What Does It Mean When I “Bust”? In Blackjack?
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The ultimate goal of blackjack is to make a hand that is closer in total to 21 than the hand held by the dealer without going over. Whenever the total of your cards exceeds 21 this is known as a “bust” and the game is over. The same is true for the dealer, making blackjack as much a game of skill and strategy as it is a game of luck.

What Happens When I Bust in Blackjack?

Anytime that you bust in blackjack the hand is over and you will lose your original wager. A bust can only happen when you have taken a hit and received cards in addition to the original two you received to start. Here is an example to illustrate how a bust might occur.

You are dealt a starting hand of 10-6 for a total of 16. The dealer shows a 10 and has one card that you cannot see. For the purposes of basic blackjack strategy, you must always assume that the dealer has another 10 “in the hole.” This means that you can assume the dealer has a total of 20. Your 16 is worthless so you must take a hit to try and improve. Your next card is another 10, giving you a total of 26. You have now busted the hand and the game is over. The dealer will collect your original wager.

It is also possible for the dealer to bust. Suppose that the dealer has a 10 showing and turns over the hole card to reveal a 6. According to the rules of blackjack the dealer must now take a hit. The next card is an 8, giving the dealer a total of 24 and causing the hand to bust.

The kicker is that you will always have to act on your hand before the dealer. This means that if you bust, whatever happens with the dealer’s hand doesn’t matter. You are out of the game immediately when you bust.

Blackjack Strategies to Avoid a Bust

Unfortunately, blackjack does involve the luck of the draw. There is no way to know which card will be dealt next. You can, however, use some basic blackjack strategy to minimize the chance of busting your hand.

First of all, you should never hit a total of 17 or more. There are simply too many cards in the deck that will bust you. Even if the dealer shows a 10 you must stand on 17 and hope that the dealer’s hole card is not a ten after all.

You can also use splits to your advantage in the effort of avoiding a bust. A starting hand of 8-8 should always be split because the total of the hand is 16, the worst total you can have in blackjack.

Be very careful when taking a hit if you hold a total of 12 to begin. There are more ten cards in the deck than any other point value and you will likely bust. Your choice in this situation should be determined by what card the dealer shows.

The reason blackjack is such a complex game and one of the best in an online casino is that sometimes winning is as simple as avoiding a bust.