THE POWER OF THE DEALER TEN
by Kenneth R. Smith
Ken Smith hosts the popular website www.BlackjackInfo.com as well as the online tournament community at www.BlackjackTournaments.com. Considered one of the best tournament players in the country, he has appeared on TV in GSN's World Series of Blackjack 2004 and 2005, the Las Vegas Hilton Million Dollar Championship II finals, and is also featured in the Ultimate Blackjack Tour airing on CBS & WGN. You can subscribe to his free email newsletter athttp://www.blackjackinfo.com/news/.
In previous columns, I've talked a lot about how basic strategy is not often the best way to play your hand in tournament blackjack. Instead, your strategy should depend on the particular circumstance at the time. On many occasions when you should deviate from basic strategy, it involves the dealer ten, whether it is the visible upcard, or a more subtle influence on game probabilities. This month we'll examine some of the facts about the powerful dealer ten, and see how you should revise your play as a result.
The Assumed "Ten Underneath"
To develop good card sense, it is important to understand the impact that ten value cards hold in blackjack. The oft-quoted "assume the dealer has a ten in the hole" explanation of basic strategy may be a very poor approximation to accurate play, but its popularity comes from the kernel of truth it holds. The dealer does have a ten underneath more often than any other single card value. Of course, that's the case because there are four times as many tens as any other card rank in blackjack!
Assuming there is a ten in the hole, however, does give us some helpful insight into the game's probabilities. Here is an easy shortcut to predicting dealer outcomes. Against dealer upcards from 7 to T, the "ten under" total will be the final dealer outcome roughly 36% of the time. Just for reference, here are the real numbers for a 6-deck game:
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