Stiff Hands

In the game of blackjack, a hand that totals between 12 and 16 is called a “stiff hand.” Why that phrase was coined, I don’t know, but I guess the blackjack community didn’t want to go with “sh*tty hands,” “sucky hands” or “hands that make me want to quiet playing blackjack.”

As you may have guessed from the above, stiff hands are not good hands. The reason for that is that they are only good enough to beat a dealer’s hand if they bust (since they draw up to 17), but if you decide to hit them, you have a good chance of busting yourself. In other words, if you stand you are likely to lose and if you hit you are likely to lose. Stiff hands are no fun. From time to time, though, you will get stiff hands, so you need to know what to do. Following blackjack basic strategy, here is what you do with stiff hands.

If you have a hard 12, stand if the dealer has a 4, 5 or 6 as an upcard. If he shows anything else, hit. The reason for this is that if the dealer shows a 4, 5 or 6, he has a good chance of having a stiff hand as well. You don’t want to risk busting your hand when the dealer has a good chance of busting, because if you both bust, you lose. With any other upcard, it’s worth the risk to try and upgrade your hand.

If you have a hard 13 through 16, stand if the dealer shows a 2 through 6. If the dealer has anything else as an upcard, take a hit. Like a hard 12, a hard 13, 14, 15 or 16 is a stiff hand, where you have a good chance of busting if you hit. If the dealer shows a 2 through a 6, though, he has a good chance of having a stiff hand as well, which means the dealer has a good chance of busting. In this situation, it is best to stand and hope the dealer busts. If the dealer has a 7 or better, though, there is a good chance that the dealer has a card that would beat your hand (17-21) without busting, so your best chance is to take a hit and see if you can get a better hand.

Keep in mind that any time you have a stiff hand, your odds aren’t good. Following this strategy won’t help you win; it will help you lose less often. Stiff hands are hated for a reason. Whatever decision you make will make you lose a high percentage of time. Following this strategy, however, will reduce your losses and help you save some money.

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