Playing Tricky Hands

The basic strategy chart is a great, easy to use tool to begin understanding Blackjack strategy. However, it is tough to memorise and short of carrying a copy everywhere you go, you won’t always have it when you’re playing. If this happens you are better off opting to play the basics – something that gets a little easier with time and practice.

Below are a number of commonly misplayed Blackjack hands. Take a look, what do you think the correct play is?

  • 12 vs. Dealer 3
  • 16 vs. Dealer 7
  • 11 vs. Dealer 10
  • A/3 vs. Dealer 3
  • A/7 vs. Dealer 3
  • A/7 vs. Dealer 9
  • 9/9 vs. Dealer 9
  • 8/8 vs. Dealer 10

Okay, let take a look at what you should have played and why.

12 vs. Dealer 3
Many players will stand in this situation (falsely) assuming the worst case of the dealer having a 10 as the second card. Another assumption is that taking another card on 12 will lead to a bust where in fact the chances are higher of drawing something below a 10 and creating a winning hand. Make no mistake though, this is a strong hand for the Dealer and will win 5 out of 8 times. It’s imperative then that the player does draw another card.

16 vs. Dealer 7
General thought is that on 16 the Player should draw another card if the Dealer has 10, yet when the dealer has a 7 many players are complacent and stand, ultimately losing the hand. This is a situation where the player should draw another card with the hope of getting a low value card instead of the dealer getting it.

11 vs. Dealer 10
Given an 11, most players would double although in the situation feel uncomfortable because the dealer has a 10. Players don’t want to risk two bad hands versus a potential Dealer 20. However the player will make 20 or 21 with one more card, more often than the dealer will make 20 – six out of 11 times in fact. In this situation it makes sense to double.

A/3 vs. Dealer 3
Many players will incorrectly double in this situation lowering the advantage they would continue to hold if the simply took another card. An Ace and a small card versus a dealers small card is always a bad double and the player should rather draw another card.

A/7 vs. Dealer 3
In the previous scenario we recommended that the player should never double with a low soft value against a low value. Here with have the opposite scenario and the player should indeed double. Many players don’t want to incur the risk of losing a hand of 18 but in reality it only reduces the chances of winning from 58% to 55% – but of course doubles the payout.

A/7 vs. Dealer 9
This is a tough and marginal situation because of the strong card the dealer holds. Standing with this hand the player will win eight out of every 20 hands. Hitting till a higher value, the player should win 9 out of every 20 hands. Slightly better odds.

9/9 vs. Dealer 9
As with the previous hand, the player will only win eight out of every twenty hands if they stand on 18. Splitting however increases the odds  and increases the player’s chance of breaking even.

8/8 vs. Dealer 10
16 versus a Dealer hand of 10 is not a great situation to be in and will only be won 23% of the time. However, this can be improved by splitting.


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