Blackjack Know your Hands - Hard 16 vs. Dealer 9

This is another hand you don’t want to see very often, but is one of the “Illustrious 18” most important hands that depend on the count. Before we dissect this hand, here’s a note about the analyses we use in these articles.

Due to the “effect of removal”, Blackjack probability calculations are slightly different depending on the number of remaining cards in the shoe. The effect of removing any particular card is much more significant with a partial deck remaining compared to 6 decks left in a multi-deck shoe. That is why Basic Strategy charts are slightly different for single deck, double deck and multi-deck games for the very close calls. However, approximate results are typically estimated for most hands by normalizing the Running Count to 1 deck equivalency and play per the True Count Index. That is why, in this series, we typically calculate the probability math for exactly 52 cards remaining (before the hand is dealt). In theory, the Running Count with exactly 1 deck remaining is a proxy for the True Count too. There is some inaccuracy inherent in applying the True Count to all depths of play but we will leave that for another time.

To start the analysis, let’s first take a look at the special case of the pair of 8’s vs. dealer 9. To keep it simple, let’s assume the dealer hits soft 17 (H17) and Double After Split (DAS) is allowed, which is the de facto standard in Las Vegas today. Here are the EV curves for SPLIT, HIT, STAND, and SURRENDER (-50% by definition).



Although splitting your 8’s will increase your volatility, for your long term benefit you do need to split them. The dealer does not always have a face card down, it just seems like it.

Now we can consider the probability math for the other hard 16 variants and exclude the pair of 8’s since we will be splitting them. Most of the time your hard 16 will be either 10+6 or 9+7 anyway. Combining those two possibilities, we get the following EV curves, which look a little different.



The first thing to note relative to the count is that the HIT and STAND options are both becoming bigger losers as the count increases. This is unfortunate because as the count increases, you will probably have bigger bets in play. If the count is +2 or greater, you should SURRENDER if allowed. Normally SURRENDER is not allowed so you should continue to HIT unless the deck is very rich with a count of +7 or higher when the play flips to STAND. Here is the same data in tabular form.

SURRENDER: Not allowed



So the bottom line here is that Hard 16 vs. Dealer 9 is a much stronger HIT than Hard 16 vs. Dealer 10 (flips at +2) or Dealer Ace (flips at +4). Taking this thought one step further, Hard 16’s vs. Dealer 7 or 8 are such strong HITS that the deck will almost never be rich enough to STAND with either of them. For that reason, we will not have separate articles dedicated to 16 vs. dealer 7 or 8 but we will include them here and show the flipping points (Indices) for all the hard 16 hands for comparison.

Flips from HIT to

Player Dealer STAND(Index) Reference
3-card 16 10 0  Article 2
2-card 16 10 +2 Article 1
2-card 16 Ace +4 Article 3
2-card 16 9 +7 Article 4
2-card 16 8 +12  
2-card 16 7 +13  


So for all intents and purpose, you should always HIT hard 16 vs. a dealer 7 or 8. This is why neither of these hands is included in Schlesinger’s “Illustrious 18” most important hands for card counters.

So for now, have fun, play smart, tip well, and may your variances be mostly positive.

Previous: Hard 16 vs. Dealer Ace

Next up: Hard 15 vs. Dealer 10

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