The Importance of 10 in Blackjack

In a deck of 52 cards16 cards have a face value of 10. These are the tens, jacks, queens and kings. Hence a player has a 31% chance of being dealt a card with face value 10. Compared to this the chance of being dealt a card of any other specified face value is less than 8%. This fact ought to highlight the importance of the face value of 10 in blackjack.

Based on this a simple blackjack strategy can be devised. At the outset it must be made clear that simplification in any field necessarily leads to loss of accuracy. Hence the simple strategy that follows can never be as good as the strategy cards that are prepared from computer simulations of thousands of hands. However the simple strategy will help in understanding the strategy card and in the absence of a strategy card provides a viable decision making mechanism.

The simple strategy discusses only two of the players’ options. These are stand and hit. The other options can then be built in later. The strategy is based on the assumption that the next card dealt to the player or dealer will have a face value of 10. Given the fact that almost one third of the cards have a face value of 10 this is not an unreasonable assumption. If the hand value of the player from the first two cards dealt is 11 or less then the player has to hit because he will not exceed 21 even if he gets a 10. This decision is independent of the dealer’s face up card.

If the hand value of the player from the first two cards dealt is 12 or more then the reasonable action is to stand, because the based on the strategy the player will most likely get a card with a value of 10 and bust. However in this case the dealer’s face up card comes into play. The dealer stands on a hand value of 17 or more, else he draws another card. If the dealer’s face up card is between 2 and 6 then he will draw another card to most probably reach a hand value between 12 and 16. He will have to draw yet another card, and assuming that he draws another 10, he will bust. Therefore when the dealer’s face up card is between 2 and 6 and the player’s hand value is 12 or more the player should stand.

However if the dealer’s face up card has a value between 7 and 11, then by drawing a card of value 10 the dealer will reach a total of between 17 and 21. He will stand on this total. In that event the player is admitting defeat by standing on a hand value of 12 to 16. He should take a chance and hit, even though he is likely to lose. However if the player’s hand value is 17 or more, then he has a competitive hand and should stand.

If the simple strategy outlined above is compared to the strategy card then the same moves are proposed in 99% of the cases. For serious long term blackjack players this 1% difference can be significant and therefore this simple strategy is not a substitute for the strategy card. However for players who either do not have access to the strategy card or do not want to use it the simple strategy described above will suffice.


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