Posts Tagged ‘hard hands’

Blackjack Strategy: Hard 17-21

Monday, February 1st, 2010

At long last, we are at the conclusion of my step-by-step strategy guide for hard hands. The right decisions to make in these situations is contingent on the odds. Certain cards are more likely to be dealt than others and you also have to play the percentages for what card the dealer has in the hole and what cards he will be dealt. To make things easier, math wizards who are a lot smarter than you or me have come up with the answers a long time ago. It’s called blackjack basic strategy and a chart of it can be found here. Memorizing that strategy will go a long way toward lowering the house edge and will cause you to win a lot more money (or lose less). Here is what to do when you have a hard 17, 18, 19, 20 or 21.

The strategy for these hands is simple. Stand. Always. No matter what the dealer has. Got it? Good.

First, let’s look at the obvious. A hard 17-21 is a good hand. There are only a few hands that can beat you. However, because your hand is so high, if you were to hit you would have a good chance at busting. Take a hard 17 for instance. There are only four cards that can help your hand if you hit: an ace, a two, a three or a four. If you receive any other card when hitting, you will bust and lose the hand. Not only that, but the card you are statistically the most likely to be dealt (a 10) is one of the cards that would bust you.

For that reason, it is best to stand on a hard 17. In doing so, you’re basically hoping that the dealer will bust. That is because a dealer will draw to a 17, so they will never stand on any hand lower than yours. If you have a hard 17, you need the dealer to bust (or you can have a push if you both have 17). Your odds are still better than trying to improve your hand, though.

The likelihood of hurting your hand rather than helping it only increases as your hand gets higher. A hard 18 can only be improved with an ace, two or three. Everything else would cause you to bust. It is also a difficult hand for the dealer to beat, since they would stand on a 17. You have a good chance of either beating a dealer 17 or having the dealer bust. In any case, your odds are significantly better to stand on the 18 than to try to improve your hand.

A hard 19 is an even better hand than an 18 and it can only be helped by an ace or a two. A hard 20 can only be helped by an ace. Both hands will bust if you draw anything else. They’re also very difficult for the dealer to beat without busting. A 21, of course, is impossible to beat (the best the dealer can do is tie with a 21 of his own).

For that reason, if you have a hard hand from 17 to 21, you should always stand.

Blackjack Strategy: Hard 13-16

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Well, it has been a long road so far, but I’m almost done detailing strategy for hard hands in blackjack. Earlier today I covered strategy for a hard 12, which is the first hand you will encounter where you might want to stand. Likewise, with a hard 13, 14, 15 or 16, it is sometimes the best strategy to stand pat and hope to beat the dealer with your current hand.

It should be noted that a hard 13-16 is a stiff hand, which are the worst hands in blackjack. The reason is that the odds are stacked against you no matter what. If you take a hit, you have a good chance of busting, which would cause you to lose. If you stand, you have a good chance of being outdrawn by the dealer, which would cause you to lose.

Stiff hands are the ultimate “damned if you don’t, damned if you do” situation. Anytime you have a stiff hand, you are likely to lose. Following the below strategy does not help you have frequent success in these situations. Instead, it reduces how often you lose, which, in the long run can mean a lot.

If you have a hard 13-16, you should stand if the dealer has an upcard of 2-6. If the dealer shows any other card, you should take a hit. You should never double down, because your odds are bad no matter what.

As I mentioned, in this scenario you have a bad hand that is likely to bust if you draw another card. However, if the dealer shows a 2-6, he also is likely to have a stiff hand (because of the likelihood of having a 10 in the hole). Therefore, in this situation the best strategy is to stand pat and hope the dealer goes bust. If he does, then you win no matter what your hand is (as long as you don’t also bust).

If the dealer has a 7 or better, though, the dealer has reduced odds of busting. In addition, assuming a 10 in the hole, the dealer would have cards that are higher than yours. For that reason, your best chance at winning is to try to improve your hand. Take a hit and hope you don’t draw a card that causes you to bust.

If you follow the above strategy, you will lose a lot. However, you will lose less often than if you use some other strategy. Unfortunately, when you have a stiff hand the odds are stacked against you. So when you have one, follow this strategy, cross your fingers, and hope you have a better hand next time.

Blackjack Strategy: Hard 9

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Welcome back to the strategy portion of my blog, my fellow blackjack novices. Earlier I have covered the complete strategy for each possible soft hand and on Monday I began the series for hard hands. Today I am continuing in that series with what to do when you have a hard 9.

Okay, that can easily be made to sound dirty. What I mean is what to do when you have a hand in blackjack with a value of nine. Though I say a “hard 9” all hands through 12 are always hard, because a soft hand, by virtue of the fact that the ace is being used as 11, can only be as low as 13. As always, the decisions to make with this hand can be found on a basic strategy chart.

If you have a hard 9 in your hands, you should double down if the dealer shows a 3, 4, 5 or 6. If the dealer has anything else as an upcard, you should hit that hard 9.

If you’re holding a hard 9, you don’t have to worry about busting. Since there is no card that can put you over 21, there is no risk in hitting. For that reason, you should never stand with a hard 9. Remember that blackjack basic strategy usually assumes that you will be dealt a 10, since it is the most common value of card in the deck. Therefore, if you hit a 9, you have a good chance of getting a 19, which is a good hand that can only be beaten by a dealer’s 20 or 21.

Having said that, you should double your bet if the dealer shows a 3, 4, 5 or 6 because your odds of winning are even better, so putting more money on the hand is a good idea. While you don’t get to see what the dealer has in the hole, hitting your hard nine here should beat it because, assuming that the dealer has a 10, she has a good chance of having a stiff hand.

Making these moves doesn’t guarantee success, since there will always be an element of chance to the game of blackjack. However, you’ll do much better if you know what to do with a hard 9 (that’s what she said).

Blackjack Strategy: Hard 8 or Less

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Earlier I covered the strategy for soft hands step by step. The strategy for hard hands is a little more basic and easier to follow, since you don’t have the variable of an ace that can either count for one or 11 points. All of your decisions for hard hands can be determined by memorizing the blackjack basic strategy chart. For more in-depth information, though, here is what to do with a hard 8 or less.

You should always hit a hard 8 or less, regardless of what cards the dealer shows. You should never double and never stand. The reason you don’t double down is that when you do, you can only receive one more card. If you have a hard 8 or less, you are likely to need more than one extra card. In addition, when you have a hard 8 or less, your next card does not give you favorable enough odds to risk the extra money.

Another reason to hit a hard 8 or less is that you cannot bust on this hand. Even if you have an 8 and draw the highest possible card (a 10-value card), you still only have 18. Therefore, there is no risk in taking a hit here.

I know that one is really easy, but things will get tougher. Next I will let you know what to do if you have a hard 9.

Blackjack Strategy: Soft 13-14

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

In blackjack, an ace can have a value of 1 or 11, at the player’s choice. If the player uses the ace as an 11, it is called a “soft hand.” Though you are dealt “hard hands” more often, being a good blackjack player requires knowing the correct strategy for both. The strategy for soft hands is contained in any blackjack basic strategy chart, but here is more information.

The most important thing to remember is that you can never bust with a soft hand. If you draw a hand that could cause your soft hand to bust, that simply gives your ace a value of 1 and gives you a hard hand. You would then play according to the correct hard hand strategy. Since soft hands have an 11-value for the ace, the soft hands range from 13 (ace and a 2 card) to 21 (ace and 10-value card). Here is what to do if you have a soft 13 or soft 14 (more soft hand strategy will be revealed later):

Strategy is the same for a soft 13 and a soft 14. For both, you should double down if the dealer has a 5 or 6 as his upcard. If the dealer shows anything else, you should hit.

You should never stand on this hand because it’s a weak hand that is easy to beat and you can’t bust by drawing another card. Therefore, there is no risk to taking a hit. If you are dealt a 10-value card, you have the same hand (except it is now a hard hand) and almost everything else you can be improves your hand.

I said almost everything else. If you have a soft 13, being dealt a 9 does not improve your hand, because that would leave you with a hard 12. If you have a soft 14, being dealt an 8 or 9 would not improve your hand, because that would leave you with a hard 12 or hard 13 respectively. Still, due to the odds of improving your hand, taking another card is the high-percentage play.

If the dealer shows a 5 or 6, he has a stiff hand and has a good chance of busting. Therefore, doubling your bet is the percentage play there. Even if you don’t improve your hand, the dealer busting would cause you to win, because you can’t bust on a soft hand.

If you follow the above strategy along with blackjack basic strategy, you have better odds of winning. Coming soon: Strategy for a soft 15 and 16.