16vT: RS WTF?!



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.

23 comments on "16vT: RS WTF?!"

  • Stefan said:

    Ken SMith first of all your knowledge is a treasure to us.
    i don get it with the 16vs 10
    .if tc is bigger than 0 we stand.why we do that?

    cause the high cards that are left will bust us or because we hope for the dealer to take first the low card and after a big one?

    Also lets say that i play two bets .a 18 stiff and a 16 stiff against 10 dealers .my opinion is that if i stand propably i will loose all my two bets.if i stand like logical in 18 and take card at 16 and get bust with a a ten my other bet will still at the moment be “alive” and maybe the dealer takes a 7 or 8???? Please inlight me !!!

    • Author Ken Smith replied:

      16vT is a close call because of two things: The high risk of busting when you hit, and the very real chance that you can hit successfully and still lose to a strong dealer hand. All of these aspects are baked into the numbers that determine basic strategy. (And also into the index numbers that counters use to deviate from basic strategy.) It has nothing to do with whether a low or high card is likely to “come out first”. We can know nothing about the possible order of cards, and any order of the remaining cards is equally likely.

  • Jesse said:

    Hello Ken, I have been reading alot on your website and I want to thank you for everything. Two months ago i was playing without any knowledge about it. Thanks to you I got my winchances up. I wish I had all the knowledge you had… takes alot of time. I just have one question: do you make money playing blackjack? Because as far as I know the winchances are still around 50/50, it never gets in our favors.. or am I wrong?

    • Author Ken Smith replied:

      Card counting provides a relatively easy way to have a mathematical advantage. Check out the Blackjack School here for the details. Do I make money playing blackjack? Yes, I’ve done extremely well. 🙂

  • Frank said:

    Hi, I’m somewhat confused about the „european“ strategy (6 decks, S17, D9, DAS, NoSurr, NoPeek(!), no refund(!!) of split or double on dealers BJ) calculated by your engine. Although I understand that 11 vs. ten might run into a dealers BlackJack, it is still 15 ten’s for me to get 21 and only 4 aces for the dealer to reach a BJ (counted per deck). So why not DD on 11 vs. ten?

    Next point is not splitting 8s against ten or ace. I can easily follow not to split 8s against A due to „a lot of ten’s around there“. But again, why not splitting that ugly 16 points against a dealers ten, who needs a „seldom“ ace to knock me out? Even more confusing: if 8s should not be splitted against ten, why should aces be splitted against ten?

    Thanks for your support and…great website!

    • The short answer is: That’s just the way the numbers work out. Just trust the strategy.

      But I’m sure that is not a very satisfying answer for you. So, I’ll try to give you some more insight. What about doubling 11vT? You can’t just look at the likelihood of you drawing a ten versus the dealer drawing an Ace. Most of the time neither of those things will happen. The tricky part is comparing all the other possible outcomes. You’ll make money when you double 11vT, but it won’t be as much as you will make on average by just hitting. For one thing, when you double you give up the ability to draw more than one card. If you draw an Ace,2,3,4, or 5, you would like to be able to hit again, but you are not allowed to. All of those factors go into the calculations, and in a no hole card game you should not double 11vT. (In fact, in the S17 game you describe, you shouldn’t double 11vT even if the dealer did take a hole card!)
      The other decisions have similarly complicated explanations. There are rarely easy answers for the “why” of basic strategy. The calculations take all the possible outcomes into account, and show you the most profitable (or more frequently, the least unprofitable!) way to play each decision.

  • MrB said:

    Ken, isn’t a 3+ card 16vT still count dependent when deciding to stand? I’m using full KO as a count. In poor shoes (6-deck), with a low count, isn’t hitting a 3+ card 16vT sometimes the correct play?

    • Author Ken Smith replied:

      Of course. The 3+ card 16vT rule is an extension to basic strategy. If you are card counting instead, you have much better information available. Use the index of 0. At true counts of 0 or more, stand with 16vT. In negative counts, hit.

  • Max gurtovoy said:

    Hello I go soon to Warsaw Poland.i want to know where is the best casino with best rules in black jack . Also after I go north Cyprus and Bucharest and in both also I need to know what’s the best casino with best rules for black jack. Thanks

    • CIOMS replied:

      I played in North Cyprus the last fortnight and the pros considered the Rocks to the best place to play. It is a fair game with a notch in the shoe to give a decent penetration. 75% even. There are 2 hand shuffle tables at $10 minimum and $25 minimum. These go up during the weekends to a $25 minimum.
      If you play here you will be eligible to eat at the restaurant which has a very very decent buffet. The downside is the smoking but in North Cyprus this is the norm. Its worse in the Rocks because of its low ceilings. There are a lot of junkets that come here and the casino are playing to the tune. Counters are easily identified. The table maximum on the $10 table is $200 but its easily over come with a horizontal spread.

    • Author Ken Smith replied:

      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.

  • Sam R. said:

    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.

  • 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??

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

  • Saito Atsushi said:

    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.

    • 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.

  • Don Q said:

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

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