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Is there really such a thing as bust card?

Is there really such a thing as bust card?

John Grochowski

John Grochowski

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. How often do blackjack dealers really bust with a bust card?

I’ve had a run of watching dealers turn 6s into 21s and taking my chips, and it got me to wondering if there really is any such thing as a bust card.

A. If by “bust card” you mean a face-up card that leads to the dealer busting more than half the time and guaranteed player profits, no, there is no such thing.

There are cards that make the dealer more likely to bust than others, and that is taken into account in basic strategy. You’ll hit a hard 15 against 6 but stand against 7 because dealers are more likely to bust when starting with 6 than with 7.

Averages depend on the number of decks in play and whether the dealer hits or stands om soft 17.

The number of decks matter because each card dealt has a greater impact on the remaining pack when fewer decks are used. If the dealer has a 6 up in a one-deck game, only three of the 51 remaining cards, or 5.9 percent, are 6s. In a six-deck game, 23 of the remaining 311, or 7.4 percent, are 6s.

Michael Shackelford has developed charts at In a six-deck game in which the dealer hits soft 17, dealer bust percentages are 35.7 percent on 2s; 37.7 on 3s; 39.8 on 4s; 42.0 on 5s; 43.9 on 6s; 26.2 on 7s; 24.4 on 8s; 22.9 on 9s; 23.0 on 10s and 20.1 on Aces.

If the dealer stands on soft 17, the biggest shift is that the bust rate on Aces drops to 16.7 percent. There also are smaller reductions on bust rates for 2 through 6.

Single-deck games have become scarce, but lets look at bust rates on hit-soft-17 games. Averages are 35.6 percent on 2; 37.8 on 3, 40.6 on 4; 43.0 on 5; 43.8 on 6; 26.0 on 7; 23.8 on 8; 23.4 on 9; 23.2 on 10 and 20.5 on Ace.

In any configuration, there is no up card that will lead to dealer busts in a majority of hands. However, bust rates are much higher on 2 through 6 than on 7 and up, so basic strategy treats them differently.

Q. I live in Illinois, and I just heard about a “push tax” on slot machines. In addition to casinos paying a tax on revenues, players have to pay a penny tax on every play. So if you spin the reels 500 times, it costs you $5 right off the top. That just doesn’t see right.

A. The push tax was enacted by one municipality, the Chicago suburb of Oak Lawn. In addition to having full-service casinos, Illinois allows up to five slots in licensed bars, restaurants, truck stops and service clubs. Oak Lawn has about 200 slots scattered about town in such venues.

The tax is the first of its kind. No other jurisdiction in the United States charges players per play.

As a player, I dislike having this precedent set. A penny doesn’t sound like much, but on low-denomination play it’s pretty tough on players.

Imagine you’re playing a penny slot with 40 paylines and a 90-percent average payback, If you bet once coin per line, you’re betting 40 cents per play. Per 500 spins, you’d risk $200 and the house would keep $20.

If the push tax then takes another $5, you’re out $25 in all. Another quarter of your normal losses have been tacked onto your tab.

Assuming a choice – and there is always a choice – I would not play in a locale with a push tax.

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