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Why you should consider surrender when playing 16 in blackjack

January 22nd, 2015 · No Comments · Blackjack News

By Matt Villano

To stay or to hit on 16 against a dealer 10, that is the question. It’s an issue that has vexed amateur blackjack players for decades, a point of conversation at just about every table in the Bay Area (and beyond). Heck, your faithful gambling columnist struggles with the problem from time to time.

Most players think the odds don’t really matter, that consistency is key, that so long as you hit or stay consistently, you’re playing the game correctly and your moves won’t botch the hand for anyone else at the table. Unfortunately, this might be one of the biggest misconceptions in the casino (at least it’s up there with the notion that you must split 8s, which also is false).

The truth: When you have a 16 and the dealer shows 10, the best move is not to make a move at all. Put differently, if the casino offers “surrender,” in this scenario you should take it every time. By surrendering, you literally are surrendering half of your bet for the chance to keep the other half and lay down your hand. When you surrender, you can’t win. But when you surrender, you also can’t lose more than half of your bet — which, over time, isn’t nearly as damaging as a total loss.

Allow me to explain with some very basic math: If you have hard 16 (7-9, 8-8 or 6 with a 10) and you hit against a dealer 10, there are 29 cards of the 49 left in a 52-card deck that would bust you, about a 60 percent chance. If you have a 16 and you stay (against a dealer 10), the dealer will show 17 or higher a little more than half the time.

The odds also suggest you should surrender with a 16 against a dealer 9 or ace. If the casino doesn’t offer surrender, the odds say to hit 16 against a dealer 10 — about 40 percent of the cards in the deck can improve your hand. Few rushes are as intense as the one you get when you hit a 16 against a dealer 10 and spike that golden 5.

Of course, other factors might influence how you play the hand, including the number of decks you’re playing, the other cards showing at the table and general trends in the game. The first two issues affect the odds; the latter issue is more of a “feel” thing but can simplify a tough decision if the dealer is running hot or cold.

The bottom line: In blackjack, unlike in battle, there’s no shame in surrendering. Why not cut your losses to bet another hand? Every gambler should be so fortunate.

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