by Norm Wattenberger

Blackjack Hands

How many hands should we play?

Most players play one hand at a time. Many counters play one hand at low counts and two hands at higher counts. This has both advantages and disadvantages as far as cover play is concerned. On one hand you can increase and decrease bets more quickly while looking like a gambler instead of a card counter. On the other hand switching numbers of hands is looked upon by some casino personnel as a sign of counting.

This chart is based purely on the overall SCORE of always playing one hand, always playing two hands or switching between one and two hands. Cover implications are ignored. What we see is a higher SCORE when always playing two hands. This is due to the fact that playing two hands allows a higher betting level without increasing risk of ruin. The consensus at this time is that always playing two hands is superior to playing one hand, especially when you are not alone at the table.

Other considerations exist such as playing two hands at higher counts tends to use up cards more quickly and can reduce the number of rounds if you are playing alone. On the other hand, you get more of the hands at full tables. Also, switching from one to two hands can be difficult as someone can take the empty seat while you are playing one hand. Yet another consideration is speed. This is not an issue for an accomplished card counter as the time taken playing your own hands is a small part of the overall time. Beginning players should probably stick to one hand to minimize mistakes made under pressure.

Sim details

  • Six decks, S17, DAS, LS 4 players, Hi-Lo, truncate, full indexes, half-deck resolution, penetrations from 26-130 cards cutoff by the card
  • Varied number of hands played
  • Two billion rounds each, all sims use optimal betting


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