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Best of John Grochowski
Basic strategy, and then some!22 September 2016
It is not an end point. There are hidden subtleties that are glossed over for the sake of making the strategy easily understandable and playable. When the basic strategy table tells you to hit hard 16 when the dealer has a 10, it’s because with all permutations of the hand considered, your average losses will be lower if you hit than if you stand.
But not all 16s are the same, beyond the distinction that 8-8 is a pair to be split rather than a hit/stand decision.
A hand consisting of 10-6 is a different situation than one consisting of 7-5-4. The composition of the remaining deck available for your draw is different, and that affects the odds of the game.
I recently received an email from a $50-a-hand blackjack player who surrenders 16 vs. 10 when surrender is offered. However, that’s not an option at most tables, so he asked, “Are there times when it might be preferable to stand on 16 against face or ace, rather than take a hit, assuming no card counting is being used?”
There are a couple of ways to approach that problem, as Fred Renzey pointed out in his “Blackjack Bluebook” in the 1990s.
That is so close that some card counters routinely stand on 16 vs. 10 as a camouflage play, trying to make it appear they don’t even know basic strategy, let alone more advanced play.
For the vast majority who don’t count cards, you can let the cards dealt on a single hand be your guide. Look around the table and see what the other players have face up, while also taking into consideration that dealer’s 10. Count the 2s, 3s, 4s and 5s, and if the total is one more than the number of 10 values showing, then you’ve reached the turning point where it’s better to stand than hit.
This isn’t a big moneymaking play. You’ll still lose more often than you win. It’s just that at this point, you’re just a tiny bit less likely to lose by standing than by hitting.
The same applies to certain combinations of three or more cards that total 16.
If your 16 includes at least one 4 or one 5, then the odds turn in favor of standing on 16 vs. 10.
With 10-6 or 9-7, you’d follow the basic strategy card and hit. Same deal with a combination such as 9-6-Ace, with no 4 or 5. But with 9-5-2, 8-4-4, 7-5-4 and other hard 16s that include at least one 4 or 5, the better play is to stand.
Any 4 or 5 that already is in your hand is not available to be dealt to you to turn that hard 16 into a 20 or 21. With 16 vs. 10 already being such a close call, that’s enough to shift the odds away from basic strategy in favor of standing.
The gain is tiny, and it doesn’t cost much to stick with basic strategy. But for players looking for any incremental gain, here’s one beyond basic.
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This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at email@example.com.
Best of John Grochowski