Two Hands

Is there any advantage to playing two hands at once?

While playing two or more hands at once is not a widespread practice, neither is it uncommon. If you spend more than a few hours at a blackjack table, you’re certain to see at least one player who plays at least two hands at once, which would seem to suggest that they’re onto something most of the other player’s aren’t. However, that’s generally not the case. The advantages and disadvantages of playing two hands roughly offset one another—so it’s largely a matter of personal preference.

The primary advantage to playing multiple hands is that it generates more action over the course of a gaming session. If each of five players is dealt 90 hands per hour, you can play 180 hands per hour if one of them leaves and you play two spots. This advantage is offset by the fact that most casinos require a player to bet at least twice the table minimum on each of the multiple hands he plays—so you will be facing more opportunities to win or lose a greater stake.

Another advantage to playing multiple hands is that it can even out the rise and fall of your bankroll. In some cases, both hands will win or lose at once, but more often, one will win while the other loses, for a net gain (or loss) of zero. The counterpoint to this assumption is that an even flow decreases the possibility of winning large sums. The counter-counterpoint is that it also decreases the possibility of losing large sums. All things considered, whether this factor is an advantage or disadvantage depends on whether you expect to win or lose, which is no different than if you’re playing a single hand.

The only time that playing multiple hands offers a clear advantage is when you are reading clumps, tracking shuffles, or counting cards. It is to the advantage of a clump reader or shuffle tracker to switch to multiple hands when they expectthe high cards (a clump of ten-value or an ace that follows a key card) to comeout to increase their chances of “catching” them. Conversely, a card counter willplay multiple hands in a low-count deck to draw out the low cards and even out his losses, then switch to a single hand (with a high bet) when the count turns in his favor.

The advantage of switching between single and multiple hands can be difficult to exploit repeatedly, however, as the pit boss (or the camera) is certain to noticethis pattern of behavior. While making some remark about throwing the dealer off his “winning flow” may help to disguise your true motives, it won’t be long before they figure out what you’re really up to and “suggest” you try a different game for a while.

Finally, if you opt to play multiple hands, there are a few additional points of etiquette.

  1. You should play multiple hands only if you can play at a fairly quick pace. Other players will definitely be annoyed if you spend an inordinate amount of time deliberating over each of two (or more) hands.
  2. You should play multiple hands only on adjacent spots. Reaching over another player or hopping around behind the table is a distraction to other players that will not be tolerated for long.
  3. It’s not a very good idea ask other players to switch seats so that you may play adjacent spots. Though the seating arrangements have no bearing on the outcome of the game, the situation can get tense if a player fares worse in his “new” position, especially if you are winning at his “old” spot.
  4. If another player wishes to join the game and there’s no other available spot at the table, you should be willing to give up the additional hand(s) to make room.