, if the player has twelve or more, doubling down is supremely foolish. Similarly, the player should not double down when the dealer has an ace or a face card showing (exception: when the player has a total of eleven and the dealer has a face card, the player could double down). To put the latter in a different way, when the dealer is likely to have a good hand—a twenty or twenty-one—and the best a player could do is twenty with one more card, doubling down makes no sense.

Now imagine if the player could see the dealer's hole card and know that it was another face card or even an ace to go along with the face card already showing. And imagine that the player's total was, say, six. Doubling down here would be beyond stupid because it would amount to an automatic loss. Who in their right mind would ever possibly do such a thing?

Answer: Jeb Bush.

Apparently, the Jeb Bush campaign is not content with getting smoked in the last debate by Marco Rubio, after Bush criticized Rubio's Senate attendance record. Bush is continuing to attack Rubio on the issue, doubling down on it if you will, imagining—somehow—that he has a shot at scoring points with this particular issue. To me, it's mind-boggling. Since the last debate, Bush's poll numbers have been dropping, while Rubio's have been going up. Take a look at the RCP rolling averages chart. The pink line is Rubio, the green line is Bush. The latter is steadily falling, the former is inching upward. The latest averages—as of November—are actually amusing, in light of my blackjack analogy. Why? Because Rubio is sitting on 11%, while Bush is at 6%. What moron doubles down on a six when the dealer has an ace showing?


  1. Maybe Bush is secretly in league with Rubio to boost his numbers through idiotic attacks?

  2. Lol, I almost used that angle as a joke. Of course, if Bush has already decided to quit the race, it would make a certain sort of sense...