The Dealer’s Up Card

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Recognize Each Card And Its Potential Threat To You

No matter how many decks are used in a Blackjack game, when the cards come out of the shoe there are only 13 possible cards that can be dealt: Ace through King.

Whether the card is up or down, it can be only one of 13 kinds – the suits are meaningless.

This is true of the dealer’s up card as well as any other card. Every decision you make in Blackjack is based on your hand versus the dealer’s up card. So, it’s absolutely required that you become able to recognize each card and its potential threat to you.

If the dealer shows:

  • Ace: You’re in the worst trouble there is
  • 10-King: Conditions aren’t much better
  • 9: The dealer is still very strong
  • 8: Respect him, but don’t fear him
  • 7: A little respect, but he is getting weak
  • 6: Now he’s in trouble. Go for the kill
  • 5: He’s still in big trouble. Play aggressively
  • 4: He’s still weak
  • 3: He can break, but be less aggressive
  • 2: He’s still weak, but show some respect


You Can’t See His Buried Card

This is a capsule of the dealer’s strength based entirely on his up card. You can’t see his buried card, so forget about trying to guess what it is.

9 through Ace

Separate in your mind his strong cards from the others. When he has a 9 through Ace showing, you are going to lose a majority of the hands. On an average, he will turn one of these six strong cards over six out of thirteen hands. Be prepared for it. It’s going to happen and there is nothing you can do to prevent it.

7 through 8

The 7 and 8 are called neutral cards. The dealer is neither weak no strong. But, show respect for these cards, especially when you are in a breaking situation.

2 and 3

The 2 and 3 are also considered chancy situations and tough to gauge. Many players get overly aggressive against these cards, and end up getting hurt. Agreed these are breaking hands and the dealer is in trouble, but I am warning you to double down only when my Basic Strategy chart tells you to.

4, 5, and 6

This is what you are looking for. This is when you must attack the dealer. Remember, he will have these up cards only three out of thirteen hands, so you must take full advantage of the few times they will appear. Unfortunately, he’ll get the 9-A twice as often.

The thirteen possible up cards can be divided into these four groups:

  • 9-A: You are in trouble
  • 7-8: Neutral
  • 2-3: Dealer is weak, but respect him
  • 4-6: Dealer is in trouble


18 Can Be Best Described As “Next To Nothing”

The average winning hand is 18 ½. If you have 17, you have nothing. And 18 can be best described as “next to nothing.”

Since 17 and 18 are nothing hands, what do I recommend you do when you get them? Nothing! There is nothing you can do with those hands. Surely you can’t hit them.

The next time you are in a casino, watch how many times 18 fails to hold up. It is just not a strong hand.

Even more frustrating is a 17 hand. You’ll lose more often with it than you will with an 18 and you still can’t hit it.

The dealer will get a powerful up card an average of six out of thirteen hands, and he’ll win most of them. What can you do to compensate? Get him when he is weak by splitting and doubling down and using skillful Money Management.

Since the 7 and 8 are considered neutral, you must wait patiently for the 2 through 6 (mostly 4-6) to show up. This is when he is vulnerable. This is when you must strike.

Many people, when they get an 11 against the dealer’s 9 or picture card or Ace, immediately shove out that extra bet to double down. I strongly advise against it. Double down only when the dealer is weak.

Once you have memorized my Basic Strategy chart, don’t deviate from it. Expert card counters are permitted to make minor strategy changes. Unless you are willing to invest the many hours of study and practice it takes to become a superb card counter, don’t make any changes!


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