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.

New Blackjack Variation: Switch

All right, blackjack players, we have another blackjack variation on our hands. Or on our tables actually. So far this one seems to be limited to brick and mortar casinos, and has not made the jump to online blackjack…yet.

This new blackjack variation is called Blackjack Switch. And it sounds pretty much like it is.

In this variation players must lay down to bets of equal amounts. They then are dealt two hands of two cards each. The dealer then deals cards to himself and then checks to see if he has a natural blackjack. Once he has checked and he does not have one, then players are allowed to play out their hands.

Playing out your hands in Blackjack Switch is not quite ordinary. You first playing decision to make is whether or not to switch your cards. In this variation players can swap the second cards of each hand with each other.

This gives players a little relief in that if one of your hands is a hard hand, you could switch the second cards and possibly relieve yourself from having a stiff hand.

But what players need to keep in mind is that sometimes switching is not always needed. It takes careful thought on whether to make the swap or not.

Once a player decides whether to switch their second cards with each other, he then plays out his hands like any ordinary hands. You can still use basic strategy here. But there is not strategy for when to switch your cards and when not to. That is a judgment call on your part.

While I do not like variations as a rule, this one does not have side bets, which are usually the worst aspect of blackjack variations. But like any blackjack variations, there are downsides to this game.

For one thing you will run through your bankroll faster because you are playing two hands at once. And because there is no real strategy advantage to playing two hands at once, you are actually decreasing your blackjack odds because you are giving the house more opportunities to take your money.

On top of that, if you are dealt a natural blackjack you are only going to be paid even money. Sot that is another hit against your blackjack odds. You have already handed them the advantage by opening yourself up to losing money by playing more than one hand at a time. But now you have given up your 3-2 payout as well, which normally fives a nice boost to players.

Since this one does not have side bets, I would say to play it for a couple of rounds just to give it a try. But if you are wanting to make any money off of blackjack then you will want to stick to regular blackjack.

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.

The Thing with Soft Hands

Blackjack is one of the easiest games to play in the realm of casino games. Essentially if you can add up to 21 then you can play blackjack.

The strategy available for blackjack is also very simple. Basic strategy is the easiest strategy to use and have such a significant impact on the house edge.

So with both of those considered how is it that blackjack players keep misplaying soft hands?

To put the answer simply, since this is blackjack after all, is that players are misplaying their hands. Specifically soft hands.

I’m not sure how this is managed considering that basic strategy will tell a player the best way to play out every hand, including soft hands. So the problem is that players aren’t using the chart. As a result they are playing soft hands as if they were hard hands.

There’s a reason that a hand with an Ace has a different name from a hand that doesn’t have one.

And it is that Ace that makes the difference.

Blackjack players should be wanting soft hands because they offer more flexibility than hard hands. This is because that Ace can be reduced from an 11 to a 1.

Let’s look at an example. If you were dealt a hard 16 against a dealer showing a 3 you would stand. A good number of blackjack players will stand on an Ace/5 as well because they only see that the total is 16. They miss that Ace entirely.

If they were to check a basic strategy chart they would see that the correct play is to hit. You can hit a soft 16 because you have the power to reduce that Ace to a 1 if you have to.

It’s this flexibility that gives soft hands a different playing strategy on the chart from hard hands. If soft hands were meant to be played the same as a hard hand they wouldn’t have a separate name and a separate section on a basic strategy chart.

While you might be embarrassed to take a basic strategy chart to the blackjack table, it can seriously improve your odds of winning. It’s worth holding your pride in check and using the chart. If you’re really self conscious playing with the chart, practice playing blackjack online with it or simply stick to playing 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.

Shrewd Blackjack Rules

There are two types of blackjack players. There are those that are there to have a good time, and are more about just having fun than winning any money. And then there are those who are about winning money. We’re going to focus on that last group of players.

Blackjack players who are more interested in money tend to be very shrewd and won’t play at just any blackjack table unlike their for-fun counterparts. When a win-focused blackjack player steps onto the casino floor he won’t just walk up to any blackjack table and sit down. He will cruise the blackjack tables first, looking at how the cards are flowing and what the rules are. See, the house rules play a big part in the odds of the game.

One rule that these shrewd blackjack players look for while cruising the blackjack tables is a rule that allows for the re-splitting of Aces.

We already know to split a pair of Aces if we open a round with them. But when we are dealt another Ace after splitting we like to split that pair too. Some casinos will let you and some won’t. The benefit to the blackjack player odds when playing in a game where you can resplit Aces is 0.06% in the player’s favor.

Re-splitting Aces doesn’t sound like a big deal but let’s take a look at that for a moment. Let’s say that you open the round with a pair of Aces and split them. Then you’re dealt another Ace on one of your split Aces. If you aren’t allowed to resplit you’re stuck with a hand total of twelve. Hard 12. And depending on what the dealer’s up card is you might have a chance of hitting and not busting. But we all know how stiff hands usually turn out—cross your fingers and hope the dealer busts.

Being able to resplit your Aces help increase your chances of building a strong hand, but it gives the split Ace that receives the third Ace a second chance to go up against the dealer with something better than a hard 12.

What Makes Stiff Hands so Stiff

We hate them. We hate being dealt them. We know that when we do see these cards in blackjack that we have a pretty decent shot of either busting or being beat. They’re hands that you could say the following of: “You’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t.”

I’m talking about stiff hands in blackjack. It doesn’t matter if we are playing blackjack online or in a casino. Those would be hard 12 through hard 16. They aren’t strong hands. But they’re big enough that hitting on them gives you a pretty decent shot of busting.

With the exception of a hard 12, basic strategy advises to stand on all of them when faced with a dealer’s up card of 2 through 6; and it advises to hit if facing a dealer’s up card of 7 through Ace.

Unfortunately those are the only options available to us. Unless you’re lucky enough to be playing blackjack at a table that allows for surrender; and then you had better be surrendering a hard 15 against a dealer’s 10 or a hard 16 against a dealer’s 9 through Ace.

These hands are stiff because the odds of them being successful hands are against the blackjack player. There isn’t really a play that will turn them around into successful hands. And that’s why we hate being dealt these hands. Because we feel powerless to have an impact on our game when we are playing a game we are used to being able to impact.

And there is the crux of the stiff hands. Blackjack players feel powerless against them. The most we can do is hit or stand according to basic strategy and hope for the best.

Even though we do not stand a high chance of winning or impacting the odds of those hands, we have to keep the overall game of blackjack and our overall odds in mind. We can make the play that basic strategy recommends, and allow that play to work towards bringing the house edge down to 0.05%, which is what basic strategy does if we play according to it. And that means sucking it up when we lose and think of the bigger picture.

Sometimes in blackjack we have to accept that while we made lose a battle here and there, we are going to win the war.

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.

Pairs to Keep in Blackjack

Have you ever thrown a good thing away?

Have you ever split a pair of 10’s or 5’s?

If so, then, yes, you have thrown a good thing away.

The thing with those two pairs is that they’re worth more as a pair than split. I know, splitting pairs is one of those novel plays that you don’t get to make all that often. It’s not like hitting or standing in blackjack. Or even doubling down. Splitting can only be done when you’ve been dealt two of the same card. Not exactly the most common of starting hands.

So when we get dealt a pair we tend to get all excited and want to make that special play. But sometimes a pair played as a hard hand is more valuable than playing it with a split.

Those pairs are 10/10 and 5/5.

First off a hand made up of 10/10 is one of the strongest hands you could be dealt. It has a hard total of 20. The only hands that the dealer can have to beat you is a natural blackjack or hitting to 21; of course, a dealer’s 20 would cause a push but at least you won’t have lost you wager.

The point is that a hard 20 is a hard hand to beat. That is why it is best played unsplit.

Now that 5/5 is worth more as a hard 10 because you can double down on it. So you still get one of those fun special blackjack plays.

Granted you’re still doubling your original blackjack wager but a hard 10 is one of those hands that has a higher chance of success as a double down than other hands. If you were to split those 5’s you’d still be wagering that doubled amount, but you’d have to win with both hands to win the same amount you would with a successful double downed 10. And it’s hard to build strong hands on a 5.

So while you might get that excitable urge to split any and all pairs that come to your hands, remember that good blackjack strategy dictates that some pairs shouldn’t be split.