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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Standing Your Ground on a 3-Card 16 at Blackjack

18 February 2009

Blackjack players are the most studious of all casino-goers, simply because the odds of playing their game of choice are in a constant state of fluctuation depending upon the cards that have been dealt and the cards remaining in the shoe.

Here's a reader question that addresses the issue of what to do when you are holding a 16, one of the toughest of all blackjack hands to play:

I was playing blackjack a few weeks ago, and while talking to the other players the subject came up on what to do with a hard 16 when the dealer has a ten count card showing. The other players said that the new basic strategy is to hit if your hard 16 is total for two cards, but stick on hard 16 if your total is the sum of three cards. The dealer also said that is the new way to play a hard 16. What is your opinion on this new way to play a hard 16 or do you think we should play it the old way? – Joe S.

I consulted gambling expert Mike Shackleford (www.wizardofodds.com) on this one, and he responded by saying that standing on a 3-card 16 against a dealer's 10 isn't really a revelation.

"Yes, that is the correct play," Shackleford told me. "It isn't a 'new' basic strategy, just an exception to it that has been known for years."

If you happen to be holding 16 at a table which offers surrender, basic strategy recommends exercising the option (surrendering half your bet in exchange for not playing out your hand) if the dealer is showing a 9, 10 or Ace.

The best percentage play is to stand on any 16 when the dealer is showing 2 through 6 and to hit against 7 through Ace, with the exception of the aforementioned situations.

Variations of 16 bring with them strategy changes. For example, when the dealer is showing a 4, 5 or 6, a "soft" 16 (Ace-5) is a double down hand.

Taking a hit on soft 16 can never hurt you because you can't bust. The card you draw will tell the rest of the story.

The one variation of 16 that frequently stymies players, especially inexperienced ones, is a pair of 8s. Basic strategy advises that you always split them, except versus an Ace when surrender is available.

Splitting 8s is a defensive maneuver. It's the only 16 that gives you the opportunity to take one bad hand and attempt to make two good hands out of it. The price, of course, is an additional wager equal in value to your original bet.

Splitting 8s against a weak dealer's up-card generally puts players in the driver's seat. You're always hoping to capitalize on a favorable situation, especially if one or both of your split hands gives you a double down opportunity or you draw another 8 and can re-split.

When you split your 8s against a strong dealer card (7 or higher), that's where the defensive strategy comes into play.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and other times it's a wash. Giving yourself a fighting chance to win is really what it's all about.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

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John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp