Feb

28

2011

# Hitting 16 against a Dealer 7 in Blackjack

If you play basic strategy at blackjack, you’ll hit 16 if the dealer’s face-up card is 7 or higher. But players often tell me they can’t bring themselves to hit 16 when the dealer shows a 7.

As one player put it, “I hit 16 against 10, but when it’s 16 against 7, I figure the dealer has a pretty good chance to bust.”

That sounds logical enough, but actually it’s 16 vs. 10 that’s the borderline hand, not 16 vs. 7. Card counters will sometimes stand on 16 against a dealer’s 10, but go right on hitting 16 vs. 7.

Now, the dealer will bust slightly more often starting with 7 than starting with 10 — 26 percent of the time on 7 as opposed to 23 percent of the time starting with 10. Note that in both cases the dealer will make a hand of 17 or better very close to three-quarters of the time.

Even more importantly,  if we do manage to improve a 16 without busting, we have a much better chance of winning against the dealer’s 7 than against a 10. What if we draw a 2, 3 or 4, to finish with 18, 19, or 20? If the dealer has a 10 down to a 7, we win, but if he has a 10 down to a 10, we lose with 18 or 19 and just push on 20.

That’s just a little corner of the possibilities, but the bottom line is that we have more to gain by hitting 16 against a 7 than 16 against a 10.