Blackjack Odds: Two-card Hands

Blackjack basic strategy is all about playing the odds. It takes into account the odds of drawing a certain card, the odds of busting with a certain hand, and more. Earlier I covered the odds of busting with a certain hand value. In this blog I will cover the odds of drawing certain hand values.

In the game of blackjack, you start with two cards and from there, you have to make a decision about whether you want to draw another. The dealer also starts with two cards, though his hole card is dealt face down, so you don’t know its value. You and the dealer have the same odds of drawing certain hands, though.

In blackjack, there are four different groups of hands that you can draw in the first two cards. The first is a natural blackjack, which is an ace and a ten. This is the best hand to draw and it wins instantly unless the dealer also has a natural blackjack, which would cause a push. A natural blackjack usually pays 3:2, so it is the most desired hand by players, though it is also the least likely to occur.

The other groups of hands are a hard 17-20, on which basic strategy says to stand, a hard 2-16, which are considered decision hands, and “no bust hands.” No bust hands are soft hands or a hand of 11 or less, since there is no chance of busting when you take a hit. With a hard 17-20, you should always stand because there is a high risk of busting and you have better odds that the dealer can’t outdraw you without busting. The decision hands are called that because you have to make a decision about what to do based on what cards the dealer shows. No bust hands are desirable because you can try to improve your hand without risking going over 21. If you have a soft hand and hitting would cause you to bust, that simply makes your ace worth one point and gives you a hard hand. Here is the complete chart of two-card hand odds:

Natural Blackjack (ace, 10) – 4.8%
Hard Standing (17-20) – 30%
Decision Hands (2-16) – 38.7%
No Bust Hands – 26.5%

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