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Break / Bust Card

What is a 'Break/Bust Card'?

A break or bust card is a card in blackjack which, when drawn, causes the player or dealer to exceed a score of 21 and thus lose the game. Since the goal of blackjack is to obtain as high a score as possible without exceeding 21, the player will base their decisions on weighing up how likely they are to draw a break or bust card. Since the dealer makes his decision to draw another card based on predetermined conditions, only the player will need to take it into account. The likelihood of drawing a break or bust card informs the basis for both basic strategy and more advanced techniques such as card counting.

'Break/Bust Cards' Explained

The basic probability of drawing a break or bust card depends on the player or dealer's score. Since a hand below 12 cannot bust on the next card, the average probability ranges from 31% to 91% for the player. The dealer will always hit or stand depending on their total score, but the player can determine the average probability of the dealer drawing a bust card by taking their up-card into consideration. Because of the predetermined system the dealer uses, both low and high up-cards carry a low risk of busting - a high up-card means the dealer is less likely to draw another card.These probabilities, however, are not exact. Another factor that can influence the probability of drawing a bust card is the remaining cards in the deck. Keeping track of these cards is the basis of many systems of 'advantage play', known as card counting. With this system, players assign a numerical value to each card in order to inform their decisions, giving them an advantage as opposed to the standard small house advantage when basic strategy is followed.