Blackjack Odds: Stiff Hand Frequency

Stiff hands are the most awful hands to get in a game of blackjack. In terms of your blackjack moral, you immediately feel bummed out because you know that stiff hands are the toughest hands to play out. And in terms of blackjack odds, well, they are just hard on your blackjack odds.

In blackjack, stiff hands are any two card hard hand with a total of 12 through 16. But for today’s discussion we are going to include a two card hard 17 as well.

The reason is because hard 17s are not quite as great as players think they are. Sure it is a high total and you immediately stand, but you are standing not because you know you have a good shot at winning, but because you know that you are more likely to bust if you hit. In a way you could consider a hard 17 the secret, lesser known stiff hand.

Anyway your blackjack odds for being dealt a two card stiff hand—including a hard 17—is about 43% of the time. In other words, about forty three hands out of one hundred will be stiff hands—so a little less than half of your hand put you in a position to lose.

But also consider this: in your blackjack odds of winning are 48% and tying the dealer are 9%, which leaves your odds of losing at 43%. Interesting coincidence.

Now I am not saying that you will lose every single stiff hand you are dealt—the above comparison was just an interesting note. The only way to win with a stiff hand is for the dealer to bust.

Because of the high blackjack odds that you will be dealt a stiff hand that you are most likely going to lose, it is not surprising that the majority of your money losses will result from these stiff hands. How much? Try 85% of your money losses coming from a hard 12 through 17.

Since you know your blackjack odds for stiff hands are on the high side and that most of your money losses go to them, the best thing that you can do is play out those hands in the best way possible. And that means using basic strategy.

Online Blackjack and Stiff Hands

While there are some things that are different between online blackjack and blackjack in a brick and mortar casino, there are still some things that are not any different. When it comes to online blackjack one of the similarities is stiff hands.

Just a quick recap a stiff hands are another name for certain hard hands. Those hard hands are hard 12 through hard 16. They are considered stiff hands because they are on the hard side to play with. These are typically underdog hands that are, truthfully, hard to win with. Your playing options are stiff, hence stiff hands.

How often are you likely to be dealt a stiff hand in online blackjack? You stand about a 43% of being dealt one of the stiff hands when you are playing online blackjack.

Now if you were playing blackjack in a brick and mortar casino you also stand about a 43% chance of being dealt a stiff hand.

So when you are playing online blackjack your playing strategy for stiff hands is not any different: abide by basic strategy.

Basic strategy not only is the key to the best statistical plays for every hand in blackjack, it is also the best strategy for online blackjack. The reason basic strategy is the best strategy tool for online is not only because it is the best play for every hand, it is essentially the only strong strategy tool since card counting is not possible in online blackjack.

Since card counting is not possible in online blackjack the best thing that you can do when you have a stiff hand is to play according to basic strategy. Since stiff hands are underdog hands regardless of whether you are playing online blackjack or not, basic strategy is your best bet.

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.

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

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.