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# There's No Such Thing as a Bust Card in Blackjack

27 March 2005

The little man on my left was having a good run at blackjack. He was an aggressive player by nature -- probably too aggressive. He would double down and split pairs about every chance he had, and he'd won most of them.

Now he was dealt 4/3 for a total of 7 against the dealer's 6 up. Sure as shootin,' he shoved an extra bet out there and doubled down. "You sure about this one?" the dealer asked him. "Sure I'm sure!" the player shot back. "You got a bust card up there!"

The hands were played out, the dealer broke and the little man won again. "I told you!" he exclaimed jubilantly. "He's gotta break with the 6 up there nine times outa' ten," he continued.

That's such a popular misconception. Most players honestly believe when the dealer is showing something like a 4, 5 or 6 up, he's supposed to bust the majority of those times. The truth is, there's absolutely no up-card that the dealer will break on more often than not. In that respect, the dealer never has a bust card up.

When showing a 5 or a 6 for an up-card, the dealer will break 42% of the time. With a 4 up, he'll break 40% of the time and things just get worse for the player from there on. The following list tells you how often the dealer will break, depending upon his particular up-card (in cases where the dealer has a 10 or Ace up, it's already been established that he does not have blackjack).

UPCARD BUST
2 35%
3 37%
4 40%
5 42%
6 42%
7 26%
8 24%
9 23%
10 23%
A 17%

Things get so bad when the dealer has an Ace up there that he'll bust only one time in six. So remember -- the next time you stand with 16 against an Ace, you're basically committing suicide.

Now look if you will at the sharp drop between the 6 and the 7. There's actually not much difference in the dealer's bust frequency whether he has a 7 or a 10 up. This is why you absolutely must hit your 16s against a 7 up much more so than against a 10. This is an important distinction understood by very few blackjack players.

You see, against a 10 up, just staying under 22 when taking a hit is usually not enough to pull the hand out of the fire. You generally need to catch a very good card to boot, like maybe a 4 or a 5. But against a dealer's 7, any hit that doesn't break you will usually win the hand. Hitting your 16 against the 7 is much more worth the gamble.

Against a 10 up, though, you have far fewer winning outs. This is so true that if you're watching the board, it's correct to stand with 16 against a 10 about half the time depending upon what you see. Still, figure on losing this hand about seven times out of nine almost regardless of how you play it. That's why in casinos where the surrender rule is available, giving up half your bet is the best play.

So now, where dealer's up-cards are concerned, you can see what you're up against. Although the dealer will end up breaking 28% of the time overall, there is no up-card with which you can rightfully expect him to bust. Thats why it's basically foolish to double down with 7 or 8, why you have to hit your 12s against a 2 or a 3 up and most of all, why you've got to hit your 16s against a 7.

Finally, remember that even if you play every one of your hands correctly, you'll still fall one additional bet behind for every 200 hands you play, long term. The only way to do better than that is to be aware of what cards have been played.

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Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send \$9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

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Blackjack Bluebook II
Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send \$9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009