Blackjack strategy: Not a 12! Noooooo!

There’s a reason I titled today’s blog Not a 12! Noooooo! First of all, I think it’s a catchy title that should get your attention. If you’re reading this, then it worked (Also, feel free to comment so I know you’re reading). Secondly, a lot of blackjack players freak out when they are dealt a 12 and make the wrong decision. Blackjack basic strategy says to stand against a dealer 4, 5 or 6 and hit against anything else, but a lot of players don’t want to do that.

It’s understandable why. Players are trained to take into account the high ratio of cards with a value of 10. Well, 12 plus 10 equals 22, which busts you. Players then see that they have a 12, imagine a good probability of losing if they hit and decide to stand. The truth is, if you hit a hand of 12, you will probably lose. However, if you stand you will also probably lose, and the odds are a little bit worse. A hard 12 is a bad hand and no matter what you do, the odds are against you, but basic strategy takes all of that into account.

When you have a hand of 12, your decision is based on your odds of busting versus the dealer’s odds of busting. If you hit a hard 12, there are 4 out of 13 cards that can bust you, meaning you have a 31% chance of busting on that hit. That means a 69% chance of surviving hitting the hand. That’s not so scary, is it?

When the dealer has a 4, 5 or 6, his odds of busting are 39.4%, 41.6% and 42.3%, respectively. Those percentages are taking into account the dealer’s odds for having each specific card in the hole and, after assuming the odds for each hand, the odds each hand have of busting. Those are all higher than your chance of busting, so you want to stand against those hands.

The most common mistake that the player makes is standing with a 12 against a dealer 2. The thinking is that the dealer has a 12 and therefore has a good chance of busting. However, he only has a 31% chance of busting with a 12 and likewise, only a 31% of having a 12 in the first place. He could have a hand anywhere from 4 to a soft 13. Taking all of that into account, when the dealer has a 2 as the up card, he has a 35% chance of busting. With those odds, that means you have a 65% chance of losing if you stand on a hard 12, since the dealer will hit up until a 17 or better. Compare that with your 31% chance of busting and it is better to take a hit and hope you improve your hand.

Have all of those statistics confused you? If so, it’s okay. People a lot smarter than me (and probably you) when it comes to math and statistics have tested blackjack basic strategy and determined the odds for everything. If you stick to basic strategy, you should be okay.

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