16vT: RS WTF?!

October 10th, 2013 by KenSmith

Equations

Forgive the cryptic title. I couldn’t resist.  So, what does it mean?  16vT is shorthand for the player hand of sixteen against a dealer upcard of Ten.   “RS” is a strategy abbreviation.  “R” means SuRRender, and “S” means Stand.  So, “RS” means Surrender if you can, otherwise Stand.

And of course, WTF is an abbreviation of the message I often get via email when someone thinks they have found a mistake in the strategy provided by my Blackjack Basic Strategy Engine.

It’s not a mistake. And while the explanation is not rocket science, it can admittedly get a little confusing.

Let’s start by looking at the issue directly on the charts. If you visit the Strategy Engine and request a chart for a 6-deck game with No Surrender, your chart will look something like this:

Strategy With No Surrender

Notice that if you have a hand of sixteen against a dealer Ten, the advice is “H” for Hit.

Now take a look at the chart for the same game but with rules that allow Late Surrender. (If you’re not sure what Late Surrender is, see the post Blackjack Surrender Explained.)

Strategy With Late Surrender

Now the advice for 16vT is “RS”: Surrender if you can, otherwise Stand. How can it possibly be correct to Stand here when the other chart said to Hit?

This particular decision is a very close call. In fact, one recommended extension to regular basic strategy is this: “Hit 16 vs a dealer ten, unless your hand is composed of three or more cards. In that case, stand.”

Why would you hit a 2-card 16 but stand with a 3-card 16?

Any 3-card 16 that you hold is guaranteed to include at least one small card. For example, let’s look at (Ten,2,4). That version includes two small cards. If you are hitting a 16, you would love to have either that 2 or that 4 available as the next card out of the shoe. But those cards have already been used up, and they are sitting there on the table in your hand. The 16vT is such a close call that even one extra small card missing from the shoe is enough to swing the appropriate strategy from “Hit” being the best play to “Stand” becoming the better play.

Now, let’s look at the Strategy Engine’s seemingly conflicting advice on this hand.

If you are playing a game that offers surrender, you should surrender any hard sixteen hand if the dealer is showing a ten-valued card up. So all of your two-card 16s are surrendered. What’s left? Only your multiple card 16s with 3 or more cards in the hand. And all of those hands will use up some of those key small cards that swing the best strategy for the hand.

So the Engine is quite accurate: 16vT “RS”. Surrender your 16 if you can. If you can’t (because you’ve already hit your hand at least once), then the best play is now “Stand”.

In a game where surrender is not allowed at all, the correct basic strategy is to hit 16 vs a dealer ten. If you want to gain a small extra edge you can use the more complicated rule: Hit two-card 16vT, but stand on all others.


12 Responses to “16vT: RS WTF?!”

  1. jim franz says:

    using speed count system
    stand 16v10

  2. Don Q says:

    That’s how I play it: 2 hit; 3 stand. A small edge but it’s an edge.

  3. Saito Atsushi says:

    6decks,S17,DAS,Late Surrender,No Peek

    Your strategy chart shows us 16vsT and 16vsA are SR.
    I know it. Why are pair of 8’s vsT and pair of 8’s vsA H?
    Basic strategy charts of other sites show us SR.
    I’m sorry, my English is not good.

  4. KenSmith says:

    Grrr. I made a small change in the logic of how the No Peek chart displays its results back in August, and I broke this.
    I simply MUST restructure this code so it is easier to work with without causing problems.
    I’ll correct this within the next few days.

    But, yes, in the 6D LS No Peek game, you should surrender 88vT and 88vA.
    Sorry for the trouble.

  5. MKK says:

    and in a european game with early surrender, also stay with 3-Card 16 vs. 10??

  6. KenSmith says:

    Yes, you should stand with 3-or-more-card 16 vs 10 in the game you describe.

  7. MKK says:

    ok thank you very much, and in this Special Situation: i have hard 12 against a Dealers 3 and there are many 9s and 8s out of the shoe, always hit or is it possibile to stay in this Situation??

  8. KenSmith says:

    Yes, 12v3 is a basic strategy hit, but the deck composition doesn’t have to change much to make standing better.
    In fact, many decisions can be subject to these kinds of strategy variations.
    For detail on how this is handled in card counting systems, see these references:
    The instructions for my advanced card set include a brief explanation: http://www.blackjackinfo.com/card/advanced-strategy-cards.php
    Or, the free blackjack school covers it in depth: http://www.blackjackinfo.com/blackjack-school
    The relevant section starts at Lesson 13 – The Advanced Course.

  9. Sam R. says:

    I’m a bit new, and I realize the author clearly states to stand on any 3 card 16 against a dealer 10 but I wanted to make sure that would include the specific hand where the player hits A,5 against a dealer 10 and gets a 10 for A,5,10 or 16. Thank you for the article.

  10. KenSmith says:

    Yes, with (A,5,T) vs a dealer 10, standing is better than hitting.

  11. Dave A says:

    Why 16vT Stand but 16v9 or 16vA is Hit?

  12. KenSmith says:

    16vT is a far closer decision than either of the other two.
    While the best answer is just that the math says so, I’ll try to give you a more satisfying answer:

    Comparing 16vT and 16v9… If you hit 16, you obviously have a good chance of busting. To make that risk worth it, your successful hit needs to substantially improve your chance of winning the hand. When the dealer has a ten up, it is quite likely that you can draw a non-busting card to your sixteen, but still lose the hand.

    When the dealer has a 9 up instead, that happens slightly less often because the dealer’s final total is slightly lower on average. Hitting your 16 is more valuable against a dealer 9, because you’ll win the hand more often than against a 10.

    Now, considering 16vA… The dealer with an Ace up busts only 20% of the time (and the figure is even lower if they stand on soft 17). That makes standing with a 16 an awful idea. Always hit this hand. It’s not a close call at all.

    I get these kinds of questions a lot. For most players, it’s best to just take my word for it… Basic strategy takes all of these subtle interactions into account, and gives you the best possible strategy in each case. The 16vT case is really quite unique, because it is such a very close call between hitting and standing.

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