Busting Cards and Player Smarts
Often quoted is the statement that ‘blackjack is a game of skill’. Rarely though, do people explain what that skill is, and how to develop it. Basically, we want to develop the skill to be as aware as possible of the consequences of our decisions to hit stand, split, or double down.Both online casino and land based casinos don’t want players to realize that Blackjack is a beatable game.
To do this we simply need to be able to take in as much of the information the table makes available to us. Short of card counting (keeping track of what has left the deck) the information we get is all laid out on the table when it’s time to make our decision. We can see our own cards, the other player’s cards, and one of the dealer’s cards.
The dealer’s up-card, in combination with your own total, should be all you need to come to your decision. It’s obvious when the dealer has a strong up-card that we should be hitting our weak totals, but sometimes it’s not as obvious why basic strategy suggests a hit or a stand.
Take for instance, an initial total of 12 and the dealer has an up-card of 6. Should you hit or stand? Basic strategy suggests you stand, but as you may well know, a great number of people will hit anyway. Remember the rules the dealer has to follow, including the one where they must hit on any total below seventeen.
If the dealer has a six showing, and has a 10 value hole-card (we don’t know that for certain) they will be stuck with 16 and have to hit. Since there are more cards in the shoe that will bust a total of sixteen than there those that would strengthen it, we could presume the dealer is likely going to bust. The same is true for a total of 15, or 14, in addition to 16. When the dealer is showing a 4, 5, or 6, they are said to be showing ‘busting cards’, because mathematically (in accordance to the rules a dealer has to follow) there is a better chance of them busting than not busting.
When the dealer is showing these busting cards, the most intelligent thing to do when you are dealt a 12 is to stand. It’s a little counter-intuitive, since a 12 is such a weak hand we are inclined to hit it against almost any dealer hand. Statistically though, you will win more or lose less by standing on a 12 against a 6.
The concept of dealers busting cards is vitally important in the world of blackjack. No strategy is complete, and no approach is valid, unless they take into account the importance of the dealer showing busting cards.