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The blackjack dealer's ace25 January 2011
I've played blackjack for a very long time, and I can recall dealer's referring to deuces as "the dealer's ace" going back at least to the 1980s.
No doubt the reference goes back much farther than that. So I wasn't at all surprised when a reader e-mailed to say he'd heard both dealers and players call the 2 a "dealer's ace," and describe the situation where the term is commonly used.
The player had a 20, and lost when the dealer strung out a long series of cards for a 21. After three or four cards, my e-mailer said, the dealer had a 14, then drew a 2 for 16.
Since the total was still less than 17, the dealer had to hit once more. This time, a 5 came out of the shoe for a 21, and all that was left was for the dealer to sweep the table of losing bets.
As she was doing so, she told the player who had a pained expression after losing with 20, "Honey, a 2 is like the dealer's ace."
The player wanted to know if I agreed with that, and for the most part, I don't. I'd say the dealer's ace is an ace, just as it is for players. A deuce doesn't have the 1-or-11 flexibility of an ace. It's never the last card to finish off a 21, since neither you nor the dealer would be hitting with 19. If the dealer has a 2 face up, he or she will bust about 35% of the time. If your only known card is a 2, you will bust about 35% of the time.
Still, the perception is there that the deuce is a dealer's best friend, a card that hurts players and helps dealers. I've heard it, my e-mailer has heard it, and if you've played much blackjack, you've heard it too.
The perception is not entirely without foundation. Even though in specific situations deuces aren't any better for dealers than for players, they help dealers more often.
The 2 gets its reputation as the dealer's ace because it's a key card in stringing out long-sequence 21s, and the dealer has more opportunities to do the stringing than players do.
When stringing out multi-card hands, 2s are no more likely to help the dealer than they are to help you. A 2 will help or hurt you in the same proportions of draws that they help or hurt the dealer.
And, sometimes, a 2 gets in the way for the dealer just as much as for the player. If in the hand described above, the dealer had finished with a 6 or 7 instead of a 5, the 2 that made the hand 16 would have caused a bust.
However, the dealer draws to more hands than you do. In the situation my email correspondent described, the dealer will hit 14 every time, because the dealer is required to hit all totals of 16 or less. If you have 14, you'll hit only if the dealer's up card is 7 or higher. You stand against a dealer's 2 through 6, the dealer keeps hitting that 14 even if you have 2 through 6.
What that means is that 2s will help the dealer string out more hands into long-sequence 21s, but not because the 2 is any more helpful to the dealer than it is to you. It's because the dealer hits more hands and gets more chances to string out thelong ones.
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Staying on the blackjack beat, I received an e-mail from a reader who had been playing in a Las Vegas casino that offered a coupon for a 2-1 payoff on the first blackjack. The coupon was not redeemable at single-deck or double-deck tables, only at this casino's six-deck games. The reader wanted to know why.
My best guess was that the casino was probably paying only 6-5 on blackjacks at one-and two-deck tables, while paying 3-2 at the standard six-deck games. Perhaps the one- and two-deck games even had good rules, other than the killer of a 6-5 blackjack return. It was willing to give the 2-1 payoff instead of 3-2, but didn't want to give sharp players a 2-1 return on a good low-deck game.
A couple of weeks passed, but I received a return e-mail to tell me yes, that was what was happening. The low-deck games were paying 6-5 on blackjacks, and the player didn't realize that was a factor in coupon play.
Casinos use such coupons as a promotion, hoping you'll stay and play awhile after your first blackjack. What they don't want is a parade of smart players going to low-deck, 6-5 tables, playing until they get a chance to use the coupon, then leaving. That's not paranoia on their part. Given the opportunity, that's how I'd play it.
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.
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