Posts Tagged ‘stiff hands’

Blackjack Strategy: Splitting Eights

Monday, March 15th, 2010

When it comes to blackjack basic strategy, knowing when to split is important but is not necessarily as easy to remember or understand as when to hit or stand. When deciding whether to split a pair, you take into consideration not only your own cards and the hands you are likely to be dealt, but in many cases you also have to consider what hand the dealer likely has and how that would affect your decision. Luckily, however, with some pairs the decision is easy.

If you have a pair of eights, you will always split that pair. It doesn’t matter what card the dealer is showing. The reason for that is that a hard 16 is a bad hand. It is a stiff hand (12-16), which is the worst kind of hand in blackjack. Stiff hands are bad because you have a high probability of losing no matter what you do. If you stand, your hand total isn’t very high so you have a good chance of being outdrawn by the dealer. In fact, since the dealer will always hit until a 17, you will always be outdrawn with a stiff hand unless the dealer busts.

However, if you hit a stiff hand you have a good chance of busting. For example, if you have a hard 16, there are only five cards that can improve your hand (ace, 2, 3, 4, 5). Conversely, there are eight cards that can cause you to bust (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K). For that reason, any time you can avoid having a stiff hand you do so.

By splitting a pair of eights you trade in a stiff hand of a hard 16 for two hands starting with an eight. Blackjack basic strategy takes into account that you are more likely to draw a card with a value of 10 than any other value, since 4/13 of the cards have a value of 10. By splitting a stiff hand and giving yourself the potential for two hands of 18, you have greatly increased your chances of winning. However, even if you don’t get a hand as good as 18, if you end up with anything other than a stiff hand (or busting), then splitting that pair was beneficial.

Blackjack Mistake: Shooting for 21

Friday, January 15th, 2010

A common mistake by people new to the game of blackjack is shooting for 21. It’s an easy mistake to make. Since a 21 cannot be beaten (only tied) by the dealer, then it seems like a smart strategy is to try to get as close as possible to 21. However, that is a bad strategy. Your goal isn’t to get as close to 21 as possible. Your goal is to beat the dealer, which you can do in one of two ways. If you don’t bust (which is to draw over 21), you can win by having a hand total greater than the dealer or by having the dealer bust. Therefore, you can win without even getting close to 21, depending on what happens to the dealer.

The reason trying to get close to 21 is a bad strategy is that is causes you to bust quite often. Players using this strategy will often take a hit in a situation where they should stand. By taking that extra card, they are put over the 21 limit and lose the hand. Instead, your decision should be based on what you have as well as what the dealer’s upcard is.

Blackjack basic strategy takes both into account and plays the percentages. Following that strategy gives you the best odds of winning. The biggest mistake players make when trying to get close to a 21 is to always hit on stiff hands, which are hands between 12 and 16. There are times when you should hit stiff hands, times when you should stand, and times when you should surrender, if it is allowed. Complete strategy for stiff hands can be found in this blog post.

Aside from making the wrong decisions on stiff hands, people that go into a blackjack game with the intention of getting close to 21 and not knowing basic strategy will likely miss good opportunities to double down or split. There really is no substitute for learning blackjack basic strategy. Even if you count cards, you can’t be a good blackjack player without it.

Stiff Hands

Friday, January 8th, 2010

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.