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Best of Henry Tamburin

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No-hole-card blackjack

11 May 2012

In U.S. casinos, the dealer will start a round of blackjack by dealing two cards in sequence to each player and two cards to herself. Before the players act on their hands, the dealer has both of her cards in front of her on the layout. One card is face up and the other is face down tucked under the face-up card (the face-down card is also known as the dealer's hole card). If the dealer has an Ace face-up card, she will peek at her downcard, and if it's a 10, the dealer has blackjack and all players' wagers automatically lose, unless they, too, have a natural, in which case, it's a push. (In some casinos, the dealers will also peek at their hole card when their upcard is a 10-value card, but this is the exception rather than the rule.)

In many casinos outside the U.S., the dealer does not take her second card until after all the players have completed their hands. This is known as the "no hole card" rule. Some players mistakenly believe that the casino gets an extra advantage when the dealer receives her second card after players complete their hands (i.e., they believe the dealer is less likely to bust when the cards are dealt consecutively, rather than when the dealer's second, and possible additional draw cards, are dealt after the players have drawn their cards). Mathematically, it makes no difference in the long run whether the dealer takes her second card before players act on their hands, or she waits and takes the second card after the players act. The no hole card, per se, has no effect on the odds of the game, or on the basic playing strategy (so if you hold a 16, you play it the same way regardless of whether the dealer has a hole card).

What does affect your odds and your playing strategy in no-hole-card games is when a player loses both wagers made on splitting and doubling when the dealer's second card gives her a blackjack. The latter is known as the European No Hole Card rule (abbreviated ENHC), and this does require a slight change in playing strategy.

To be clear, let me give you an example of what happens if you are dealt a pair of eights in a U.S. casino vs. a non-U.S. casino that has the ENHC rule. Suppose you're on U.S. soil, you wager $10, and you are dealt a pair of eights with the dealer showing a 10. You follow the basic playing strategy and make another $10 wager and split the eights (yes, that's the correct play). You receive a picture card to one eight, and another picture card to the other eight, and you stand on both 18s. Your fellow table players complete their hands, and then the dealer turns over her downcard, which unfortunately is an Ace, giving her a blackjack. Her blackjack beats both of your 18s. However, the dealer takes only your initial $10 wager, and the second wager you made when you split is a push (you still own it). Your net loss on this hand is $10.

Now let's suppose you get that same hand in a casino that has the ENHC rule. After you split your eights, the dealer's second card is an Ace giving her a blackjack. In this case, you lose your initial $10 wager, and also the second $10 wager that you made when you split. Your net loss on the hand is $20. Get the picture?

The ENHC rule increases the house edge by about 0.11 percent (rule dependent). It also requires a modification to the basic playing strategy. The following table shows the strategy differences for a multi-deck ENHC game (dealer hits soft 17 and players can double after pair splitting), compared to an American game with the same rules (courtesy of Dan Pronovost; for details, see issue #97 Blackjack Insider Newsletter at www.bjinsider.com). Essentially, the strategy changes occur when the dealer shows a 10 or Ace and include: hitting a hard 11 against a 10; hitting a pair of Aces against the Ace; and hitting a pair of eights against 10 and Ace.

 

American Rules

ENHC

Player Hand/Dealer Upcard

10

Ace

10

Ace

Hard 11

Double

Hit

Hit

Hit

Ace-Ace

Split

Split

Split

Hit

8-8

Split

Split

Hit

Hit

The above modification to the playing strategy for ENHC assumes surrender is not offered.

To recap: it's no big deal if the rules don't allow the dealer to take a hole card, but it is a big deal if the casino takes both wagers on splits and doubles when the dealer has a blackjack. If the latter is the case, you need to modify your playing strategy (per the above table).

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