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Best of Henry Tamburin

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Losing blackjack hands

18 July 1999

Some of the worst hands you can get at blackjack are hard 12 through 17. The reason is that no matter what the dealer's up card is, you stand to lose the hand.

Statistically, you will get a 12 through 17 about 4 out of every 10 hands. And when you do, you stand to lose about 35 percent of those hands. Those are not very good odds.

The hand which will give you the most losses is, as you expect, a 16. You will lose on average 41 percent of all the 16s dealt to you. Your worst loss will occur when the dealer shows a 10. For every 100,000 hands dealt, you'll get a 16 against dealer's 10 on 1,824 of those hands and lose 1,037 of them. This is one of the worst player hands, and why your best playing strategy is to surrender the hand if you can, and cut your losses. If surrender is not available, your next best move is to hit, not because it'll win you more hands, but rather because it will reduce your overall losses slightly.

Sometimes players agonize endlessly when they are dealt a hard 12 and the dealer shows a 2 up card. They hate to draw because they are afraid they'll draw a picture card or 10 and bust. So most players stand.

You'll get a 12 against a dealer's 2 up card 623 times in every 100,000 hands. If you stand on 12 you'll win only 35 percent of the time. Hitting the 12 is also a losing proposition. When you hit you'll win only 37 percent of the time. But you'll gain 2 percent more winning hands when you hit vs. stand. How much is that worth? For a typical blackjack player that plays 10 hours of blackjack per month at $10 per bet, you'll save yourself about $30 per year just by making the right play on that one hand.

Players often are relieved when they draw and get 17. It gives them a comfortable feeling knowing that at least they didn't break and a 17 ain't too bad. But guess what? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you are going to lose on average about 29 percent of those 17 hands. The only hand you have a slight edge at beating the dealer is when he shows a 6 up card. Otherwise you are the underdog.

So what's a blackjack player to do when 40 percent of the time you are going to get a 12 through 17 whether you like it or not? First, if you are getting more then your fair share of these hands (i.e. greater then 40 percent of the hands), consider yourself very unlucky and don't be surprised if you are losing big time. You just can't win money over the long run at blackjack on 12 through 17 hands. They are overall losers, so the best you can do is follow the basic playing strategy. You'll still take your lumps but you'll lose less money in the long run when you follow the basic strategy vs. playing by the seat of your pants.

Against a typical 6 or 8-deck game, you should play your 12 through 17 hands this way.

  • If the dealer shows a 7 or higher up card then hit until your hand reaches 17 - 21.
  • If the dealer shows a 6 or smaller up card then stand on your 12 through 17.
  • In the case of 12 against a dealer 2 or 3 up card you are slightly better off standing rather than hitting.
  • If the casino offers the surrender rule, then surrender hard 15 when the dealer shows a 10 up card and hard 16 (but not 8,8) against a dealers 9, 10 or ace up card.

What about a hard 18 hand? Surely that's got to be a winning hand in blackjack. Guess again. Overall, you'll lose about 0.6 percent of your hard 18s. This is what makes blackjack a tough and sometimes frustrating game. You play by the book, yet you still end up having a losing session. It happens because in a lot of hands that we are dealt, we are unfortunately the underdog no matter what playing strategy we invoke. But the basic strategy play is overall the best strategy, because it will minimize your losses on these losing hands.

Recent Articles
Best of Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

Winning Baccarat Strategies

> More Books By Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

> More Books By Henry Tamburin