A Blackjack Dealer without a Hole Card

Ever heard of a blackjack game in which the dealer doesn’t have a hole card?

You will now.

No, this isn’t some strange variation of blackjack. There are no side bets involved here. And even though on the surface a dealer without a hole card seems pretty harmless, it actually isn’t.

The way it works is that the dealer will deal two cards to each player at the table, and then only one to himself. Each player plays out his or her hand, and then the dealer receives his second card and continues to play out his hand from there.

The good thing about this style of blackjack is that it doesn’t impact the players in terms of cards. Think of that argument against that third base superstition—a player can’t make or break a dealer. Similarly, when the dealer receives his second card doesn’t really matter. There is no way of knowing if the card he would have had as a hole card in a normal game would be the best for him, or that the card he receives after all the other players have played out is best.

But that’s where the good stops.

What if the second card the dealer receives gives him a natural blackjack? And you’ve doubled down or split pairs? That’s twice the money you lost.

In a regular game if the dealer has a card worth 10 or an Ace showing he will check (after offering insurance in the case of the Ace) to see if he has blackjack. If he does the hand stops right there. This happens before players have made any decisions to double down or split pairs. And if the dealer does have blackjack you won’t have lost twice the money.

In this no hole card style a player could double down or split a pair before the dealer even receives his second card. You would have doubled your bet at more risk. Because if the dealer gets a natural blackjack when he receives his second card, you will have lost twice the money. And you wouldn’t have if he had had a hole card.

Luckily for those of you who play blackjack online this isn’t a concern. I have yet to see this sort of game in online blackjack. But if you’re on a cruise it is possible that you could encounter this type of game. If you do only play low stakes since there’s more risk involved. And even though it undermines basic strategy, I wouldn’t double down or split if the dealer’s first card is an Ace or a 10 card.

What to Split and What Not to Split

There seems to be some confusion amongst the ranks of novice blackjack players. While some pairs should only be split depending on what the dealer’s up card is, there are some that should or shouldn’t be split regardless of what the dealer has. And these apply to blackjack online and land-based blackjack alike.

First the pairs that should always be split: Aces and 8’s.

Splitting Aces will more often than not result in gains for the blackjack player. Will splitting Aces every time give you a win? No, but the point here is to go with what will give you the best shot at winning.

Think of it this way: an Ace is half of what you need to make 21. Splitting a pair of Aces gives you a decent shot at creating not one, but two, strong hands. And if you hit to the point that an Ace as an 11 will bust you, you can always reduce it to 1. A pair of Aces is a pretty flexible hand to be dealt.

Splitting a pair of 8’s is more of a defensive play in blackjack. If you play them as a hard 16 you have a stiff hand. But splitting and starting to hands will have you starting with an 8 in each hand, which you would hit regardless of what the up card is. Think of it as starting over with the chance to build a new hand.

Now the pairs that should never be split: 5’s and 10’s.

A pair of 5’s can be played the same as a hard 10. And a hard 10 is half way to 21 or at least to a strong hand. Go ahead and play blackjack with the hard 10 and double down if the option is available. Splitting and starting two hands with a 5 each means that you have a long way to go to building a strong hand.

Two 10’s is a hard 20. This is one of the strongest hands that you can have and win with. The only thing that can beat this is if the dealer has a natural blackjack or hits to 21. Never throw away a hard 20 by splitting a pair of 10’s.

Applying this when you play blackjack online or in a land-based casino will improve your odds. All four of these pairs are on a basic strategy chart, which will tell you the same thing: split Aces and 8’s and don’t split 5’s and 10’s.

Tricky Pairs in Blackjack: a Pair of 4s

How do you know whether to split a pair of 4s or not? You can look at your basic strategy chart and you’ll find an answer but it may not be the best answer for once. The times to spit or not to split are actually determined by the house rules.

If you’re playing in a blackjack game where you are allowed to double down after splitting that is a time to split.

Okay, your blackjack basic strategy chart does have a role in how you play your pair of 4s. If you look at it, it will tell you to hit most of the time. But if you look at what plays to make when the dealer has an up card of 5 or 6, you will see that it will tell you to split.

And that is when you want to split, but only if you are allowed to double down after splitting. If you are dealt a 5, 6, 7 or Ace to one of your 4s when splitting you are in a very good place to double down. Yes, you are going to have to put more money on the table, but the point of having a strategy is to know when you’re in an advantageous position and how to play them. A pair of 4s in a blackjack game where you can double after splitting is one of those advantageous positions. So scoot those extra chips out there.

But if the house isn’t allowing players to double down after splitting then you will want to play those 4s as an 8 and hit.

Player Favorable Blackjack Rules—Part VIII

Today we’re going to talk about another aspect of being dealt a pair of Aces, and a player favorable blackjack rule that has to do with them.

We’re familiar with what happens when we split a pair of Aces. It’s almost like doubling down. We double our original bet and then we only get one more card to each of our new hands.

I think the reason for this is because casinos see us with an Ace for each hand and they think we’re already halfway to 21, why allow a player to have more than one card per hand? They think that we don’t need the ability to hit for more than one more card. We’re not doubling down here—we’re splitting! And you notice this only applies to splitting Aces of course.

It seems casinos are forever trying to find ways to lower our chances and raise their own. That Ace means we are halfway to 21. The only cards that we can hope for to give us a strong hand is an 8, 9 or 10. Casinos put blackjack players in a hard spot with this rule—only one more card when splitting Aces.

But there are some casinos who have a sense of reason, and allow blackjack players to hit for more cards after splitting their Aces like we can do with any other pair.

Casinos that have this player favorable blackjack rule in place don’t feel the need to try to put players at a disadvantage. They know that they have the edge. And while card counters who used basic strategy can overcome the house edge, they also know that most blackjack players aren’t that dedicated. They don’t feel threatened. So they allow us this rule, this ability to draw more cards after splitting Aces, and it lowers their edge by 0.14%. Another decent rule to look for in a blackjack game.

Appreciate Your Pairs

It’s a shame to see novice blackjack players misplay their pairs. But then when first learning blackjack, many just focus on whether to hit or stand. It takes some time before they feel comfortable expanding their betting comfort zone with double downs and splits. But it’s the splits we’re going to look at today.

For one thing being dealt a pair is not only a chance to win on two hands; it offers an opportunity that dealers just don’t get. Players can split their pairs while dealers just have to stick it out as a hard hand.

Let’s look at one of our favorite pairs to be dealt: two Aces.

The beauty for players is that we can, and always should, split those Aces. This is where the novice player needs to take a deep breath and put out the extra money to split those Aces. The reason is that this is a strong split to makes is because you can start each new hand with an 11. You’re half way to winning. Or at least to a strong hand.

And if you’re in a land-based casino and counting cards you have a little extra advantage. You’ll know if the remaining deck is rich in high cards or not. And if it is, it is especially important to split Aces.

And if worse comes to worse and you hit too high, you can reduce the value of those Aces from 11 to 1. So in a sense each of these new hands has the potential of a second chance.

Now we’ll look at the dealer. If a dealer is dealt a pair of Aces he is stuck with a hard 12 because he can’t split pairs. And we all know what it’s like to play with a stiff hand. You are in a more advantageous position than he is.

This is why learning when to split pairs and double down is important. Those are the two plays that you can make that put you in a better place than the dealer. And because those are plays that the dealer can’t make it is those plays that contribute significantly to lowering the house edge to 0.5%.

Player Favorable Blackjack Rules—Part III

Ready for some more player favorable blackjack rules to look for? Well, who wouldn’t be?

Now, the likelihood of finding every single player favorable rule at one single game isn’t that great. You need to look for the best combination of these rules. You may only find a game with only one of these rules, but it will still be better to play at than a game with no player favorable rules—or worse, casino favorable rules like the 6-5 payout. But if you happen to find a blackjack game with all the player favorable rules, let me know!

But for right now we’ll look at resplitting Aces.

We all know to split Aces. We split them for their flexibility of being used as a 1 or as an 11. Each time you split up a pair of Aces you are potentially starting each hand with 11 and are half way to blackjack. At the worst you can reduce the Ace down to 1 if necessary and play out your hand as if you had been dealt a soft hand.

But look for a moment at being dealt a pair of Aces that you split. Let’s say that one of your original Aces received another Ace. Some casinos won’t allow you to resplit, which leaves you with a hand total of 12. A stiff hand that you can try to hit, and might win. But we all know how stiff hands turn out.

By not letting you resplit Aces, casinos are increasing your chances of losing, which of course increases their chances of making money.

And this is why you want to look for blackjack games that will allow you to resplit Aces. Allowing resplits lowers the casino’s edge by about 0.06%. It’s not a huge amount but the point of having a blackjack strategy is to chip away at the casino’s edge. And resplitting Aces is one more way of doing so.

Keep an eye open for Player Favorable Blackjack Rules—Part IV

Player Favorable Blackjack Rules—Part II

In addition to single deck games, you blackjack players also want to keep an eye out for blackjack games that allow you to double down after splitting a pair.

You have a pair when the first two cards you are dealt are worth the same amount. This would be being dealt two 6s. It is also a pair when you are dealt a 10 and, say, a Queen. These cards make a pair because they’re both worth ten, but no real blackjack player would split a pair of 10s when it could be played as a hard 20—nice strong hand there.

Doubling down is when you double your original bet and receive only one more card before standing.

Not all casinos will allow you to double down after you split a pair. But when you can it lowers the house edge by about 0.14%. And it also the payout potential is pretty outstanding.

Let’s say that you are playing at a $10 minimum table. You place a $10 bet and are dealt a pair of nines against a dealer up card of three. Basic strategy for this situation is to split. So you put out another $10 and split your cards.

But let’s say that you want to double down on one of your newly split pairs. You put forth another $10—your total bet that’s on the line is now$30—and receive a 10. One of your hands is now worth 19, which is pretty strong. Let’s keep going and say that the dealer busts and you win. You just won $60!

You can see how some casinos might frown on doubling down after splitting pairs—it might cost them too much when they add up the lowered house edge and the payouts they would have to make.

But if you can find a blackjack game that will allow to double down after splitting play there. If you play there and use perfect basic strategy, you can look at a house edge that is a little lower than the 0.5% you would have at a regular blackjack game.

Keep an eye open for Player Favorable Blackjack Rules—Part III

Know Your Winning Blackjack Hands

Remember the 10-10 that we discussed yesterday? You will have around 70% of you winnings between the 10-10 and the always loved Ace-10. So what hands make up the other 30% of your winnings? And how do you play them so that you win when dealt them?

There are five hands that will make up most of the other 30% of your winnings: 10-9, Ace-9, Ace-8, 11 and 10. And each of these hands has their own way of being played.


Do nothing and just take your winnings.

Just a quick recap. Even though this is a pair, this is one of those pairs that you never split when playing blackjack. Just play it out as a hard 20.

Even though this isn’t worth 20, this is still a decent hand; the dealer can only beat you if he has 20 or a natural blackjack. With this hand you will want to stand.

Although this is a soft hand, because of the Ace, you need to stand here, playing this hand as a hard 20. It might be tempting to reduce the Ace to 1 and hit on a hard 10, but why throw away a hand that can only be beaten by a dealer’s natural blackjack? If you hit there’s no guarantee that do better than the 20 you had. So your best bet is to stand on an Ace-9.

Again, like the Ace-9, you will want to play this hand as if it were a hard hand. Ignore the urge you may have to hit on what could be a hard 9. The principle here, and with the Ace-9, is not to ignore an opportunity like you have with most soft hands; what you are doing here is taking advantage of a strong hand that you most likely will not better if you choose to hit. Stand on a soft 19.

With hard 11 it’s best to just fork over the money to increase you original bet, and go ahead and double down, especially if the dealer is showing a 10 or less. Yes, you will only receive one more card, but you already have a good starting place. If you’re a card counter and the deck is rich in high grades, defiantly double down.

And you will want to double with a hard 10 as long as the dealer is showing 9 or less. Also for card counters, like with the hard 11, make sure to double down here if the remaining deck is rich in high cards.

What Hand Stands to Win After a Natural Blackjack?

Every time we sit down at a blackjack table or in front of our computers, we always hope that we will be dealt a natural. We hope for it whether we’re really aware of it or not. And most of the time this is an unfulfilled hope.

So what should we hope to be dealt if we aren’t dealt 21?

That should be an easy answer you either want an Ace-9 or a 10-10.

And would you believe that many, many blackjack players mis-play these two hands?

First, the Ace-9. Because it could be called a soft 20 (and who really calls it a soft 20? It’s a 20!), a good many blackjack players will either hit on this hand or double down. It’s the Ace that throws them. They see that Ace and think that they can play this hand as hard 10. Which is why so many players will also try to double down on it.

Never hit or double down on an Ace-9. Forget the soft part of this hand, and look at the fact that you have 20 in your hand! The only thing that can beat you is if the dealer has a natural blackjack. And if the dealer has 20 also, it’s only a push and you haven’t money.

Now the other hand: 10-10. Because this is a pair, many less-knowledgeable blackjack players will split this. And, again, they are failing to see what is in their hand. They see the opportunity to split and play with two hands. But in the long run they will lose more money by splitting.

Instead look at a 10-10 for what it is: a 20. Never ever split it.

It’s best to just leave these two blackjack hands be and play with them as they are. So incorporate into your blackjack strategy to play with Ace-9 and 10-10 as they are.

How to Play with Soft Hands–Soft 18

Similar to soft 17, soft 18 is another hand that blackjack players tend to play timidly.

It always boils down to that feeling of relief: “I have 18. I’m good. I have a shot at winning. And I don’t have to worry about busting.”

If you’re choosing to stand on soft 18, you might as well have been dealt a hard 18 if you’re going to ignore the opportunity offered to you by having been dealt that Ace.

So if that’s the way you want to play then let’s take a moment to look at hard 18. Basic strategy says to stand on hard 18. And it’s obvious logic that you do since hitting will most likely bust you.

But soft 18 is not hard 18, ergo the difference in names and ergo the need to treat them differently.

Your best chance of winning happens when the dealer’s upcard is a 2 through an 8, so it’s good strategy to stand on a soft 18 when faced with those dealer up cards. Here’s why.

Always figuring that his hole card is a 10, that would mean he would have a 12 through 18. He would have to hit on his 12 through 16 and stands a pretty decent chance of busting. And he would stand on his 17 or 18; the 17 you would beat and the 18 you would push, so at least you wouldn’t lose money there. So stand on a soft 18 against a 2 through 8—same as you would if you had a hard hand.

Here’s where your blackjack strategy is different from how you would play a hard 18.

You need to hit if you are facing a dealer 9, 10 or Ace. Factoring that assumed 10 hole card, he has 19, 20 or blackjack. And you can’t beat that if you stand on a soft 18. This is knowing your opponent and trying to find the most advantageous play.

Hitting here reduces your soft 18 to a hard 8. You can hit for a combination of low cards that can add up to at least 19, if not 20 or 21.

If it is allowed and you are a card counter and the deck is rich in high cards, you should double down if facing a dealer’s 3 through 6. That would reduce your soft 18 to a hard 8, which you can hit and still have a shot at coming in close to 21 and stay under as long as the deck is rich in high cards. Yes, it’s a gamble, but this is blackjack, not Monopoly.

Always think of what that hole card is, imagine it as a 10. Your blackjack strategy for soft hands should reflect that flexibility of the Ace you’re holding. Remember that some hands will be played the same as a hard hand and others won’t. The best fall-back is to play according to basic strategy—that chart will give you the best plays for soft hands if you can’t remember.