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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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What happens if a blackjack dealer doesn't give a player a card when a hit is requested?

15 April 2013

Question: Something happened at blackjack last week. The dealer had a two-up. The first player had a 12 and the next person had an 11. The player with the 12 signaled for a hit but the dealer passed her. The person with the 11 had put out money to double down, and got the next card -- a five.

The first player asked the dealer to stop and call the pit boss. In the end, the pit boss gave everyone a choice of playing their hands or taking back their bets for the round. Why didn't the dealer just move the five back to the first player and keep going? Also, why did some players drop out while others stayed?

Answer: Most jurisdictions don't let casinos "back-up" or replace cards in these situations. They can only deal forward.

The first bettor should have been able to stand with her 12 or hit after the last player at the table, before the dealer's hole card was exposed, as well as fold. A 12 is weak against a two -- it has an expected loss of about $0.25 per dollar by hitting and $0.29 by standing -- so any knowledgeable blackjack buff would fold. The player who had doubled was sitting with a total of 17 against the two; this is also weak – it can be expected to push 14 percent of the time, win 35 percent, and lose 51 percent – so folding was wise. The best decision for the others would depend on their hands. Only totals with expected profits should be played. Against two, this would mean standing on 20, 19, or non-pair 18; doubling on hard 10 and 11; hitting hard nine and soft 13, 14, and 17; and splitting pairs of aces, eights, and nines.
Alan Krigman

Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.
Alan Krigman
Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.