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.

Blackjack Logic

I’ve been thinking about this since I wrote my post this morning on what do to with a hard 16. By the end of that post I was working up to something I was referring to as blackjack logic. Unfortunately—or fortunately depending on how you look at it—I wasn’t writing a post about blackjack logic, but about hard 16. So I rewrote the end.

But now I pick up with that. Yes, I saved it for just a post such as this.

Basically blackjack logic is looking at the cards in your hand and looking at the cards the other blackjack players at the table have. Then you assess all these cards to try to form an idea of what sort of play you should make.

This by no means replaces basic strategy. In fact, I will say stick with basic strategy in almost all instances.

But for those hard hands that are so hard to play because you stand a high chance of busting if you hit and losing if you stand, this blackjack logic might make you feel a bit better.

This is worth trying if you’re a blackjack player who plays with basic strategy but doesn’t card count.

Look at those cards I told you to. Think about those cards and what they’re telling you.

If you and your fellow players mostly have high cards it stands to reason that right now the deck is feeling the high cards. If you have one of those stiff hands that you don’t feel all that great in following what basic strategy says to do, seeing and recognizing that there are more high cards out there means that you have a better chance of hitting and getting a high card. And that means busting.

But if there are more low cards on the table it stands to reason that if you hit you’re more likely to get a low card yourself.

This is blackjack logic. It’s simply looking at the cards that are on the blackjack table in the round and reasoning the best play to make for those tricky hands we’re dealt. Just because you’re not using card counting doesn’t mean that basic strategy is the only skill up your sleeve. Logic is easy to apply to blackjack. You just have to pay attention to the game.

Now this logic does not by any means replace basic strategy. This logic can be used when you have hands like a hard 16 or 15 that are tough to play because you know you’re probably going to lose the round. Half the time basic strategy tells you to hit those two hands; and the other half it tells you to stand.

While you really should follow basic strategy, if you just can’t bring yourself to do what it tells you to, analyze the cards around you and then decide which play to make.

What to do with That Hard 16

In blackjack we always hate when we’ve been dealt a hard 16. And the dealer is showing a 10. It’s a tough hand to play, especially because we already know we have a greater chance of losing no matter what play we make. How great is that chance of losing? It’s 80%.

So even though we’re going into this hand knowing we’re probably going to lose, we should go down fighting. Granted, this is only a game of blackjack, not a life-and-death situation. But that doesn’t mean you sigh and sit back and make your play with your sad face already on.

At this point you’ve got two blackjack plays that you can try: hit or stand.

Basic strategy says to hit. And in most cases this is the best way to go. If you’re a novice player and don’t know a lot of the finer points of blackjack yet, this is what you do—hit.

But there are other clues to look at to determine the best play of make. If you’ve been card counting you know how the deck is running, and that will help you to determine which play to make.

But if you’re a novice or even an experienced player who doesn’t know how to card count, there are other clues that you can look at to determine which blackjack play to make.

First, look at the cards in your hand. Were you dealt a hard 16 or did you have a lower total and hit up to hard 16? What cards make up your hard sixteen?

Next, look at the cards of the other players. What are their hands made up of—high cards or low?

To show you how this works, I’m going to say that I had a smaller total and hit up to 16. So I’ve got a hard 16 made up of a bunch of low cards. The cards of the other players are more low than high or neutral.

So we can deduce that there are more low cards in play than high. We can reason that there are high cards still to come. In this instance, we would stand on our hard 16 against a dealer’s 10.

The reason for this, and this is where we start using blackjack logic, is that if we’ve reasoned that more high cards are coming and we already have a total of 16 with no Ace to reduce, we have a higher chance of getting a high card and busting.

So you aren’t always stuck with having to hit your hard 16. Look at the cards on the blackjack table around you and determine from those cards which better—hit or stand.