A Different Light on Stiff Hands

I hate stiff hands. You probably hate stiff hands. Any blackjack player worth their chips hates stiff hands. It doesn’t matter whether you play blackjack online or in a casino, stiff hands happen. Online blackjack, while there are some differences from regular casino, doesn’t differ in terms of being dealt a stiff hand.

On average blackjack players can expect to be dealt a stiff hand 43% of the time they play. While that’s still less than half of the time, it’s still a relatively high percentage. And it always feels higher when you’re actually playing.

What makes stiff hands so unappealing are their lack of flexibility and their lack of winning potential. If you’re dealt a hard 15 against a dealer’s 5 you know that if you stand you have a pretty good shot of losing the round. You also know that if you were to hit you would most likely bust.

But there’s another way to look at stiff hands, a way that might put your mind at ease a bit about standing or hitting with a stiff hand. And it has to do with the dealer’s chances of busting.

Let’s go back to the example I used a bit ago, the hard 15 against the dealer’s 5. When a dealer is showing a 5 he has about a 42% chance of busting. Same applies if he was showing a 6. Those two cards are the two that the dealer has the greatest chance of busting with.

The cards that the dealer has the greatest chances of busting with are 2 through 6. And wouldn’t you know it—it’s against those up cards that basic strategy recommends standing against. This is because if the dealer stands a higher chance of busting it makes sense for the player to stand. The dealer busts, player wins.

The dealer has less of a chance of busting with a 7 through an Ace showing. Again look at what basic strategy is telling you: to hit your stiff hand against those up cards. The theory behind this is that if you stand you have a very good shot of losing, so go ahead and hit and see if you get lucky with a low card. It’s one of things in which you give it your best shot.

Keep in mind when you’re playing blackjack, be it online blackjack or blackjack in a casino, that there is a reason and statistical calculation behind the recommended play. Bearing that in mind and thinking on the reasons for a play can help y