Blackjack Strategy when Playing Head to Head with Dealer

 Blackjack Strategy when Playing Head to Head with Dealer

There are blackjack decisions that are cut-and-dried, and then there are those that are closer calls.

One of the closer calls comes when you have 13 and the dealer’s face up card is a 2. Basic strategy tells us the best play is to stand and not take a chance on busting, but the difference isn’t large. If you start with 10-3 and the dealer shows a 2, your average loss per $1 wagered is 28.9 cents if you stand and 30.8 cents if you hit.

A player emailed to ask if there might be a difference in the specific situation of head-to-head play immediately after the shuffle. There are no other players taking cards, no other cards have yet been dealt, so all cards are available for draw.

He reasoned that basic strategy is to hit 12 vs. 2, that 13 differs from 12 only in that there are four more cards per deck that could bust your 13, that those four cards are all 9s, and that if you don’t take a 9 it’s available to the dealer to combine with his 2 into a strong base of 11.

The key portion of that is that there are four more cards per deck that can bust a 13 than can bust a 12 with a one-card hit. The issue of the 9s doesn’t mitigate in favor of hitting a 13. For you, they’re just four more bust cards, and as far as the dealer is concerned, a 9 will help his 2 no matter what you have.

Playing heads-up with the dealer immediately after a shuffle doesn’t change basic strategy at all. In fact, that’s when it works best, when a full complement of cards are available.

Card counters deviate from basic strategy when more information is available, not from a base point such as immediately after a shuffle. Counters sometimes will hit 13 vs. 2 in negative counts, meaning more low cards than high cards have been dealt.

Standing on 13 vs. 2 is the play for basic strategy players, and the situation doesn’t get any more basic than heads-up right after a shuffle.

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