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Don't overestimate chances of dealer busting in blackjack

Don't overestimate chances of dealer busting in blackjack

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John Grochowski

John Grochowski

Q: I’m a stubborn old coot and I refuse to bust with 16, and I don’t really like to hit 15, either. I’ve just seen too many busts with 16. I just don’t see that I’m any worse off waiting to see if the dealer will bust.

A: I think you’re overestimating the likelihood of the dealer busting.

With any hard total of 12 or higher, you can bust with a one-card hit. The dealer shows only one card, and you don’t know until the second card is turned up whether a one-card hit can bust the dealer. When you make your decision, you’re flying partially blind.

When you start with hard 16, you can be busted with a 6, 7, 8, 9 or any of the four 10-value cards. That’s eight of the 13 card denominations, or 61.5%. It’s a little better with hard 15. Any card from 7 through the 10 values busts you. That’s seven of 13 denominations, or 53.8%.

Compare those to the dealer bust percentages with anything from 7 through an Ace face up – situations in which basic strategy calls for you to hit with hard 12 or higher.

In a six-deck game in which the dealer hits soft 17, dealers starting with a 7 up bust only 26.2% of the time. If you’re counting on the dealer busting, you’re looking for something that happens barely more than a quarter of the time. It doesn’t get any better from there. Starting with 8, dealers bust only 24.4 percent of hands, with 22.9% on 9s. 23.0 percent on 10 values and 20.1% on Aces. Dealers just don’t bust often enough make a waiting game worth your while. Stand, and you’ll lose every time the dealer makes 17 or better, from 73.8% of hands starting with 7s to 79.9% of hands starting with Aces.

You can see that in the average outcomes. Let’s just use 10-5 vs. 7 as an example. If you stand, you average 47.6 cents in losses per dollar wagered. If you hit, that drops to 36.9 cents per dollar. You’re not in a great situation when you have a hand that can be busted in one hit vs. a dealer high card. No matter what you do, you’ll lose more than you win. But accepting the risk of busting and hitting instead of counting on the dealer to bust puts you in a better position to cut losses.

Q: I miss the days when coins dropped into the slot machine trays after you won. I once had a 1,000-quarter jackpot, and I remember how excited I got when the coins were dropping.

A: One of challenges slot manufacturers have faced is finding a way to replace that celebration feel. Part of the reason modern slots are loaded with music, sound effects and special celebration graphics is to provide some of that feel.

As video slots replaced reel slots, operators worried their casinos were getting too quiet. That said, there were downsides to the coin-dropping machines.

Dirty hands from scooping coins was part of the deal. So were empty coin hoppers and waiting for fills.

But yes, coin drops after big wins were a thrill.


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