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Best of Fred Renzey
"No Way I Can Lose This Hand" and Other Famous Last Words24 November 2003
The well-dressed, distinguished gentleman was playing at a $100 blackjack table and betting b-i-g with his cohort standing behind him, rooting him on. He had just bemoaned losing five hands in a row and defiantly quadrupled his bet on the sixth hand.
He was dealt another stiff, 13 against the dealer's 8 up. He took a hit and caught a 3, then stopped to confer and lament with his partner. They looked at his rather tall stack of black chips in the betting circle and for just a few seconds considered standing with 16. It was apparent that this bet meant a lot to both of them.
"I know we're going to win one sooner or later", said the player, "so we gotta' go down swinging." His partner nodded in resignation, then he took a hit and caught a 4 to make a solid 20. "Yes!" exclaimed the jubilant player as he slapped high fives with his friend. "Nice hit!" remarked the player at first base.
Their celebration was short-lived. The dealer's hole card was an ominous 3 and I don't have to tell you which card reared its ugly head next.
"No!" shrieked the player in disbelief as he gawked at the dealer's 8-3-10. "How can I lose this hand? That's 6 in a row!" First base also chimed in with, "What a tough beat that is!"
I don't know whether he was more shocked at losing six straight hands or at losing with such a "hard work" 20. Both are painful beats to be sure. Both however are certain to occur as time goes by -- which brings us to our topic of the day.
TOUGH BEAT ODDS
1) Just how hard is it to lose 6 hands in a row? From any point in time, your odds against losing the next six hands (with no pushes) are 81-to-1. But once you've gotten down to where you've already lost the first five, you're almost even money. The unlikely part has already come to pass.
2) Now, how hard would it be to win 6 hands in a row? Since you lose more hands than you win at blackjack, your odds against winning the next six hands are 147-to-1 (again, with no pushes in between).
3) How about losing when you have that 20 against the dealer's 8 up, as in the above story? Of all the hands you can be dealt that you could still possibly lose, this one is the most unlikely to get beat. You'll win it 8 out of 9 times (counting pushes as a half win and a half loss). That makes you a considerably bigger favorite than when you have 20 against a 5 or a 6 (between 4-to-1 and 5-to-1 on each). In fact, if you could pick what you want the dealer's up-card to be when you have 20, you should choose the 8.
Now for a few more enlightening stats.
4) How hard is it to win with a stiff (12 thru 16) when the dealer has an Ace up? Once the dealer doesn't have blackjack, she'll break that Ace only one out of six times (one out five if she hits on soft 17). That's why you can never stand with any stiff against any Ace.
5) How unlucky are you when you lose with 12 against the dealer's 5 up? Not unlucky at all -- in fact you were supposed to lose! With a five up, the dealer will break only 3 times out of 7. That term, "bust card" is a misnomer. Where the dealer's up-card is concerned, there is no such thing.
6) When the dealer has to draw, how often will she burn you by making a disgusting 21? One time out of 9 she'll convert an incomplete hand into that sadistic heartbreaker. Which up-card will she do it with most often? The 9 -- once out of every seven tries. I'll bet you thought it was the deuce.
7) How often does the basic strategy player bust at blackjack? I know that some days you seem to be busting hand after hand. Overall, though, you'll break your hand just 4 times out of 25. That's quite a bit less than the dealer, who unlike you must hit all her stiffs, bar none. Because of that, she'll break 7 out of the same 25 hands.
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Best of Fred Renzey