I enjoy reading your columns, and I have found your advice to be quite helpful. Blackjack is my game of choice, and I use your basic strategy card when playing. Could you please explain why you advocate hitting a 12 against the dealer’s up card of 2? I am often amazed at how frequently I bust my hand doing this. Jeff T.

The reason I advocate taking a HIT when you possess a 12 versus a 2 or 3, is that hitting a 12 is mathematically the correct move. Without considering depletion of deck, your chances of not busting when you HIT a 12 are 9/13, or 69.23076%.

You could digress from perfect basic strategy if you are on a hot streak from heaven, or if the dealer has developed permafrost. But why stand on that 12 when you know that if you hit it, the odds significantly favor an improvement of your hand? If you do not HIT, the only chance of winning with a 12 is if the dealer busts, and he has that same 69% plus chance of making his hand as you did.

Oh yeah, let me get back to what I meant by depletion of deck. The deck is “depleted” of the cards that have already been played, and what is left pretty much determines what your chances are at any given moment. Unfortunately, unless you have a computer hooked up to the game (illegal everywhere), those odds cannot be absolutely determined.

Dear Mark,

What holds the highest percentage for the house, a single deck or a double deck? Rose

Before getting to deck-cloning, Rose, keep in mind that how you play each and every hand is far more important than how many decks there are in the game. That said, your best game is always with a single deck. Here’s the house edge for all the different deck sizes used in most casinos. One deck has a casino edge of nil, a double deck game would be +0.35%, four decks +0.52%, six decks +0.58%, and eight decks +0.61%.

Dear Mark,

Question from an antiquarian. What is the background for Five Hundred, said to be the most popular card game in the States when Great-Grandpa was a boy? Jack N.

For the terrified few, Auntie is not in the fish tank; an antiquarian is a serious if aging amateur, which – when it comes to the game Five hundred – I am not. But its birds of a feather friend, Euchre, is far and away my favorite gaming diversion, one in which my play is at the advanced – or weeping – antiquarian level.

Five Hundred, developed by the United States Playing Sbobet Card Company in 1904, when they published its first set of rules, was to provide Euchre enthusiasts with a game having a greater opportunity for skill by dealing out of a full deck plus a joker as compared with the 24-card deck used in Euchre. Once Five Hundred was introduced, the game took hold immediately, and for more than two decades, its popularity rivaled that of Auction Bridge as the most popular trick-winning game in America.

After a quick read of the rules in Scarne on Cards, I dealt myself a few hands and gave the game a once-over, finding Five hundred agreeable as a beer and chips, kitchen-table scenic deviation from my Pennsylvania-Dutch-invented choice.

Now, Jack, if I can find a few players from yesteryear, I might just leave the Euchre circuit.

Gambling thought of the week: “Do you think an accountant has to miscount some numbers, or Mark McGwire has to purposely strike out, or a surgeon has to kill a few patients from time to time? Nope, but that’s the way it is in blackjack – the better you are, the more you have to pretend you’re not so good.” Barry Meadow (Blackjack Autumn)