The internet is adorned with blackjack strategies and long thought out systems that try to beat the game and give the player an advantage, or at least that try to claw back some of the house edge from the casino.
One of the most floored of these ‘strategies’, is the no bust approach.
It sounds good doesn’t it, because by adopting it you will ensure that you never bust a single hand, so to the cautious player it could look appealing on the surface.
The problem, though, is that this strategy fails to look at the game from more than one angle, and so completely misses the point.
Some pretty basic maths show it up for what it really is, a flop.
If you aren’t happy to simply take our word for it then read on, and we will explore the strategy further and expose it’s major – and fairly obvious – weakness.
What is the No Bust Blackjack Strategy?
Perhaps the reason this strategy appeals to less experienced players is because it is very simple to understand.
Players that do not have much of a head for maths only have to remember a single instruction;
- Never hit if your hand has a chance of busting
Impossible to forget, right?
With the no bust strategy you only ever hit if your hand is worth 11 or less, because in this situation it is impossible to go bust by hitting. If the hand is worth even one number more than 11, you stand.
That means standing on a 12 and higher, no matter what the dealer is showing as their up card.
The hope is that your strong hands of 17 and above, as well as the number of times the dealer goes bust, will leave you with a positive bankroll.
Since the dealer must hit until they reach 17 or more, even if they have a hand worth 16, the thinking goes that the dealer will go bust enough times to balance out the player’s losing hands.
That’s the thinking, but it’s incorrect, and here’s why.
Why the No Bust Blackjack Strategy Fails
It doesn’t take long to explain this but we will go into a bit more detail for you.
If the dealer is showing a 7 or higher (a strong dealer up card), then the average hand value they will reach is 18.4. We know that’s not a real hand, but we are talking averages here, so you can think of it as an 18 or 19 if you like.
So if you stand on a 12 or 16 you are, statistically, going to lose a lot more than you win on average.
There are more cards available that can help you than hurt you in these situations, so the sensible thing to do is hit and take your chance.
We can look at it another way.
The dealer only has a 33.15% chance of going bust on any given hand. That means 66.85% of the time they are going to finish up with a hand that at least keeps them in the game, and that hand will be worth a minimum of 17 due to the dealer’s rules.
Natural blackjacks aside, your chances of being dealt a 17 or above are around 30%. That is a 30% chance of having a hand that might beat the dealer’s (if they have a 19 and you have an 18 you still lose, for example).
Let’s look at your chances of busting or improving your hand, with hand totals that fall into the no bust strategy of standing no matter what:
|Hand Total||Bust Chance||Improvement Chance|
So even with a 16 where the chance of going bust when hitting is 61%, the dealer retains their 66.85% chance of getting 17 or above, and you have a 39% chance of improving your hand.
Your chances of winning the hand when hitting a 16 are still slim, but they are better than standing against a strong dealer hand and hoping the dealer goes bust.
Essentially, never hitting when there is the possibility of busting is to ignore a key piece of information the game gives you that you can use to your advantage, and that is the dealer’s up card.
From this, we can calculate probabilities and act accordingly, which is where basic strategy comes from.
To ignore this card and simply stand to avoid going bust, even when the maths tells us this is not the wisest move, truly is folly.
The Fun of the Game
All of this aside, no bust is a pretty boring strategy to play.
You only have a 26.5% chance of getting an 11 or less, so 73.5% of the time you will be standing rather than hitting.
That’s not a lot of action for a game of blackjack. Half the fun is making decisions, and then the suspense as each card is dealt and/or turned over.
If you hardly ever hit then you are denying yourself a lot of the enjoyment element, which is the whole reason for playing in the first place.
So not only is playing the o bust strategy likely to lose you more money more quickly, but you will probably have less fun doing it too.
Where is the sense in that?