Charles Jay on Blackjack

With the Sweet 16 of the NCAA basketball tournament upon us, it’s a reminder that having a 16 dealt to you at the blackjack table is decidedly not very sweet. In fact, it’s a horrible hand to have, since you can easily “bust” (go over 21) with a hit, and it’s not very advantageous to stand with it.

So if you’re sitting in a game and get a 16, how are you going to handle it?

Suffice it to say that this is a hand which is probably misplayed by a most people. On a psychological level, you may in fact be scared to hit a 16. That’s understandable, since in all likelihood you’re going to break 21. But there is a hard reality, which is that the best way to help yourself here is to hit the hand, that is, against the so-called “pat” upcards that run from the seven through the Ace (it goes without saying, at least we think, that you will stand against anything from a two through six as the dealer’s upcard, because those are generally bad cards for the dealer). If you think about it for a second, the dealer has to play by strict house rules in the casino which require him to hit on a total of 16. And if you notice, he winds up making hands to beat you, to the point where there is a house advantage to blackjack. That is no coincidence, believe me.

You need to operate on that principle too. Hitting hands is the best way you have at your disposal to make hands, and when you are playing against a dealer who is most likely going to make a hand for himself, there’s no way you can preserve your bankroll in this case while employing a “no bust” strategy. Experts also call that a “no-win” strategy.

Let’s take the example where you’re going against the dealer’s weakest “pat” upcard – the seven. If you stand in this situation, you are going to win 26% of the time and lose 74%. If you hit, you’ll win only 27%, which is only a small improvement but an improvement nonetheless. More importantly, you’re going to wind up losing less, to the tune of 67.5% (with the rest being pushes). So by hitting the hand, you are, for the most part, making an attempt to SAVE some of your bankroll.

As an addendum to this discussion, let’s make sure we’re very clear as to what to do in one particular situation – when you have a 16 and the dealer is showing a ten (or ten value card, like a Jack, Queen or King).

That puts you into one of the tougher spots a blackjack player can find him/herself. There is virtually no chance at all to win the hand. The necessary point of focus here is how you’re going to LOSE LESS on the hand. More so than some of the others, this is a very close call. Let’s say you took the posture that you were always going to stand on this hand. That strategy would bring you a defeat 77% of the time, which constitutes roughly the number of times the dealer is going to be pat with a ten showing. Hitting the hand will obviously leave you busting out quite a bit, and you will win 2.7% less. But you will also LOSE 3.1% less, making it a slightly better decision to hit the 16 here. Minimize your losses when you can.

Because it counts for something.

I’ll tell you one instance where you can indeed get a “Sweet 16.” It’s when you are dealt a pair of eights. In this case, they are indeed “Elite Eights,” because you will always split them. It’s a much better opportunity, especially if you can take advantage of doubling down after splitting.

That counts for something too.

Try it for yourself at Superior Casino.

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