If you want to be a good blackjack player you have to learn how to use the best strategy. Some hands are easy to play, but many hands are more challenging. The best strategy is to get a strategy card or chart and use it when you play, but most players don’t use them.
Here’s a list of 11 challenging blackjack hands that many players make a mistake on. You can find information about what the best play is for each hand, and an explanation of why you should play these hands a certain way.
1 – Hard 12 against Dealer 4
One of the worst hands you can have in blackjack is a hard total from 12 to 16. If you hit there’s a decent chance that you’re going to bust, but if you stand there’s a decent chance the dealer is going to beat you.
When you have a hard 12 against a dealer four, do you know what the best play is? The best play is to stand on your hard 12. The reason is because the dealer has a stronger chance to bust with a four showing than you have of improving to a winning hand.
In fact, you should stand with a hard 12 against a dealer four, five, and six. The correct play against all other dealer cards is to hit.
2 – Hard 16 against Dealer 6
The absolute worst hand you can start with in blackjack is a hard 16. When you hit you bust on anything six and higher, so you’re going to bust most of the time. Your only hope of winning when you stand is for the dealer to bust.
When you have a hard 16 and the dealer has a six showing, the best play is to stand. The best play with a hard 16 is to stand any time the dealer is showing a six or lower. When the dealer is showing a seven or higher, the correct play is to hit the hard 16.
3 – Soft 13 against Dealer 5
A soft hand in blackjack is when you have an ace that can be counted as a one or 11. With a soft 13, you have an ace and a two. Of course you’re going to it in this situation, but when the dealer has a five the best play is to double down.
In fact, if the dealer has a five or a six, the correct play is to double down. On all other dealer cards the best play is to hit. The reason why a double down is correct in this situation is because the dealer has a higher chance to bust with a five or six, and you want to get more money on the table.
You play a soft 13 and a soft 14 the exact same way.
4 – Soft 17 against Dealer 3
When you have a hard 17 or higher the correct play is to stand. But when you have a soft 17 the best play isn’t always the same. When you have a soft 17 against a dealer three, the best play is to double down.
You play a soft 17 the same way against a dealer three, four, five, and six. Against all other dealer cards with a soft 17 the best play is to hit.
When you have a soft 17, it’s the same as a hard eight. This means that if you draw a nine you’re still at 17, and any card worth 10 gives you 18. And even an ace, two, three, or four improves your hand. The only cards you hate to see are five, six, seven, and eight.
5 – Soft 18 against Dealer 4
The best play when you have a hard 18 that isn’t a pair of nines is to stand. And this is usually the best play with a soft 18, but there are a couple exceptions.
When the dealer has a four, the best play with a soft 18 is to double down. This is also the best play when the dealer has a three, five or six. You stand when the dealer has a two, seven, or eight, and hit when the dealer has a nine or 10 value card.
6 – Soft 18 against Dealer 9
I mentioned this hand at the end of the previous section, but this is one of the blackjack hands that trips up many blackjack players. When you have a soft 18 and the dealer has a nine, the correct play is to hit.
Most players stand in this situation, and the truth is that this is a close decision. But the most profitable long term play with a soft 18 against a dealer nine, 10 point card, or an ace is to hit.
7 – 4 4 against Dealer 5
A pair of fours is tricky because when you have a hard eight you always hit. But you have the opportunity to split fours, and in two particular situations you should split them.
When the dealer has a five or six and you have a pair of fours, you should split them when the table rules let you double down after splitting. If you’re not allowed to double down after splitting, the correct play is to hit your hard eight.
When the dealer shows a five or six it’s the weakest hand they can have. This gives you a slight edge when you can double down after splitting with fours.
8 – 2 2 against Dealer 3
When you have a pair of twos or threes, you use the exact same strategy. When the dealer has an eight or higher the correct play is hit. And, if the dealer has a four, five, six, or seven, the best play is to split. But when the dealer has a two or three you have to use a different strategy.
If the table rules allow doubling down after splitting, the correct play is to split. But if you can’t double down after split, the best play is to hit. When you can’t double down after splitting you lose a little value when you split and get a total of nine, 10, or 11. This makes a hit better in these two situations by a small margin when you can’t double after splitting.
9 – 6 6 against Dealer 2
When you have a pair of sixes there are two tricky situations that you need to know how to play. The first one when the dealer has a two showing. The correct play when you have a pair of sixes and the dealer has a three, four, five, or six is to split.
But when the dealer has a two, the best play is to split if you’re allowed to double down after splitting, but hit if you can’t double down after splitting. This is one of the few hands you play this way, so most blackjack players make a mistake when they get it.
10 – 6 6 against Dealer 7
The other tricky hand when you have a pair of sixes is when the dealer has a seven. The correct play when the dealer has anything higher than a seven is to hit, but what do you do with a seven?
The best play with a pair of sixes when the dealer has a seven showing is to hit. When the dealer shows a six the correct play is to split. But the numbers change just enough when it’s a seven to make a hit the most profitable play.
11 – Insurance
This isn’t about one of many specific blackjack hands, but it’s a mistake I see players make every day. When the dealer has an ace they offer insurance to all of the players in the hand. To make this simple, it doesn’t matter what cards you have; taking insurance is always a bad bet. Never take insurance.
To explain why taking insurance is a bad idea, consider what happens when you do take insurance. If the dealer has a blackjack, you break even on the hand. But when the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack, you lose the insurance bet and still have to play your original wager against the worst card the dealer can have for you.
The dealer has blackjack if four cards are face down, and doesn’t if one of the other nine cards are down. This ratio of 9 to 4 is worse than what the bet pays, which is 2 to 1. This is why you don’t take insurance.
Finally – Now You Know How to Play Some of the Toughest Blackjack Hands
When you make a mistake playing a blackjack hand it costs you money. It might not make you lose the current hand, but in the long run if you don’t play a hand correctly you lose more money.
Learn why players make mistakes playing the 11 hands on this page so you don’t lose more than you need to. Find a blackjack strategy card so you always know what the best play is. When you use a strategy card you lose less money and improve your chance to win every time you play blackjack.