Arnold Snyder's easy Blackjack Switch Basic Strategy and Switching Rules are valid for both online and brick and mortar casinos. The easy Blackjack Switch playing and switching strategy captures virtually all of the possible gain from the most complex Blackjack Switch strategy, but is much easier to use.
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Basic Strategy for Blackjack Switch, With Easy Switching Rules

By Arnold Snyder
(From How to Beat Internet Casinos and Poker Rooms, by Arnold Snyder)
© 2005 Arnold Snyder

 

Introduction to Blackjack Switch

Many online casinos, particularly those that use Playtech software, offer a unique game called Blackjack Switch. It is similar to regular casino blackjack in many ways, but different enough that you must study the easy switching strategy and correct playing strategy and employ them accurately.

Blackjack Switch is a fun game and an excellent game for bonus qualifying when allowed. In fact, most skilled online players choose Blackjack Switch over standard blackjack if both are available. When you apply the correct basic strategy at Blackjack Switch, the house advantage against you is even lower than at regular blackjack—only about 0.10 percent—as opposed to traditional blackjackís typical 0.5 percent.

[Ed. Note: This article is taken from Arnold Snyderís How to Beat Internet Casinos and Poker Rooms and deals specifically with the online games. In live U.S. casinos where Blackjack Switch is offered, the house advantage is about 0.25% and the playing strategy is slightly different, due to slight rules differences. You will find easy correct basic strategy charts for both brick-and-mortar and online Blackjack Switch at the end of this article.]

In addition to a lower house edge, Blackjack Switch has milder fluctuations than regular blackjack.

The unusual feature of Blackjack Switch is that you play two simultaneous hands, and you are allowed to switch the second cards dealt to each hand if you so desire. That is, if one of your hands has a 6 with a ten for the second card, and the other hand has an ace with a 5 for the second card, you may exchange the ten for the 5 to make the much better hands of an 11 and a blackjack!

The rules compensate for this advantage by paying player blackjacks only even money. In addition, a dealer total of 22 is an automatic push in Blackjack Switch on any hand other than a player blackjack. In other words, if you double down on that 11 and catch a ten for a total of 21, and the dealer proceeds to hit his hand to 22, your 21 hand just pushes. If you are holding a blackjack against the dealerís 22, your blackjack winsóbut only even money.

The Rules of Blackjack Switch

Blackjack Switch is dealt face-up from 6 decks. You must play two hands, and both hands must have equal bets. Only the second card (or top card) dealt to each hand can be switched. You cannot switch a first card from one hand with a second card from the other.

Other rules: The dealer hits soft 17. You may double down on any two cards and double down after pair splits. No resplits are allowed. The European no-hole-card rule is used—that is, if you double or split against a dealer ten or ace, you will lose all bets if the dealer gets a blackjack. On the positive side, you may make a switch before the dealer plays his hand, so that if you make one hand into a blackjack by switching your top cards, that hand will push the dealerís blackjack—that is, it will be a tie.

[Ed. Note: In live U.S. casinos where Blackjack Switch is offered, the European no-hole-card rule is not used, and players may not switch to make a blackjack before the dealer checks his hole card.]

A player blackjack pays even money and is the only hand that will beat a dealer total of 22. Otherwise, a dealer total of 22 will push all other player hands, including 21. A dealer blackjack will push a player blackjack.

The difficulty for most players in this game is knowing when to switch. Some handsósuch as the first hand described above, where a player could switch to make a blackjack and an eleven out of a hard 16 and a soft 16óare obvious switches. Anyone with a basic understanding of the game would know that this switch will create two strong hands out of two weak hands. But itís not always so obvious whether to switch or not. For instance, what do you do with two hands of A-5 and 10-6? Is it better to have A-6 and 10-5? If so, why?

The switch strategy provided below will get the house edge down to about 0.10 percent, a smaller house edge than on a traditional blackjack shoe game. After you have made your switch decision, Blackjack Switch basic strategy is very similar to that of a regular blackjack game, with slightly more hitting on stiffs and slightly less doubling.

The hard part is the switch, and itís not really that hardójust different from any decision youíre accustomed to making in a blackjack game. Itís not just a question of which hand is better against the dealer upcard, but which two-hand set is better against the dealer upcard. So, letís learn to switch!

Blackjack Switch Switching Rules

Before you can play your hands, you must decide if you would be better off with the two different hands you can get by switching your top cards. The first step in making this decision is defining the dealerís upcard as strong, weak, or deuce.

Defining the Dealerís Upcard

We have three types of dealerís upcards in Blackjack Switch:

  1. Strong: Any upcard from 7 to ace.
  2. Weak: Any upcard from 3 to 6.
  3. Deuce: Any 2. We have separated this upcard from the Weak upcards because the deuce is less likely to bust in Blackjack Switch. Thatís because a dealer total of 22 is an automatic push against all player hands except blackjack.

Defining the Playerís Hands with the WLPC Switch System

After you categorize the dealerís upcard, you must consider each of the two hands you have been dealt. There are four different types of player hands: Winner, Loser, Push, and Chance. I call this the WLPC classification. In defining the player hands, we always assume that the dealer has a Ten in the hole, and that any player hand that requires a hit will catch a Ten for a hit card. Here are the WLPC player hand definitions:

Winner

Any player blackjack and any hard or soft total from 18 to 20 that beats the dealerís total (assuming ten in the hole) is a Winner. So is any player total of 8 to 11 that beats the dealer upcard. Examples: Player 18 v. Dealer 7 is classified as a Winner. Player 9 v. Dealer 8 is a Winner. Note that although we classify a dealer upcard of 7 as Strong, we never classify a player total of 7 or 17 as a Winner.

A pair that we would split is a Winner only if each of the split cards would qualify as Winners v. the dealer upcard. Examples: 8-8 v. 7 is a Winner. 7-7 v. 6 is not, because although we would split 7-7 v. 6, a player 7 is never classified as a Winner.

Finally, the only player hands that qualify as Winners v. a dealer 2 are: 10, 11, 19, 20, and 21. Thatís because the dealerís deuce will just not bust as often in Blackjack switch as it does in regular blackjack.

Loser

Any player hand, pat or stiff, that is beaten by a dealerís Strong upcard (7 through ace) is a Loser. Examples: A5 v. 7 is a Loser. 19 v. ten is a Loser. 8-8 v. 9 is a Loser.

Push

Any player hand from 18 to 20 or 8 to 11 that would push the dealerís Strong upcard is a Push. Examples: 19 v. 9, 20 v. ten, 8-8 v. 8, and A7 v. 8. Note that 16 v. 6 is not a Push because it fails to meet the definition in two ways:

  1. 16 is not a total from 18 to 20 or 8 to 11
  2. 6 is not a Strong upcard for the dealer.

Likewise, 17 v. 7 is not a Push, because 17 is not a total from 18 to 20 or 8 to 11.

Chance

Any player soft or hard hand totaling 3 to 7 or 12 to 17 against any dealer upcard from 2-6 is a Chance hand. 2-2, 3-3, and 6-6 that you would split v. a Weak dealer card are Chance hands. All hard and soft totals other than 10, 11, 19, 20, and 21 v. a dealer deuce are Chance hands. A Player 7 or 17 v. a dealer 7 is also a Chance hand. In other words, a Chance hand is a hand where your cards are weak, but so is the dealerís total. A player 17 v. a dealer 6 is a Chance hand.

Despite all of the precise definitions above, there is a pretty easy and logical method for quickly classifying the player hands. Assuming the dealer has a Ten in the hole, and if the player needs to hit heíll draw a ten, does that player hand win, lose, or push?

If both the player and dealer totals look weak, with no clear winner or loser, then itís simply a Chance. The only weird exceptions to this Ten-in-the-hole/Ten-hit rule are that the dealer deuce is assumed stronger than the other low upcards, and a playerís 7 or 17 is never considered a Winner, or even a Push.

The WLPC classification system allows you to quickly make a judgment as to whether your hand is more likely to win, lose, or push. If both your hand and the dealerís upcard look weak, then you simply have a Chance.

Some Blackjack Switch Sample Hands

A few sample hands will show you how quick and easy this WLPC system for Blackjack Switch actually is. Look at the sample player hands below versus various dealer upcards and be sure you understand why each one is categorized as Winner, Loser, Push, or Chance.

  • A7 v. 7 = Winner
  • A7 v. 8 = Push
  • A7 v. 9 = Loser
  • 16 v. 8 = Loser
  • 16 v. 6 = Chance
  • 19 v. 9 = Push
  • 5 v. 8 = Loser
  • 5 v. 2 = Chance
  • 18 v. 2 = Chance
  • 15 v. 2 = Chance
  • 19 v. 2 = Winner
  • 8-8 v. 6 = Winner
  • 8-8 v. 2 = Chance
  • 7-7 v. 7 = Chance
  • 7-7 v. 2 = Chance

I purposely threw lots of 7s and 2s into the sample hands because those are the hard ones. Once you get those down pat, the rest are a piece of cake. It shouldnít take a lot of studying for you to remember that 18 v. 6 is a Winner. But you will have to make an effort to remember that 18 v. 2 is just a Chance.

When you can quickly classify any two-card player hand v. any dealer upcard as a Winner, Loser, Push, or Chance, you must learn how the different types of hands should be ranked according to your win potential. These rankings are pretty logical. From best to worst, the hands weíd like to hold are:

  1. Winner
  2. Push
  3. Chance
  4. Loser

The Winner and Loser classifications as first and last choice are obvious. Note that a Push is better than a Chance. Thatís the only hard part of this chart.

The Two-Hand Set Ratings

Now the game starts to get interesting. Since you will always have two hands in play, you must be able to quickly classify both of your hands versus the dealer upcard. Then you must be able to mentally switch the top cards of each hand, and classify the two other hands you could potentially hold if you choose to switch. Hereís an example (the top card for each of the player hands is always on the right):


Player Hands: 10-7 and 6-9, Dealer Upcard: 8

Both hands (17 and 15 versus 8) are Losers. Consider the possible switch:


Player Hands: 10-9 and 6-7, Dealer Upcard: 8

Now the hands have changed from Loser/Loser to Winner/Loser, so we make the switch. Itís pretty obvious that itís better to have one Winner and one Loser than two Losers. That one was easy.

There are only nine possible two-hand combinations that we can be dealt. Based on our overall win potential, this is how we rank our two-hand totals, from best to worst:


Two-Hand Set Power Ratings
  1. Winner/Winner
  2. Winner/Push
  3. Winner/Chance
  4. Winner/Loser
  5. Push/Push
  6. Push/Loser
  7. Chance/Chance
  8. Chance/Loser
  9. Loser/Loser


It may not be obvious to you that a Winner/Loser is better than a Push/Push, but mathematically a single winner in your hand is always better than no winner. Again, before you can make your switch decision, you must know what you are switching from and to, and which two-hand set is stronger.

Also note that there is no listing for a Push/Chance set. Based on our hand definitions, this combination is impossible. A push hand requires a dealer upcard from 8 to ace, while a chance hand requires a dealer upcard of 2 to 7. Those two classifications are mutually exclusive.

The best way to practice the switch decisions is to download Playtech software from any casino you are considering playing, and play the Blackjack Switch game for free until you get the hang of it.

Sample Hands:


Player Hands: 10-A and 9-10, Dealer Upcard: 9

You have a blackjack and a 19 versus a dealer 9: Winner/Push. If you switch, you have 10-10 and 9-A versus dealer 9: Winner/Winner. Contrary to what your intuition might tell you, you will sometimes be better off switching from a blackjack if it means turning a non-Winner--in this case a Push--into a Winner. (If blackjack paid 3 to 2, we would not switch. But with blackjacks paying even money, a blackjack is just another winner.)


Player Hands: 10-A and 9-10, Dealer Upcard: 10

Same two hands, blackjack and 19, this time versus a dealer 10: Winner/Loser. If you switch, you have 10-10 and 9 -A versus dealer 10: Push/Push. Because Winner/Loser beats Push/Push in our power ratings, you do not switch.


Player Hands: 10-A and 7-10, Dealer Upcard: 7

You have a blackjack and a 17 versus a dealer 7: Winner/Chance. If you switch, you have 10-10 and 7-A versus dealer 7: Winner/Winner. Again, it is better to switch from the blackjack to turn a Chance into a Winner.

Player Hands: 10-5 and 9-6, Dealer Upcard: 10

You have a 15 and a 15 versus a dealer 10: Loser/Loser. If you switch, you have 10-6 and 9-5 versus dealer 10: Loser/Loser. Same power rating. Abysmal situation. It doesnít make any difference what you do. Pray! Sometimes, even though switching might change your hand totals, it doesnít change the power rating, so we do nothing. But letís look at some exceptions to this rule.

When Switching Does Not Change the Power Rating

The above hand brings up a good question. If our two sets of hands have the same power rating, is it always just a coin flip? No—in certain situations, one set of hands is notably better than another, even if they have identical power ratings.

If you have the two losers we described above say two 15s versus a dealer ten, turning them into a 16 and 14 versus a dealer ten is a waste of time. Both sets are equally bad. It makes little difference whether you switch or not. But letís look at some hand combos where we would switch despite the fact that the power ratings of both two-hand sets are identical.

Switching a Chance/Chance for Another Chance/Chance

The switching rule: Switch if it means you can take action on a hand.

A stiff hand that you can take action on is better than a stiff that you will just stand on, all other factors being equal. This is an important concept because when we study the basic strategy for Blackjack Switch, we will see that it is different from traditional blackjack in that there are more stiffs that we hit versus dealer low cards.

Letís say you have two 13s versus a dealer 3 (Chance/Chance), and you could turn them into a 12 and 14 versus a dealer 3 (Chance/Chance). In this case, you would be better off switching. Why? Because your basic strategy with the two 13ís is to stand on both hands. With a 12 and 14, your Blackjack Switch basic strategy is to stand on the 14 but hit the 12.

Because you are turning a stiff that you would stand on into a hand that you can take action on, this 12 has a chance of becoming a strong hand. The idea is to grab that opportunity to improve.

When to Switch a Loser/Loser for Another Loser/Loser

The switching rule: Switch if you can turn a stiff loser into a pat loser.

If you have two stiff Losers (hands totaling 12 to 16 or 2 to 6), but you can make one stiff Loser a pat or potential pat hand (17 to 20 or 7 to 11) by switching, even though it would still be classified as a Loser, you should switch. Hereís an example:

Player Hands: 10- 5 and 9-7, Dealer Upcard: 10

With a 15 and a 16 versus a dealer ten, we have two stiff Losers. By switching, weíll get a 17 and a 14, still two Losers but with one hand now a pat 17. So we switch.

(In actuality, a pat Loser is not always a better hand than a stiff Loser. For instance, a pat 17 v. a dealer Ace is a worse hand than a 12, 13 or 14. But whenever you switch to make a stiff Loser into a pat Loser, your switch will lower the total of the other stiff hand, and increase its chances of making a stronger total when you hit it. A total of 17 is always better than a 15 or 16, so the easy rule to remember when you are considering any Loser/Loser switch is that you should make the switch if it makes a stiff Loser into a pat Loser.)

When to Switch a Winner/Winner for Another Winner/Winner

The switching rule: If you can make one Winner stronger versus any Strong dealer upcard, switch.

If you have two Winners of different values versus a strong dealer upcard (say a player 20 and 18 versus a dealer 7), always switch to improve the weaker Winner, even if the stronger Winner will get weaker. Example:

Player Hands: A-9 and 10-8, Dealer Upcard: 7

With a 20 and an 18 versus a dealer 7, you have two Winners. With a switch, youíd have 19 and 19 versus 7, still two Winners. Do the switch because you are improving the weaker Winner versus a strong dealer upcard, even though you are weakening the stronger Winner.

When to Switch a Winner/Chance for Another Winner/Chance

The switching rule: If you can make one Winner stronger versus any Weak dealer upcard or deuce, switch.

Letís say you have an 18 and a 14 versus a dealer 6. This set is classified as Winner/Chance. By switching, you can make yourself a 19 and 13 versus that dealer 6, still a Winner/Chance set. Do the switch in order to make that winner a stronger winner. Remember that a chance hand only wins if the dealer busts, so a 13 and 14 versus a 6 are virtually identical hands. Totals of 18 and 19, on the other hand, are not identical. Your 19 will beat more dealer hands.

Switching to or from a Blackjack

There are also two exceptions to the rules on switching that only apply when you have a blackjack or can make one.

  1. Versus any dealer upcard from 2 to 6, always keep a blackjack, or switch to make one, if possible.
  2. Versus any Strong dealer upcard (7 to ace), never switch from a blackjack unless it raises the power rating of the two-hand set. Specifically, ignore the rule about making a weaker winner into a stronger winner if you must give up a blackjack to do so.

Blackjack Switch Conclusion

You will be surprised at how fast youíll pick it up the Blackjack Switch WLPC strategy. The logic will sink in pretty quickly, and make you a better blackjack player overall.

There will be many hands where switching does not raise the two-hand power rating, and there is nothing you can do but pray. Example: you have a 20 and an 18 versus a dealer ace: Loser/Loser. You can make two 19ís if you switch, but youíll still have two pat Losers. It really doesnít matter if you switch or not.

Or, you have a 14 and a 16 versus a Dealer 5, Chance/Chance. If you switch, you can make two 15ís, still Chance/Chance, with no possible action on either set of hands. All you can do is hope the dealer busts. Donít fret over hands like these. They make no significant difference in your overall result.

You will make most of your money by following the WLPC strategy to raise the power ratings of hands. When switching does not change the power rating of a two-hand set, youíll gain a small amount more by paying attention to such factors as stiff hands you can take action on versus stiff hands you cannot take action on, and the few other refinements based on the logic of the game as described above. These refinements will squeeze a small percentage more from the house edge on this game.

One thing you will discover as you practice in any Internet casinoís free game is that the switching decision quickly becomes automatic. Most hand sets play themselves as you will primarily be turning Losers and Pushes into Winners.

Basic Strategy for Blackjack Switch

The basic strategy for Blackjack Switch is the strategy you follow after you make your switch decision. Iíve boiled it down to sixteen rules. If you want to learn perfect basic strategy for Blackjack Switch, youíll find it in the charts below. It is identical to the sixteen rules except for some minor pair split decisions. ♠

Hard Hit/Stand Rules

  1. Stand on all hard totals of 17 or higher.
  2. Hit hard 12 to 16 v. 7 to ace.
  3. Hit hard 12 v. 2, 3, and 4; and hit hard 13 and 14 v. 2.
  4. Stand on all other stiffs v. 2 to 5.

Soft Hit/Stand Rules

  1. Always stand on soft 19 and 20.
  2. Stand on soft 18 v. 2 to 8, but hit v. 9, 10, or ace.
  3. Always hit soft 17 and below unless doubling. (See soft doubling strategy below.)

Hard Doubling Rules

  1. Double down on 10 and 11 vs. 2 through 8.
  2. Double down on 9 v. 6.

Soft Doubling Rules

  1. Double down on A-6 and A-7 v. 5 and 6.
  2. Double down on A-5 v. 6 only.


Pair-Split Rules

  1. Split aces v. 2 to 10.*
  2. Split eights v. 2 to 9.*
  3. Never split fours, fives or tens.
  4. Split all other pairsótwos, threes, sixes, sevens and ninesóv. 4, 5, or 6.
  5. Also split nines v. 8 and 9.
    *In live U.S. casinos, with no European no-hole-card rule, always split aces and eights.


BLACKJACK SWITCH BASIC STRATEGY
FOR MULTIPLE DECKS, EUROPEAN NO HOLE CARD RULE


STAND

Stand

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

X

A

17

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

16

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

H

H

H

15

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

H

H

H

14

H

S

S

S

S

H

H

H

H

H

13

H

S

S

S

S

H

H

H

H

H

12

H

H

H

S

S

H

H

H

H

H

 

DOUBLE DOWN

Double

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

X

A

11

D

D

D

D

D

D

D

H

H

H

10

D

D

D

D

D

D

D

H

H

H

9

H

H

H

H

D

H

H

H

H

H

 

DOUBLE DOWN, SOFT TOTALS

Soft Totals

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

T

A

(A,9)

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

(A,8)

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

(A,7)

S

S

S

D

D

S

S

H

H

H

(A,6)

H

H

H

D

D

H

H

H

H

H

(A,5)

H

H

H

H

D

H

H

H

H

H

(A,4)

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

(A,3)

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

(A,2)

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

 

PAIR SPLITS

Pairs

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

T

A

(A,A)

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

*

(T,T)

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

(9,9)

N

N

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

N

N

(8,8)

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

*

*

(7,7)

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

N

N

N

(6,6)

N

N

Y

Y

Y

N

N

N

N

N

(5,5)

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

(4,4)

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

(3,3)

N

N

N

Y

Y

Y

N

N

N

N

(2,2)

N

N

N

Y

Y

Y

N

N

N

N

 

INSURANCE: NO

S = Stand
H = Hit
D = Double Down
Y = Yes, split
N = No, don't split

*  In live U.S. casinos, with no European no-hole-card rule, split.



For more information on Blackjack Switch and other blackjack variations, see Arnold Snyder's Big Book of Blackjack. To use Blackjack Switch to beat online casinos, see How to Beat Internet Casinos and Poker Rooms, by Arnold Snyder.

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  Blackjack Switch is a fun game and an excellent game for meeting the wagering requirement for online casino bonuses when allowed. In fact, most pros choose Blackjack Switch over standard blackjack if both are available. When you apply the easy correct basic strategy and switching strategy at Blackjack Switch, the house advantage against you is even lower than at regular blackjack, only about 0.10 percent, compared to traditional blackjackís typical 0.5 percent. [Ed. Note: This article is taken from Arnold Snyderís How to Beat Internet Casinos and deals specifically with the online Blackjack Switch games. In live U.S. casinos where Blackjack Switch is offered, the switching strategy is the same, but the correct basic strategy is slightly different due to slight rule variations. The house edge in these Blackjack Switch games is about 0.25%.]
  *

 

Blackjack Switch Easy Professional Strategy

Arnold Snyder provides a professional-level Blackjack Switch basic strategy with an explanation of the underlying logic of the Blackjack Switch game. The strategy rules capture all gain possible from a mathematically optimal strategy to within a few hundredths of a percent. Blackjack Switch strategy is easy when you understand the underlying logic.