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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Always Hit 16 Against a Dealer's 7, No Matter What!

20 November 1999

I was playing 3rd base at a $50 blackjack table. On my right were two other men who seemed to be business partners. They were making their bets in 'sync' with each other. They played liked typical pseudo-basic strategy players--that is, they acted as though they knew all the correct plays, but didn't. Like most players, they misplayed about every seventh or eighth hand.

On one particular hand they had progressed their bets up to $200 apiece. The dealer had a 7 up. They each had 16 and both stood pat. I had 4/3, hit and caught a 5, hit again catching a 3, took another card which was an ace, then hit my five-card 16 and caught a deuce to make 18. The dealer turned over a 9 in the hole and promptly busted with a face card.

Recognizing that any one of my four hit cards would have made the dealer's hand (not to mention their own), one of them said, "Whew! I'm glad you can hit 16 that against a 7. I can't!"

This is a common mistake made by average players, and it's a big one! Your every day blackjack player will hit 16 against a face card all day long, but when he's got a big bet riding or he's built up something like a testy 4/3/5/3/ace, he'll stand against a 7. The problem is, his thinking is all backwards. He would have been correct to stand with that particular kind of 16 against a 10 up, but never against a 7. Why? Follow along with me while I explain.

THE NUMBERS WITHIN THE NUMBERS

When the dealer has a 10 up and you get the chance to play your hand out (meaning he doesn't have blackjack), he'll bust 23 times out of 100. Interestingly, when he has a 7 up, he'll bust 26 times out of 100 -- not really much difference. And when you hit 16, your own chance to bust is exactly the same whether the dealer shows a 10 or a 7 -- there's absolutely no difference. So far, the two hands seem pretty similar for playing purposes, don't they?

Well, here's where there's a big difference. Suppose you hit your 16 and manage to dodge the bullet by catching a small card, let's say a deuce. How does that make you feel? The fact is, if the dealer has a 10 up, you're still probably going to lose the hand. But if you catch that same deuce against a 7 up, you've probably just made yourself a winner! You've run exactly the same risk of busting in both spots, but you're much more likely to win the hand against a 7 than against a 10 if you don't bust! That makes hitting much more worthwhile against the 7 up.

You see, when you hit 16 against a face card, in order to really put you in good shape, you need to catch a 4 or a 5. That's what you should be on the lookout for whenever you have that hand. An excellent example would be the 4/3/5/3/ace from the above story. That shouldn't even be hit against a 10; but never stand with 16 against a 7! There are just too many cards that will help you!

Confirmed basic strategy players play each particular hand the same way every time. That's why it's called "basic" strategy. Card counters, on the other hand, play many hands differently depending upon which cards have been eliminated from play. I adjust my play with 88 different hands when the count tells me the remaining deck composition is skewed high or skewed low. It's more accurate than the basic strategy. In the process of doing this, I find myself standing with 16 against a 10 about 40% of the time. But I can't remember the last time I stood with 16 against a 7 -- that takes a monster count!

So if you're not a card counter, trust me when I say you'll virtually always be making a very bad play whenever you lose courage and stand with any kind of 16 against a dealer's 7; I don't care how many cards it contains! And what about when you have 16 against an 8, 9 or ace? Same story -- hit it every single time, like religion. In that way, you'll be taking your best shot.


For more information about blackjack, we recommend:

Blackjack Bluebook: The Right Stuff for the Serious Player by Fred Renzey
Best Blackjack by Frank Scoblete
The Morons of Blackjack and Other Monsters! by Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Blackjack! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

> More Books By Fred Renzey