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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

The Blackjack Dealer Never Really Has a Bust Card Up

11 January 2008

The player at third base was dealt 6/2 against a dealer's 4 up. After a brief hesitation, he doubled down. The dealer paused and asked if he was sure he wanted to do that.

"Sure, I'm sure!" the player barked back. "What happens if you catch a 2 or a 3?" asked the dealer. The player confidently replied, "It's not what I make – it's what you make, and you've got a bust card up there. You're gonna bust."

So, playing devil's advocate, I inquired nonchalantly, "How often does the dealer bust with a 4 up anyway?" "Most of the time," was third base's answer. Unfortunately, the dealer went on to make 19 and third base lost a double bet.

How about you? How often would you say the dealer breaks when she has a 4 up? Most blackjack players don't have a clue, but are far too optimistic in their estimates.

Well, the correct answer is 40% of the time. The other 60% of the time she makes a hand between 17 and 21. Surprised? Well, then, how about when she's showing one of those "sure-thing" bust cards like the 5 or the 6? Sad to say, she'll bust both of those just 42% of the time. That's right!

The whole point of today's article is – there's no such thing as the dealer having a "bust card" up. The dealer's bust-out frequency varies from 17% to 42% depending upon her up-card, but it never gets as high as 50%. The following chart spells all that out for you, and pertains to the typical multi-deck game where the dealer stands on soft 17.

  UP-CARD    DEALER BUSTS  
2 35%
3 37%
4 40%
5 42%
6 42%
7 26%
8 24%
9 23%
10 23%
A 17%

The percentages listed for a dealer's 10 or Ace up pertain to when she does not have blackjack, and you get to decide how to play your hand. Overall, the dealer will break 28% of the time. That's just about two times out of seven. Besides understanding that the dealer is never really "favored" to bust, you can learn lots of other things from this chart. See, for example, how the dealer's bust frequency increases as her up-card moves upward from the deuce to the 6, then drops sharply when she has a 7 up. That's why your hand playing strategy diverges so greatly right there.

Notice also that there's really not much difference in how often the dealer will bust whether she has a 7, 8, 9 or 10 up. Players who decide to stand against a 7 when they have 16 are making one of the most amateurish mistakes in the game. Not only will standing give them only about one chance in four to win the hand, but if they'd have hit, almost any card that wouldn't break them will probably win the hand. That's a lot more worthwhile than hitting your 16 against a 10, where if you catch an Ace or a deuce, you're still favored to lose.

And finally, notice how seldom the dealer breaks with an Ace showing. It's no mystery why this is so -- she gets to go around twice with her hand! That is, if she has say Ace/2 and catches a 6, 7 or 8, that's 19, 20 or 21. But if she catches a 9, it's not 22 – but 12. Now she gets a second shot at making a hand. With a mighty Ace up, the dealer basically has to break twice before she's outa' there.

Now you know what you're up against, but don't design your own game plan based on these numbers. The blackjack gurus have already factored them all in before coming up with the published basic strategy for the game.

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