Why Hitting a Hard 12 Against a 2 or 3 is the Way to Go

Basic strategy is often abused. Players think they are adhering to it when they are not. And when you do not play basic strategy perfectly, the house edge cannot be lowered to 0.5%. Two of the most commonly misplayed scenarios are a hard 12 against a dealer 2 or 3.

Hard 12 is one of the stiff hands, meaning it is one of those hands with a high shot of losing but still has a shot at winning. In other words they are underdog hands. Basic strategy for those hands was calculated to give the play that would do the least amount of damage should the player lose. And, let’s face it, those hands do have a larger chance of losing than winning.

Most hard hands are played like this: if the dealer has a 6 or less, then stand; but if he has a 7 or greater, then go ahead and hit. The only stiff hand that is the exception to that rule is the hard 12; for that hand players are advised to hit against a dealer’s 2 or 3 rather than stand. This is because the average amount of money lost when hitting is less than average amount lost when standing. Check it out (figured from a $100 wager):

Average amount lost when hitting against a 2: $25
Average amount lost when standing against a 2: $29

Average amount lost when hitting against a 3: $23
Average amount lost when standing against a 3: $25

When put into money terms it is easy to understand. However, many blackjack players, experienced ones too, will stand against a 2 or 3. I think players make the mistake because all of the other stiff hands are advised to stand against a dealer 2 or 3; so they play a hard 12 in the same way even though a hard 12 is better off being hit against a 2 or 3. All it takes is sticking to what the basic strategy chart says. The good thing about basic strategy is it can be used in online casinos like Online Vegas without it being illegal or frowned upon by the online casino.

Blackjack Myth: Never Hit 12 Against a Dealer’s 2

For blackjack players who play according to basic strategy, I know, this myth does not make any sense.

And players believe this regardless of whether they are playing online blackjack or blackjack in a brick and mortar casino. Some are absolutely steadfast in this myth.

In truth they are only hurting their own blackjack odds.

Here is what happens in the mind of blackjack player who believes this myth—this is their reasoning. They are afraid of hitting and receiving a 10. They believe that the dealer’s hole card is a 10—another no-no in blackjack—and that if the dealer was dealt a 2 and a 10; and if they stand then the dealer will receive that 10 and bust.

They have this idea that if they hit they will only receive a 10. In their mind there is no other card that they could receive. So they will stand and hope the dealer gets the 10.

But here are the odds: standing on a hard 12 against a dealer’s 2 will cause you to lose 65% of the time while only winning 35% of the time.

On the other hand, if you hit like basic strategy tells you to, you will only lose 63% but you will win 37% of the time.

Yes, in the long run the odds are against the blackjack player in the long run. But look at the winning percentages: you will win 37% of the time if you hit. That is 2% more than if you were to stand. Granted 2% is not a lot, but I will take that 37% chance of winning rather than give it up.

Besides believing that you can only hit a hard 12 and receive a 10 in blackjack just seems, well, rather limiting. It also sounds a little like chopping off your nose to spite your face blackjack style.

Worst Stiff Hand in Blackjack

It is never fun to be dealt a stiff hand in blackjack. You always feel like you have lost the round before it is even your turn to play. Or in the case of online blackjack, as soon as you see the cards you have been dealt.

You wind up basing your play off of whatever up card the dealer has. For hard hands 13 through 16 you stand if the dealer is showing a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6. And if he is showing a 7, 8, 9, 10 or Ace you hit. A hard 12 is the same except that you do hit when the dealer is showing a 2 or 3, so it is a little more flexible.

So if four of the five stiff hands are all played the same, which one is the worst one?

It would be the hard 16. Players have a 61% chance of busting with this hand. This is because when the dealer has a 7 or higher showing, the player’s best play is to hit. And there are only four cards that the player can receive that will not bust him: 2, 3, 4 and 5. That’s 4 out of 6 card types.

It naturally follows that the smaller the stiff hand the less of a chance there is of the player busting:

Hard 15: 59%
Hard 14: 56%
Hard 13: 52%
Hard 12: 48%

Notice that the hard 12’s chances of busting are less than 50%. This is because more than half of the card types that the blackjack player could receive will not cause him to bust.

The best you can do in blackjack is to play according to basic strategy and hope for the best. There really is not anything else that you can do. This is because you are too close to hit and not bust, but you are not high enough to really stand. Which is why every blackjack player hates being dealt stiff hands. At least in knowing the chances of busting, it can help a player feel a little better about hitting.

Dealing with a Hard 12

Stiff hands are miserable to get in blackjack. There is a feeling of losing before the round before the game really gets going. And in blackjack—be in online blackjack or blackjack in a brick and mortar casino—you are going to be dealt a stiff hand around 43% of the time.

But of all those stiff hands one is not as bad as the other hands. That stiff hand is a hard 12.

Thankfully a hard 12 offers us a little bit more room to work with than the other stiff hands we could be dealt in blackjack.

For starters let’s look at the plays recommended by basic strategy. For a hard 13 through hard 16 the basic strategy recommended plays are the same: if the dealer’s up card is a 2-6, stand and if the dealer’s up card is 7 through an Ace, hit.

But a hard 12 is different. Basic strategy recommends standing only on a dealer’s 4-6. If the dealer has a 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10 or Ace the recommended play is to hit. That alone gives the player some more room to work with this stiff hand in a game of blackjack.

On a side note, you can win 37% of the time when you hit a hard 12 against the dealer’s 2 or 3. Standing will only allow you to win 35% of the time. I do not know about you, but when it comes to a stiff hand, I will take that extra 2% any day.

So why is it recommended to hit a hard 12 against a 2 or 3? Mostly it has to do with the dealer’s chances of busting.

The dealer has the highest chances of busting when he has a 4, 5 or 6 showing. This is why you stand against those three so that you can leave the path to him busting open. All the other up cards have less than a 40% chance of busting. And since a hard 12 still offers a chance of not busting because of it being a lower hand total than the other stiff hands it allows us the chance of hitting against a dealer’s 2 or 3.

That being said do not think the round of blackjack is entirely lost when you are dealt a hard 12. Thankfully, the odds in blackjack give you a little room to work with.

Dealing with a Hard 12

Stiff hands are the worst to get. It mostly comes from the feeling that like we’re going to lose that round. But stiff hands give players the feeling of futility. This is because stiff hands are so difficult to win with.

Blackjack players can expect to be dealt a stiff hand 43% of the time when playing. Which isn’t too bad, but when there is a run of low cards and you kept being dealt stiff hands it feels like more than 43% of the time. But remember that for every run of low cards there will be a run of high cards.

The reason for the higher percentage of stiff hands in blackjack versus strong hands is because there are more stiff hands than strong hands. What makes it worse is that if you are dealt a low total, something lower than a hard 12, it can be fairly easy to hit and wind up with a stiff hand.

But not all stiff hands in blackjack are as bad as they seem, namely a hard 12 is not as bad as being dealt a hard 13 through 16. The reason for this is that a hard 12 has a little bit more flexibility.

With a hard 13 through 16 basic strategy advise to stand if the dealer has a 2 through 6 showing. If the dealer has a 7 or higher blackjack players are advised to hit. So blackjack players are hitting half of the time and standing the other half. But this isn’t so with a hard 12.

In blackjack hitting implies that there is a chance to better your hand. With a hard 12 basic strategy says to hit against a dealer’s up card of 2 and 3. So blackjack players have two more opportunities to better the chances of their hard 12.

As for as blackjack odds, players stand a chance of winning 37% of the time if they hit against a dealer’s 2 or 3. Now if you were to stand a hard 12 against a dealer’s 2 or 3 you would only have a 35% chance of winning. I know, it doesn’t sound like a lot but when holding a stiff hand any improved chances you can get you take.

Hitting may not give you a win for that round of blackjack, but you do get a slightly improved shot at winning against a dealer’s 2 or 3. This is more of a case of trying to improve your chances and trying to minimize your loses as best you can.

How to Play a Hard 12 in Blackjack

When playing blackjack, you are bound to be dealt a stiff hand. These are the hardest hands to play in blackjack. They are difficult to win with.

You’ll be dealt a stiff hand around 43% of the time you play. This is because there are more stiff hands (12-16) than there are strong hands (18-20); and when you’re dealt a hand with a low total, you have a decent chance of hitting yourself into a stiff hand.

But off the stiff hands, according to basic strategy, hard 12 gives you the most room to work with…for a stiff hand.

With hard 13 through hard 16, you will need to stand against half of the dealer’s up cards. But with a hard 12 you’re hitting against seven of the ten cards a dealer could have.

We all know that all stiff hands will hit when facing a dealer’s 7 and higher. And you stand on a dealer 2 through 6. Except for the hard 12.

When you have a hard 12 against a dealer 2 or 3 it’s best to hit. You can actually win 37% of the time when hitting a hard 12 against the dealer’s 2 or 3. Yes, you can lose 63% of the time. But if you were to stand against the dealer’s 2 or 3 you will only win 35% of the time.

Now I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be making the play where I stand a 37% of winning than 35%.

While 37% isn’t that much higher than 35% it is still higher. And in this game you want to make the play that gives you the best chance of winning and minimizes your losses. And that is the case with a hard 12 against a dealer 2 or 3. By hitting you are increasing you chances of winning and minimizing you losses as best you can with the cards you’ve been dealt.