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blackjack-multihand-230414Multiple hands

Unless you are a skilled card counter, playing two hands simultaneously will do nothing except burn a hole in your bankroll.

Some blackjack players get a kick out of playing multiple hands at once. Some get a rush out of the accelerated pace of action, some think that they gain some mysterious advantage by “changing the flow of the cards, and some do it out of conscious strategy. Should you do it?

The house edge remains the same

Some players take out two hands because they believe that it alters the pattern of cards being dealt, somehow giving them an advantage that they didn’t have before. What this basically boils down to is the belief that one can reverse a string of bad luck by playing two hands simultaneously. Given that the player has been losing not because of luck but because either: #1 they aren’t a very good player, or #2 the casinos house edge means it will win most of the time, this is a very bad strategy.

Doubling up on hands means that the amount of decisions and bets you make doubles. All things being equal, the amount of money the casino takes from you per hour doubles as well. If you are skilled in blackjack strategy and feel that doubling up will allow you to win more money in a shorter amount of time, more power to you. But remember, even if you follow impeccable strategy, the casinos average edge remains about .5 percent of what you wager.

If you play one-on-one against the dealer you can expect to be dealt about 100 hands per hour. If you bet $10 on each hand, your total wager is $1000 with a house edge of .5 percent. Do the math: 1000(.005)=5, so the casino should take $5 from you during that hour. Let’s say that you double up and bet two hands of $10, so $20 total. The casinos take turns into $10.

Counting with multiple hands

The only time doubling up can give a boost to your bankroll is when you have an inherent advantage over the house. In blackjack, this means using a card counting system. When the count gets high you can expect more face cards to be dealt. As the player, it is in your favor to be dealt face cards, as they increase your chances of scoring a blackjack.

Long story short, you want more face cards to be dealt to you and fewer to the dealer. Playing two hands is the way to do this. Provided that you don’t suffer a string of terrible luck, being dealt twice as many cards when the count is high means you should receive twice as many face cards. While you will inevitably lose some hands, your wins should outweigh your losses.

So doubling up can be advantageous while counting. But there are two things you should bear in mind. The first is that card counting isn’t possible to do online because the deck is automatically reshuffled after each hand. The second is that doubling up once the count gets high is an easy way to draw heat from the pit boss.

How to avoid the heat

Look at it this way: you are playing a single hand, biding your time until the count reaches a certain point. A while later you ask the dealer for a second hand, then are immediately dealt a string of face cards allowing to win a decent pile of cash in a short amount of time. Is it obvious that you were counting? Yes. The pit boss will assuredly notice and start paying you extra scrutiny. If you want to keep attention to a minimum so you can keep playing and winning, do your best to keep the pit boss away.

One way to do this is by taking care not to bet two much at one table. A long winning streak will catch attention, but you can win big on a few hands while staying on the down low. Our advice is to pad your bankroll then move on to a different table. Blackjack strategy book author Henry Tamburin advises players to mix it up as much as possible:

I generally play two hands when I count, not only when I have a big edge, but also sometimes when the count is neutral or barely positive. By jumping from one hand to two hands early on, it creates the perception that I am a gambler… I try not to bet the same amounts on each spot. For example, I rarely bet $50 on two spots. Instead, I may bet $60 or $70 on one spot and $40 or $30 on the other. Again, this creates the perception that I am a gambler rather than a skillful card counter.

The final verdict

Thinking that you get some kind of mysterious advantage from playing two hands at once is just plain stupid. If the house edge is .05 percent on one hand, its .05 percent on two hands. The only difference is that you’ll lose money faster. It’s only advantageous when the player is counting. Doubling up means that one will be dealt more face cards relative to the dealer, magnifying the player advantage inherent in a positive count. But be warned, immediately taking out a second hand and multiplying your wager before going on a winning streak will catch the pit bosses attention. It’s better to mix things up a bit to disguise the fact that you are counting.