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There is nothing worse at the blackjack table than watching on as the dealer draws an ace and flips it merrily up to point skywards. Suddenly, their chances of winning the hand sky-rocket, and yours plummet. In fact, you might already be thinking about how to get out of there with the minimum of damage to your chip count.
The good news is that you don’t need to be too hasty in making that decision. There are strategies, ways and means of defeating the dealer even if they have an ace, and there are also ways to mitigate your loss.
Here’s your guide on how to beat a blackjack dealer who has dealt themselves an ace.
Appreciating the Maths
Firstly, we need to understand the probabilities of you winning and losing once the dealer has sprung an ace.
If he or she has an A, the chances of them busting their hand reduce to just 11.5%, and there’s a whopping 88.5% probability of their final hand totalling 17-21; which naturally lowers your chances of winning significantly.
Think also about the possibility of them actually landing blackjack, which increases to 30.74% when they have an opening ace. In addition, in nearly two-thirds of cases, he or she will enjoy a pat hand.
The consequence of all the above is that if the dealer has an opening ace, your chances of landing blackjack then decrease to 6.40%.
So that’s the bad news, and yes: your chances of winning the hand are greatly diminished when the dealer turns an ace early on.
But don’t get too disheartened. There are ways in which we can minimise our expected losses in this scenario, whether you are a cautious player or more aggressive in nature.
The rules of engagement do change depending on whether you are playing single or multi-deck blackjack, however, so here’s a quick strategy guide for both.
Single Deck Strategy
When the dealer lands an ace in a single deck game, clearly we have our work cut out in beating their hand.
The probability of drawing an ace in single-deck blackjack is 4/52, or roughly 8% to display it that way.
At this point, your chance of being dealt an ace as well dips to lower than 6%.
We can also calculate the probability of being dealt blackjack in a single deck game; when you take the odds of an ace being handed out alongside a ten-point card, it works out at somewhere around 4.8%, or approximately 20/1.
So what should you do when the dealer lands an ace in a single-deck game?
Clearly, your options are limited, but if the dealer draws A-6, for example, then you’re back in the game.
There’s a 16/52 chance that they will land a ten-point card, which works out at about 31%, whereas each other numerical value combined is roughly 69%. So mathematically speaking, if the dealer does deal themselves an ace early on in a single-deck blackjack game, your best bet is to batten down the hatches with your staking plan.
Even with an ace, the dealer is still more likely to land a card worth nine points or lower than they are a ten, so don’t despair!
That said, a score of six points or higher is more likely due to the weighting of ten-point cards, so you really need to be hitting until you get 18 or more, at which point you can stand.
You can, of course, split pairs of aces and tens, but we wouldn’t recommend doubling down on any other combination, such is the advantage held by the dealer in this instance.
Our other movement would be to surrender 16s, if the rules of your blackjack variant allow. That’s because the odds of hitting A-5 are a lot lower than 6-K.
Multi Deck Strategy
Analysing where you stand in a multi-deck game is more difficult from a mathematical perspective.
Say you’re involved in a six-shoe game. We know there are 312 cards in play, and that 24 of those are aces. That roughly 8% chance of hitting an A does not change.
The likelihood of springing blackjack decreases slightly to approximately 4.75%. Indeed, every time an extra deck is added the percentage of hitting blackjack decreases, albeit by miniscule amounts.
There are different ways to play certain hands even though the numbers remain the same, and two of the most common are outlined below.
Your 18 vs Their Ace
If you have a hard 18, which is a hand totalling 18 points without an ace in it, your options are limited to standing. Why hit when your chances of landing a ‘winning’ card, or one that will improve your hand to 19-21, are 17/308 – or just 5.5% - if your cards have already been dealt and we know the live dealer has an ace?
A hand of soft 18, namely A-7, offers more options as you can’t bust with a single card here. In this scenario, you have a 5.5% chance of improving your hand to 11 – always a tasty ‘hitting number’ – or a 24/308 (7.8%) probability of making a now hard 18.
So we stand on hard 18 and, obviously, hit on soft 18.
Your Blackjack vs Their Ace
Here’s an unusual situation. What if the dealer hits an ace but you have blackjack anyway?
Many blackjack variants offer the chance to buy insurance at this time. Is that wise? No, not really.
In a single-deck game, their chance of hitting blackjack as well is now 16/51 after the ace is revealed, or 31%.
Why would you insure yourself against an occurrence that only happens once in less than three occasions?
The payout for blackjack is typically 3:2, or 6:5 in some variants, and that is clearly a better return in the long-term than taking a 1:1 insurance ‘push’ payment based on something that has a 69% of not happening.
So, there you have it: a guide on what to do if the dealer lands an ace in their hand. Hopefully you now feel more confident on what to do in certain situations, and you can try these strategies in our well-stocked Blackjack room in free play mode or for real cash. Our new player bonuses help shore up your long-term odds even further, so sign up today to take advantage.
Words: Sean Mcnulty
Images: PA, Depositphotos & Bitcasino