The Never Bust Blackjack Strategy

This one is for the blackjack players amongst us who are wary of playing stiff hands. Stiff hands in blackjack are a hard 12, hard 13, hard 14, hard 15 and hard 16. These are some of the hardest hands to play in blackjack—underdog hands some call them, mostly because the player is at the disadvantage.

The disadvantage comes from the fact that these are hands in which hitting is more likely to cause a bust, and standing is nearly the same as conceding your wager to the dealer. So I can see how a good many blackjack players would groan at being dealt one.

A so-called blackjack strategy was started once upon a time that is generally referred to as the never bust strategy. According to this blackjack strategy, players do not hit a hard 12 or anything above it. Despite the fact that basic strategy will have players hitting any stiff hand from hard 12 to hard 16 if the dealer is showing a 7 or higher. And, yes, according to this so-called never bust strategy players are not going to bust.

But it comes at the cost of the hands that would have been won if the player had hit the hands facing a dealer’s 7 or higher. And that is definitely conceding your wagers to the dealer. If you were dealt a hard 12 against a dealer’s 7, basic strategy would advise you to hit. And in hitting you run the possibility of being dealt a 2 through 9—all which would not bust you. A 2 would give you a hard 14 and you would hit again, and a 9 would give you a 21, which is likely to beat the dealer.

The cards that would bust you—10, J, Q and K—are outnumbered by the number cards that would not bust you. So it is silly to stand, which is what the so-called blackjack strategy of never bust has you doing.

In not hitting when it statistically advantageous, players lose opportunities to take money from the house. And lost opportunities means the player’s blackjack odds go down and the house’s goes up. Normally a blackjack game played with basic strategy would result in a house edge of around 0.5%. Using the so-called never bust blackjack strategy is a game in which the house has a 3.91% edge. Which would you rather have, 0.5% or 3.91%? Stick with basic strategy.