Other Ways to Win in Blackjack

When playing blackjack, players tend to get very focused on being deal that 21. But it isn’t the only way to win in blackjack as we all know. Remember that the objective of blackjack is to beat the dealer without going over 21. This doesn’t mean that a natural 21 is the only way to beat the dealer—it’s just the most popular.

In blackjack, 70% of your offensive hands will be won with either a natural blackjack or its closest runner a 10/10. But what about the other 30% of offensive hands? They are made up of five hands: a 10/9, an Ace/9, an Ace/8, a hard 11 and a hard 10.

But in order to make the most of these winning hands they must be played the right way. And, yes, in blackjack these hands do have a right way of being played. So we’re going to take a look at them and what to do with them.

Ace/10
This is the much coveted natural blackjack. These two cards are the only ones that can make a natural blackjack, although the 10 could also be a face card. If you’re dealt these cards, congratulate yourself and collect your money.

10/10
This hand is often misplayed because the first thing that blackjack players see is that it’s a pair. But not every pair is made to be split. And this is one of them. It’s folly to split a 10/10 because you don’t have good chances of building two hands that are just as strong. So leave them unsplit.

10/9
This would be known as a hard 19, and after a hard 20 it is the next strongest hand to have. You can only be beat if the dealer has or hits to 20 or 21, or if he has a natural 21.

Ace/9
This is another hand that blackjack players will sometimes stumble on. And it’s because of the Ace. They see that this is a soft hand and assume that hitting is the right play to make. But this is actually a soft 20, and if you stand on it, it’s just as strong as a hard 20 in playing terms.

Ace/8
This hand is treated in a way that is similar to the Ace/9. Blackjack players will hit on it when they should be standing. It’s only a hard 19, but played as a 19 it is worth more than if it’s hit on.

Hard 11
With this hand the best play to make is to double down. This is a strong hand to start on and even though you are only receiving one more card, it still has a good chance of being high enough to beat the dealer and collect double the winning amount. The best time to double down on a hard 11 is when faced with a dealer’s 10 or anything less.

Hard 10
Like the hard 11, this hand is best played and most profitable when a blackjack player double downs on it. But the best times to double down on it is when faced with a dealer’s 9 or less.

Keep these hands and how they are played in your mind when you are at the computer playing blackjack online or are playing blackjack at the casino. It doesn’t matter which place you’re playing at because these hands’ worths and plays are the same for both casino blackjack and online blackjack.

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.

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.

Why Surrender in Blackjack

Sometimes the best offense is a good defense. At least that’s what they say. And there is a play available to blackjack players that covers this.

In blackjack, as long as the house rules allow it at the table you’re playing at, players can surrender their hand if they feel it would be advantageous to do so.

Quickly put, surrendering in blackjack is when a play gives up playing out his hand at the cost of half of his bet. It’s similar to folding in poker except that only half of your bet is gone rather than all of it like in poker.

There are just some hands in blackjack that are tough to play and the chances of you beating the dealer are just too steep. In those cases the player must go on the defensive. And if surrender is allowed, it is the best truly defensive play available to a blackjack player.

So when are the times when it’s in a blackjack player’s best interest to surrender?

No surprise that the most advantageous times to surrender are with some of the trickiest stiff hands:

– Hard 15 vs. dealer’s 10
– Hard 16 vs. dealer’s 9
– Hard 16 vs. dealer’s 10
– Hard 16 vs. dealer’s Ace

When you have been dealt those hands and are faced with those dealer up cards the odds on the player beating the dealer are very steep. The dealer’s up card is in a good place to hit up to a strong hand.

If the deck is rich in high cards they might only hit for one card and have strong hand. But since low cards favor the dealer, if the remaining deck is rich in low cards, then the dealer still has a good chance at building a strong hand.

And with those hands against those up cards, basic strategy advises standing as the best course of action. Unless surrender is an option. If surrender is an option, then basic strategy advises to go that route and save half of your bet rather than lose all of it.

Hard 16 Meet the Dealer’s 7

This seems to be a rather tricky play for blackjack players to make.

When faced with a hard 16 against a dealer’s 7 you should be hitting it, not standing.

Okay, it’s not that it’s a tricky play, it’s that it’s a tough one to make, both in online blackjack and land-based blackjack. Tough as in your brain is telling you, ‘No, no, no! You’re going to bust! Don’t hit that 16! No!’

But let’s look at it this way for a moment, and you better tell your brain to pay attention to this. Let’s say that you have been dealt a hard 16. The dealer has a 7 showing. What play do you make? Hit or stand?

You should hit and here’s why. Using that defensive blackjack strategy in which you assume that the hole card is worth 10. Based on that assumption, then with that 7 and assumed 10 hole card the dealer would have 17. And if you had chosen to stand on your hard 16 you would have lost.

So why set yourself up to lose when you have the chance to better your hand by hitting.

Want further proof? Look at a blackjack basic strategy chart—look at the line for hard 16. Notice that you’re told to stand on 2-6 and hit 7-10 and the Ace. This is because with all hands 7 and up would beat a hard 16 that you stood on if you assumed that those up card were matched with a 10. Any hole card of 2-6 there is the chance that the dealer will hit to bust.

So in blackjack, again both online blackjack and land-based blackjack, you want to hit a hard 16 when faced with a dealer’s 7. It gives you the chance to build your hand into something stronger. And you know that the dealer is going to hit his hand whatever his hole card turns out to be.

Standing on a hard 16 against a dealer’s 7 is like giving up before you give yourself the chance. So give yourself and your hand a shot at winning. You may, you may not. But if you stand on that hard 16 you’re setting yourself up for a loss.

When Will the Dealer Bust?

While it’s a bit hard to know exactly when a dealer is more likely to bust in blackjack, you can learn when a dealer is more likely to bust.

To begin with you must train you mind to except that there is no such thing as a dealer “bust card.” As much as we would like to see a certain card and think that the dealer will bust, it just isn’t true.

However there are some cards that the dealer is more likely to bust with: he has a 40% chance with a 4 and a 42% chance with a 5 or 6. But notice that’s still less than half the time.

So you can assume that you have a slightly better chance of winning than win the dealer is showing an Ace—the dealer will only bust 17% of the time then. Here’s the up card and busting breakdown:

2-35%
3-37%
4-40%
5-42%
6-42%
7-26%
8-24%
9-23%
10-23%
Ace-17%

But keep this in mind and then take a look at your basic strategy chart. Think of your hard hands. Why do you stand on a stiff hand when the dealer is showing a 2 through 6? This would be because the dealer’s chances of busting, while still less than half, have a greater chance of busting then.

This is also why you hit win the dealer has less of a chance of busting. It becomes your strategy to take a course of action that could give you a stronger hand. Take for instance that the dealer has a 10 showing and you have a 16. If you use the usual blackjack assumption that the hole card is a 20, then you know that your 16 will lose. So rather than go down without a fight, you can try hitting for a card that will give you at least a 20 or maybe even a 21.

These percentages of when a dealer is more likely to bust should further reinforce the need to follow basic strategy. When the basic strategy chart was made and its testing done, the chances of the dealer busting were taken into consideration. The best you can do in blackjack initially is to follow basic strategy.

How to Correctly Play 16 Against a 7

Plays made against a dealer’s up card of 7 are usually misplayed. Novice players seem to not know what to do when faced with that 7.

This seems to happen most often when you have a sixteen and he has a 7 showing. Many players will stand here rather than hit. And hitting is what you should be doing. Even a basic strategy chart will tell you to hit a hard 16 against a dealer’s 7.

Now let me briefly ask you, what would you do if the dealer was showing a 10 or a face card and you had a hard 16? You’d hit and you’d have no problem doing so.

But in all actuality the dealer is more likely to bust with a 7 than with a 10. He will bust 23 times out of 100 with a 10, but will bust 26 times out of 100 when he has a 7 showing. And you? You have the same chances of busting in with this hand regardless of whether he has a 10 or a 7. And even though he has a greater chance of busting with a 7, so many novice blackjack players will stand against that 7.

And this is where it doesn’t make sense. If you have the same chances of busting, and he has a greater chance of busting on that 7 rather than with a 10, why would you stand against the 7 and not the 10?

Yes, you should be hitting against them both, and bravo if you are. But the standing against a 7 has got to stop. And this applies to both land based blackjack and online blackjack. If you’re standing against the 7 you’re not playing this hand to its best opportunity. Just remember, hit a hard 16 against a dealer 7. And make the most of this stiff hand because when do we really have a lot of opportunity with a stiff hand?

And if you answer with a hard 12 you will have made me proud.

Know Your Winning Blackjack Hands

Remember the 10-10 that we discussed yesterday? You will have around 70% of you winnings between the 10-10 and the always loved Ace-10. So what hands make up the other 30% of your winnings? And how do you play them so that you win when dealt them?

There are five hands that will make up most of the other 30% of your winnings: 10-9, Ace-9, Ace-8, 11 and 10. And each of these hands has their own way of being played.

Ace-21

Do nothing and just take your winnings.

10-10
Just a quick recap. Even though this is a pair, this is one of those pairs that you never split when playing blackjack. Just play it out as a hard 20.

10-9
Even though this isn’t worth 20, this is still a decent hand; the dealer can only beat you if he has 20 or a natural blackjack. With this hand you will want to stand.

Ace-9
Although this is a soft hand, because of the Ace, you need to stand here, playing this hand as a hard 20. It might be tempting to reduce the Ace to 1 and hit on a hard 10, but why throw away a hand that can only be beaten by a dealer’s natural blackjack? If you hit there’s no guarantee that do better than the 20 you had. So your best bet is to stand on an Ace-9.

Ace-8
Again, like the Ace-9, you will want to play this hand as if it were a hard hand. Ignore the urge you may have to hit on what could be a hard 9. The principle here, and with the Ace-9, is not to ignore an opportunity like you have with most soft hands; what you are doing here is taking advantage of a strong hand that you most likely will not better if you choose to hit. Stand on a soft 19.

11
With hard 11 it’s best to just fork over the money to increase you original bet, and go ahead and double down, especially if the dealer is showing a 10 or less. Yes, you will only receive one more card, but you already have a good starting place. If you’re a card counter and the deck is rich in high grades, defiantly double down.

10
And you will want to double with a hard 10 as long as the dealer is showing 9 or less. Also for card counters, like with the hard 11, make sure to double down here if the remaining deck is rich in high cards.