The benefits of basic blackjack strategy can’t be told enough. But when the dealer’s hole card is showing, throw basic out the window.
You’re a blackjack enthusiast. You’ve spent hundreds of nights at casinos, wagered thousands—maybe hundreds of thousands—of dollars, and played games dealt by every sort of dealer. Grizzled veterans, newbies, highly-skilled croupiers, incompetent duds, attractive young men and women, the chubby, pasty guy who somewhat resembles your mailman.
Or maybe you’re relatively new to blackjack, and don’t know a good dealer from a bad one. Well, there comes a time in every blackjack player’s life when he is confronted with a very incompetent dealer, one who is so sloppy that he exposes his hole card during the deal.
With a sharp eye, you can pick up on this and anticipate almost every hand that the dealer will hold. Instead of building your blackjack strategy off the dealer’s upcard alone, you know have all of the power. Here are a few expert blackjack tips for exploiting the situation:
#1: Split tens when the dealer has a stiff hand
When the dealer has a stiff hand (a hard total of 12-16) you have them on the ropes. They need to hit, but their bust-out rate will be high. So get as much money on the table and take them for all they’re worth.
This is the only situation when you should split tens in blackjack. I know, it sounds crazy. Proponents of orthodox strategy are adamant that you should never split tens under any circumstances. Well, this a unique situation, and capitalizing on it requires breaking the rules of orthodoxy.
#2: Stand if you’re both stiff
A blackjack strategy card will tell you that in most cases you need to hit when holding a stiff hand. You’re stuck in blackjack purgatory; your bust-out rate is high but your hand is probably too weak to win outright.
That’s where knowing the dealer’s hole card comes in handy. If both you and the dealer are holding stiff hands, your best bet is to stand your ground and hope that the dealer will bust. Odds are likely that he will.
#3: Double down and split pairs more often
It can’t be stressed enough that you need to get as much money on the table as possible. That means doubling down when you normally wouldn’t. For example, anytime you have a soft hand and the dealer has a stiff one, double.
Your bust-out rate is zero, and the dealer’s is high, so you’ll probably win. You also should split more pairs which you would ordinarily hit on.
#4: If the dealer is standing, your job gets easier
If you’re able to see the hole card you know when the dealer needs to stand (when he has a hard hand of 17 or higher). In this situation, look at your own hand. Of course if you already have a higher total, breathe easy.
But if you can’t top that you need to take the risk and hit, even if you have the no good, very bad, absolutely terrible hard 16 total. You’re chances of losing are probable, which brings us to the next point.
#5: Take the good with the bad
Hole card playing provides the player with a big advantage but isn’t foolproof. There are times when your guess will turn out wrong and times when you don’t get a clear read on the hole card. Stay the course and don’t worry about the hands that you lose.
#6: Practice caution
In some instances players have reported that they could only clearly tell whether or not the dealer pulled a face card. That is a useful blackjack tell, but not enough information to be sure about breaking from basic strategy.
So when you think you have a read on the hole card but aren’t certain, the safe bet is to revert back to basic blackjack strategy. Wait until you do know what the dealer is hiding under there, and pounce on it.
#7: Don’t leer at the dealer’s hand
If the dealer is sloppy enough to show his hole card, he probably lacks experience and training. But that doesn’t mean he’s an idiot. If you make it obvious that you’re staring down his hands while he deals the cards, he may wise up to your act.
There is also the possibility that the pit boss or surveillance staff will notice that the hole cards are exposed, and come over to correct the mistake. So play aggressively, but try to be inconspicuous.
It takes a bit of savvy to recognize when the dealer is exposing his junk. When he is, forget what your blackjack strategy card says and pounce as hard as you can.
But know when to be careful. Go for broke only when you have a clear read on the hole card. Otherwise, sit back and stick to basic strategy. That successful blackjack pro is the one who knows when to go big, and when to go home.