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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Consistency Is Not the Best Thing with 16 Against a 10

24 June 2006

There's a prominent point about one very common blackjack hand that goes right over the heads of 99% of the players – even avid ones who take their game seriously. This one little-known point comes up so often that it will make as much difference in your game as knowing enough to stand with a two-card 12 against a 6. It'll help you out more than doubling down with 9 against a 3. It's more valuable than splitting 2/2 against a 5. Most people make those three plays without hesitation, yet almost nobody knows this one move. What is the play?

How many times has somebody at your blackjack table said something like, "If you wanna hit all your 16s, that's fine with me and if you wanna stay with them all, that's okay too – just be consistent!"

Well, consistency is indeed a good thing -- as long as you're making the right play. And when you have 16 against a dealer's 7, 8, 9 or Ace, consistently hitting is in fact the right play.

But what about when you have 16 against a 10? Contrary to what most people think, this play is almost a tossup that just ever-so-slightly favors hitting. Printed blackjack strategy charts need to give you a cut-and-dried way to play all your hands, so they just tell you to hit 16 against a 10 -- period. They don't say, "Boy, this one's really close, but you should hit more often than not." Yet, that's how it really is. Consistently playing 16 against a 10 the same way is not the right thing to do.

Now, before you start accusing me of blackjack blasphemy, let me explain and describe those times when you should just stand on your 16 against a 10. If you were dealt the standard 10/6 against a dealer's 10, yes, you should hit –- just barely. The reason it's so close is, not only will hitting usually bust you, but even when you stay alive by catching, say, a 2, you're likely to lose the hand anyway. Yet, in that basic situation, you're still slightly better off hitting, and it's this basic situation which is addressed in a blackjack basic strategy chart. That's why it's called "Basic Strategy".

Now instead, let's suppose the dealer's got that 10 up and you're dealt a 7/5. So you hit and catch a 4 to make 16. If you think this 7/5/4 is the same thing as a 10/6, think again. When you held the 10/6, two cards that would bust you if you hit (the 10 and 6) were out of play. But when you hold 7/5/4, the 10 and 6 are still lurking somewhere while that 5 in your hand (one of your potential 21s) and the 4 (a potential 20) are now dead. On a hand where the right play is such a close call, this is enough to turn a correct hit into a correct stand. Mathematical and computer analysis studies have backed this up.

The Rule of 45: In fact, your 16 doesn't even have to contain both a 4 and a 5 to make standing the right play against a 10. Either of them, the 4 or the 5 is enough to do the trick. If you have 9/4/3 or 8/5/3 or 9/5/2, etc. -- any 16 that contains a 4 or a 5, stand against a dealer's 10. Doing that, you'll pull an extra hand, and a terrible hand at that, out of the fire every once in a while. But just hit any other kind of 16, such as 6/8/2 or 3/10/3 or 8/7/A. That's known as the "Rule of 45" and it takes the game one small step beyond a basic strategy chart.

And remember, this rule applies against a dealer's 10 only. Against all those other big up-cards, you've got to hit all your 16s – especially against the 7.

So the next time you feel like criticizing some "idiot" for waffling back and forth with his 16s against a 10, first look at the cards that make up his hand. He just might know more about blackjack than you do.

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:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey