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In blackjack, a deuce is not the dealer's Ace
By Fred Renzey | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 4/4/2008 12:06 AM

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How many times have you heard another player at the blackjack table say something like: "Never double down against a deuce!" or "I wouldn't split those against a deuce!" or "A deuce is the dealer's Ace!"? So many players are terrified of a dealer's deuce up, and they shouldn't be. Where do these warped fears come from anyway?

One thing is true. The dealer will make 21 more often with a deuce up than with any other up-card -- but not by much. One out of every eight times she shows that deuce, she'll end up making 21. But she'll pull the same stunt one out of every nine times when she's showing a 5! It's just that with a deuce up, the dealer is so far from having a made hand that anything could happen -- and sometimes does. It's those crushing times when she makes a big hand out of it that tend to stick painfully in your mind.

At the other end of the spectrum, with which up-card do you think the dealer will make 21 the least often? It's when she's showing a 10 and doesn't have blackjack. There, she'll convert her 10 up-card into a 21 just once every 27 times.

As for the potency of the deuce, I'll give you this much -- you'd rather see the dealer have a 7 up than a 2. But the 8, 9, 10 and Ace are all more dangerous to you than a deuce.

So then, just where on the scale of dangerous dealer up-cards does the deuce actually rank? The following chart lists every dealer's up-card and states your odds for winning money against it overall.

Your

Up-Card Odds

2 6-to-5 favorite

3 13-to-10 favorite

4 7-to-5 favorite

5 3-to-2 favorite

6 8-to-5 favorite

7 4-to-3 favorite

8 11-to-10 favorite

9 11-to-10 underdog

10 7-to-5 underdog

A 2-to-1 underdog

Notice that you're a 6-to-5 favorite when the dealer has a deuce up. That means you'll win $6 for every $5 you lose against a deuce after you've had every hand you'll ever get. By contrast, you're a 2-to-1 underdog against an Ace up, which means you'll lose $2 for every dollar you win. So let's see -- a deuce is the dealer's Ace? Hardly! If only the dealer had a deuce up every time. Then you could bet a flat $100 per hand, simply play basic strategy and make $800 per hour playing blackjack, on average!

If you had your choice, the up-card you'd most want the dealer to have would be the 6, followed by the 5, 4, 3, 7, 2, 8, 9, 10 and then the Ace in that order.

Against a 2 through 8, you're the favorite. Only against a 9, 10 or Ace are you the underdog. But remember: There are four kinds of 10s. Combine all 13 up-cards, and you're a ½ percent underdog in the game -- provided you play your hands correctly. If you make mistakes with your hands, though, you'll turn many favorites into underdogs.

So don't start getting all negative when the dealer shows you a deuce up. It's a good card for you. Just hit any hard totals up through 9, double with 10 or 11, hit 12 and stand with 13 or higher. For soft hands, hit Ace/2 through Ace/6 and stand with Ace/7 or higher. For pairs, split 2/2 and 3/3, as well as 6/6 through 9/9 and A/A -- but stand with 10/10.

What's that? You don't like splitting 9s against a deuce? If you stand, you're a 5-to-4 favorite. If you split, you've got two 6-to-5 favorites. Splitting makes more money.