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Hard Hands in Blackjack

S. Stoynova (editor) |

Hard Hands and the Best Way You Can Play Them

Hard Hands in BlackjackBlackjack is a skill-based casino game enjoyed by many as they have the chance to affect outcomes by making optimal moves on every hand. Before you start learning the basic strategy, you need to be accustomed to all elements of the card game, including the different types of hands you can be dealt. That way, you can recognize the value of your hand and make the optimal move you need to increase your winning chances.

Hard hand is a key term in blackjack, indicating that you have been dealt a hand consisting of no aces or the ace cannot be counted as anything else but 1. Depending on the type of hard hand you play with, you may significantly boost your winning chances even without doing any actions. To learn how to play hard hands the optimal way, we offer our detailed review on this type of blackjack card combination.


OverviewAll hands you get during the game are either soft or hard ones and it is really essential to be able to tell them apart and know the opportunities each one of them offers you. In brief, a hard hand is any hand that does not contain an Ace and usually in such cases, you can easily go bust with just one hit.

However, not only hands that do not include an ace are hard hands. If your hand consists of an ace that can be counted only as one, then the hand is hard. An example of such a hard hand is Ace-9-7. Here, the ace can be counted only as 1 otherwise, the player automatically goes bust.

Hard hands are rather risky and more often than not, they are stiff hands, meaning that their total is between twelve and sixteen. Therefore, it is essential to follow a reliable strategy whenever you get them in order to manage to make the best possible move in such tricky situations.

In order to make this term as clear as possible, let’s have a look at some of the most common combinations that you will inevitably get at some point during the game. For instance, if your first two cards are a nine and a three, then you have a hard twelve.

If you happen to get a nine and a four, then this combination is often referred to as a hard thirteen. If the case is that you are dealt a ten and a six, then you have a hard sixteen. In this sense, if you have a pair of 7’s, then this is a hard fourteen, and so on.

Even when you have a low-value hand such as a three and a two, it is a hard hand, not many players consider it as such due to the fact that it can be easily improved and your chances of busting are not high.

Strategy for Playing Hard Hands

Strategy for Playing Hard HandsThe most widespread strategy for hard hands doesn’t differ much from the well-known basic strategy which makes it easier to be perceived and learned. In general, in order to manage to make the best decision for your hand, you should take into account not only the total of your cards but also the up card of the dealer. The reason why is that you compete with the dealer and thus, you need to determine his position in order to be able to act accordingly.

The only time when you don’t have to focus that much on the up card of the dealer, is when you are dealt a hard hand whose total value is five, six, seven, or eight as in such situations, it is best to always hit. It is recommended whenever you have such hard hands to continue drawing cards until you reach seventeen or you beat the total of the dealer.

If you have a hard hand whose total is seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, or twenty, it is best to stand. The reason why is that these hands offer you decent chances of winning as they are already almost impossible to improve.

Most hard hands strategies use the same well-established principle – they suggest a particular move, based on the assumption that the face-down card of the dealer is a ten. In order to figure out the best move in a certain situation, it is recommended to roughly estimate the total of the dealer. For instance, if the up card of the dealer is an eight, you should assume that his total is eighteen.

According to some blackjack players, you should always consider that the dealer’s hole card is a ten. For instance, if the up card of the dealer is an eight, you should assume that his total is eighteen. The reason why is that, in a standard deck that consists of 52 cards, the cards that are worth ten points outnumber the cards that are valued as their face value.

In a single pack, you can find sixteen 10-valued cards – four Queens, Jacks, Kings, and Tens. Roughly estimated, the 10-valued cards represent 30% of the deck. In other words, 70% of the cards in the deck are not valued at 10. Therefore, it is a common misconception to assume that the dealer always has a ten-value card in the hole.

Hard 16 and Hard 15

Blackjack Hand - Hard 16Hard 16 and Hard 15 hands are some of the most feared card combinations among blackjack players. In most cases, the total value of these two hands is not enough to beat the dealer and also it is very risky to try to improve them due to the fact that you have high chances of busting.

If you have a hard sixteen hand and the up card of the dealer is nine, ten or an ace, then it is recommended to simply surrender if this move is available. Unfortunately, many casinos offer a number of variations that don’t feature this move as they are aware of the fact that it can be a really beneficial tool in certain situations.

If you choose to surrender, you will be able to get back half of your bet and give the other half to the casino which is a good outcome of the hand since you were bound to lose the full amount of your initial bet.

However, it is worth mentioning that if you have a hard sixteen which consists of a pair of 8s, then you should proceed differently. In such cases, you should split the hand, regardless of the up card of the dealer. The reason why is that if this pair is split, it will form fairly decent new hands which have good chances of beating the dealer’s total.

Blackjack Player Move Surrender

The same goes for the times when you have a hard fifteen hand and the up card of the dealer is a nine, a ten, or an ace. In such cases, it is advisable to surrender as your chances of winning the hand are very low. If you happen to play a game in which this beneficial move is not allowed, you should stand when the up card of the dealer is from two through six and hit for the rest of the time.

It should be noted that Surrender is highly advisable if the game is played with six or eight decks of cards.

Strategy Moves for Other Tricky Hard Hands

Strategy movesIf you happen to have a hard 12, you are in a bad position as the hand is not strong enough to beat the dealer but it is also highly likely to go bust if you draw a 10-valued card or an ace. Your move depends entirely on the dealer’s up card. If your hand is not made of paired 6s, then you have 2 options – to hit or stand.

Provided that you play multi-deck blackjack where the dealer hits soft 17 and the up card is 4 through 6, then you should stand. If you are wondering why, here is the answer – these are the worst cards a dealer could receive, increasing their chances of going bust. In any other case, you have to hit. Assuming that your hard 12 is made of paired 6s, then you can split provided that the dealer’s up card is 2 through 6 otherwise, hit the pair.

If you have a hard 13, then you are recommended to hit if the dealer’s up card is 7 through ace. Provided that the dealer shows 2 through 6, then it is best to stand. If you hold a hard 14, then stand if the dealer’s up card is 2 through 6, otherwise hit. If you have paired 7s, then you have the option to split. However, you should again follow the basic strategy that recommends splitting paired 7s if the dealer exposes cards 2 through 8.

When it comes to hard 10, you can hit or double depending on the dealer’s up card. According to the basic strategy, players have to hit only if the dealer shows a ten or an ace. In all other cases, blackjack fans have to double down. If the hard 10 consists of paired 5s, splitting is a bad idea regardless of the dealer’s up card. Here it is important to mention that the number of decks included in the game and the dealer’s rules do not affect the optimal strategy for playing a hand that totals hard 10.

The same goes for hard 11. However, if you have a hard 11, you should always double down if your hand consists of two cards. Provided that your hard 11 is composed of three or more cards, then you have to hit as most casinos allow doubling down only on the first two cards.

If you are playing multi-deck blackjack and you have a hard 8 that does not consist of paired 4s, then the right approach is to hit no matter what the dealer’s up card is. However, in single-deck blackjack, you have to double down on a hand that totals hard 8 provided that the dealer shows 5 or 6.

If your hard 8 consists of paired 4s, then your best move is to hit provided that the dealer’s up card is 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, or an ace and you play single-deck blackjack. If the dealer shows 4, 5, or 6, then split the pair. In multi-deck blackjack, you are required to double down on paired 4s if the dealer’s exposed card is 5 or 6. In all other cases, you are advised to hit the pair.

The total-based basic strategy recommends casino fans who play multi-deck blackjack to double down on hard 9 if the dealer’s up card is 3 through 6 and hit in all other cases. But if you indulge yourself in a single-deck blackjack and you receive a hard 9, then you have to double down if the dealer’s up card is 2 through 6. Provided that the dealer’s exposed card is of any other value, then you have to hit.


ConclusionLearning how to handle hard hands in blackjack is crucial as such combinations will inevitably occur at some point during the game. If you want to manage to deal with them successfully, you need to know the best moves you can make in such situations. Moreover, if you are able to use the term for hard hands correctly, you will undoubtedly impress all of the participants at the table and show that you are a skilled blackjack player. In order to manage to educate yourself and understand blackjack books, you should be familiar with the basic terms, among which are hard hands.