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Dear Mark,
I saw a player double down with a soft 19 against a six, lose the hand, but he still claimed it was the correct play. I'm thinking that can't possibly be right since the player had a near winning hand. Who's right?
- Justin A.

Any time your chances of winning the hand are better than those of the dealer, you should always want to double your bet. Doubling down is an offensive strategy that allows you to earn more of a profit than you'd rake in just by hitting the hand, or in the case of a 19 versus a six, just standing pat.

The player you mentioned correctly saw doubling his 19 against a six as a favorable opportunity, but only IF he happened to be on a multiple deck game, and the dealer hits a soft 17. If the house rules force the dealer to stand on a soft 17, than the player should also have stood, even if the dealer was showing a six as his or her up-card. Sticky thing about probability: no warrantees on a single event; he played right and lost. Happens.

Dear Mark,
Your column in the past has recommended surrendering a hard 16 versus a 10 with the exception of a pair of 8s. What are your rules for a 15 versus a 10?
- Todd K.

Surrender is an option in which the casino allows players to "surrender" half of their original bet total after both viewing the dealer's up-card and examining their own first two cards.

Here is the simple late surrender rule when you have a hard 15 on a multi-deck game: Surrender a hard 15 versus 10 with one exception. If your 15 consists of a 7 and an 8, just hit it. The reasoning is that when you hit a 15, you are hoping primarily for a 5 or 6. Either hand combination: a 9-6 or a 10-5 has one of those needed cards, while the 7-8 uses two cards that you don't want to receive. Therefore, with a 7-8 you are a bit more likely to receive a better hit card, so proceed with just hitting it.

Dear Mark,
In Texas Hold'em, if two players have the exact same hand, is the pot divided evenly? What happens if there are left over chips?
- Dale D.

Because all five cards on the board (the flop, the turn and the river) in Texas Hold'em are communal, it is not uncommon for two or more players to end up with identical winning hands.

When that happens, players with equal hands split the pot evenly amongst themselves. Bear in mind, Dale, that only the best five cards of a player's hand in Texas Hold'em are used in a showdown. If those best five cards produce a tie, the two additional unused cards on the board, or in a player's hand, do not break a tie, nor does any specific suit.

After divvying up the pot, if an extra chip remains, it is customary to award it to the first winning player clockwise from the dealer.

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