Don’t be afraid to bust

There are a lot of mistakes that new blackjack players make pretty regularly. It’s okay; that’s going to happen to people who are new to any game and it’s part of the reason this blog exists. The biggest mistake that new players make is not sticking to blackjack basic strategy, though they do that for various reasons. One reason is that they think they have a better strategy. Another reason is if they just don’t remember it but are playing anyway without a strategy card. One of the most common reasons, though, is out of timidity.

New players are often intimidated by the thought of busting and play a bad strategy because of it. It is a problem that some blackjack players call “bustophobia.” Here’s an example of how the problem manifests itself:

You have a hard 16 and the dealer has a 7 as his up card. You know that you have a stiff hand and have a good chance of busting if you hit, so you stand, afraid of going over 21.

That is the wrong strategy. In that case, the odds and basic strategy say that you have the best chance of winning the hand if you hit. It’s true that you have a good chance of busting, but if you stand, you have a better chance of being outdrawn by the dealer. Now, if the dealer had a 2-6 as an up card, standing is the right call, because he might also have a  stiff hand.

Against a dealer 7, though, the odds say to draw. That is because with your hand, you have a 5 in 13 chance of improving your hand by drawing an ace, 2, 3, 4 or 5. Those odds sound bad, but consider this. The dealer has a 7 as an up card, that means he has a 4 in 13 chance of already having your hand beat, a 1 in 13 chance of having the same hand, and a 1 in 13 chance of having a soft hand.

Blackjack basic strategy isn’t some arbitrary thing that some dude thought up one day and has never been tested. It has been tested repeatedly and statistically proven to give you the best odds of winning. Even when it looks like the move it recommends is too risky, you should trust the math and stick with basic strategy. Don’t be afraid to bust; it will happen sometimes anyway and it’s not that scary!

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