Blackjack Dealer Makes a Mistake – Is is Fair to the Player?

Question: This happened to me a while back, and I'm still fuming about it. I was third base at a blackjack table and had a $100 bet down on a $5 minimum table. The dealer deals the hand and I get a 16. But before play begins one of the players in the middle points out that she was only dealt one card. The pit boss comes over and gives that player the right to declare the hand dead or take the next card from the shoe. She calls a dead hand, and then I bust on my 16. But I wouldn't have had a 16 if it wasn't a misdeal! Shouldn't the pit boss have just called the whole game dead? What should have been done?

Before we get to the meat of your question, let's just clear up a couple of things. Firstly, a misdeal is a term only used in poker rooms when the cards are dealt out of order and the whole hand is declared dead. However, misdeals don't happen at blackjack tables.

Secondly, as a player you should expect the occasional dealer error now and then. After all, a full-time blackjack dealer will deal something around half a million hands every year. No human being can be expected to do something that many times without a mistake. It is to their credit that mistakes are actually so rare.

Now, as for your particular dealer error, the pit boss made the right call for the player in the middle who only got one card. She should certainly have had the option to take the next card or fold. But what about you?

Many casinos tend to try to favor the player as much as possible when a mistake occurs. So you, on third base, should have also been given the option to keep your current hand or fold, as the cards were dealt out of order.

That being said, there are reasons why that might not have happened. Firstly, that could just be your particular casino's policy. Each casino has a huge book with every possible scenario in it, and what to do in each case, and every casino's book is different. As long as every pit boss calls it the same way in the same casino, you can't cry foul.

Secondly, it could have been ruled that way because of the size of your bet compared to the table minimum. Perhaps the pit boss was concerned that you all were working together to spoil the hand and protect your large bet against a 16. In the end, it could have gone either way, and you can just chalk it up to bad luck.

 Question: Just out of curiosity, how often does the dealer bust in blackjack? It sure seems sometimes that she busts a lot less than I do.

Of course if it depends on the specific rules of the table, especially regarding whether the dealer draws on soft 17 or not. But in general, expect the dealer to bust around 28% of the time. When she shows a 7 or higher, including an ace, her chance of busting is around 17%. When she shows a 6 or lower, she busts about 42% of the time. And when she hits blackjack, she always wins.

About The Author

Insider casino expert Mark Pilarski worked nearly every job in his 18 years in the casino industry, from dealer to cashier to shift manager. Armed with that experience, he created the legendary Hooked on Winning casino advice audio series and he currently lectures and writes gambling columns for various websites, newspapers, and magazines.

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