Blackjack odds: Will dealer bust with a 5 or 6 up card?

Anyone schooled on blackjack basic strategy breathes a sigh of relief when they see the dealer draw a five or six as an up card. They know those are the worst dealer hands and they feel they have a good chance of winning. Players who don’t understand the blackjack odds, though, might assume that the dealer will bust and they will win. The truth is, that will happen less than half of the time.

The correct strategy against a dealer five or six up card is to stand if you have a 12 or higher, but that doesn’t guarantee success. Players look at the dealer up card and assume that they have a 15 or 16, given the fact that there are more ten cards in a deck than any other. However, there are only 4/13 odds of the dealer having a ten in the hole.

If the dealer has a 5 as an up card, there is a 4/13 chance that he has a hand of 15 because four cards (ten, jack, queen, king) give him that total. The dealer has a 7/13 chance of having any kind of stiff hand, which is a hand of 12-16. All stiff hands have good chances of busting, but your odds might not be as good as you think.

If the dealer has a five as an up card, he has a 41.8% chance of busting. He has a 12.2% chance of finishing with a hand total of 17, an identical chance of drawing an 18, an 11.8% chance of drawing a hand of 19, an 11.2% chance of finishing with a hand of 20 and a 10.8% chance of finishing with a hand of 21.

If the dealer has a six as an up card, he has a 42.3% chance of busting. He has a 16.6% chance of drawing a 17, a 10.6% chance of drawing an 18 or 19, a 10.2% chance of drawing a 20 and a 9.7% chance of drawing a 21.

What that means is if you have a hand of 12 and stand against a dealer 5 up card, you only have a 41.8% chance of winning the hand, because if the dealer finishes with any of those other totals, you lose. However, standing in that situation is still the best strategy because the risk of you busting if you take a hit.

Understanding the odds leads to making better decisions and getting more enjoyment out of the game of blackjack. Too many players get upset when they lose against a dealer five or six because they take a win for granted in that situation. Though your odds are good, they aren’t as good as most people think.

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