This is the second part in the series on basic strategy that covers what to do based on the dealer’s up card. In this post, we’re looking at when the dealer shows a 3.
If the dealer shows a 3, basic strategy says that he likely has a stiff hand (12-16) due to the likelihood of having a 10 in the hole. For that reason, you should stand if you have a hard 13-16, because those are also stiff hands that have a high probability of busting. If you both bust, you lose, but if only the dealer busts, you win no matter what cards you have.
Therefore, in this situation, it is best to stand pat. If you have a hard 17 or better, you should stand because those are good cards with a low chance of improvement, so you always stand with those hands.
If you have an 8 or lower, you should always hit because there is no risk of busting but your hand isn’t necessarily good enough to win by taking one more card. Therefore, you don’t want o double down. You should also take a hit if you have a 12 versus a dealer 3 up card, because even though it’s a stiff hand, it’s a stiff hand that will only bust if you draw a 10 card, meaning you have a 69% chance of improving your hand. And if the dealer doesn’t bust, your 12 loses.
If you have a hard 9, 10 or 11, you should double down when the dealer has a 3 as an up card. This is because the dealer’s hand is not good (probably a stiff hand) and your cards are awesome. Taking into account your high probability of drawing a 10 card, you have a good chance of having a 19, 20 or 21 when taking one more card. For that reason, combined with the dealer’s likelihood of busting, it is best to double your bet and take one more card.
Now for the soft hands. If you have a soft 13-16, you should take a hit. Unlike with a hard 13-16, there is no risk of busting, so it is a good opportunity to improve your hand without any risk.
If you have a soft 17 or 18, you should double down. Why? Let’s look at the possibilities. If you have a soft 17 (ace, 6), then 4 cards (ace, 2, 3, 4) improve your hand, 5 cards (5, 6, 7, 8, 9) give you a stiff hand, and 4 cards (10, J, Q, K) put you right back where you started: with a hand of 17. That means 62% of the cards will either help you or keep your hand the same while 38% will make your hand worse, but there aren’t any cards that can bust you. Therefore, it’s best to take a chance. You should stand on a soft 19 or better, though, because there aren’t many cards that can help you and you already have a great hand.
Now, let’s talk about the blackjack basic strategy for splitting pairs against a dealer 3 up card. If you have a pair of twos or threes, you should only split if you are allowed to double afterward. If not, take a hit. You should also take a hit with a pair of fours, because you don’t want to start two hands with a four, which are likely to lead to stiff hands. If you have a pair of fives, you should double down, because if you draw a 10 with the next card, you will have a hand of 20, which can only be bested by a dealer 21.
If you have a pair of sixes, sevens, eights or nines, you should split against a dealer 3 up card. A pair of sixes, sevens and eights unsplit are stiff hands (12, 14, 16), whereas if you split them you could end up with hands of 16, 17 and 18. You have better odds with those hands. A hand of 18 is good and hard to pass up, but the odds say you are better off splitting that pair of nines and hoping to draw 2 hands of 19.
As for the other two hands, no matter what card the dealer has, you should never, ever split a pair of tens. That is a hand of 20, which can only be beaten by a 21. I know you think you can split it and get 2 hands of 20, but the risk outweighs the reward when you already have a 20. As for a pair of aces, you always split that, no matter what card the dealer has. An ace is the most powerful card in blackjack, so starting 2 hands with an ace really increases your odds. Which would you rather, a hand of 12, which is a stiff hand, or two soft hands? Always split a pair of aces.