When Not To Hit In Blackjack

In order to maximize your expected value at the tables, you need to know when to hit and when not to hit in blackjack.

When not to hit in blackjack
When Not To Hit In Blackjack

Hitting and standing are two of the most important actions to take in a game of blackjack. There are certain blackjack rules and strategies related to these actions that players must be aware of in order to beat the house edge.

Here are some of the instances of when to hit and when not to hit in blackjack to give you the best chance to profit.

When not to Hit in Blackjack?

The blackjack betting strategy necessitates players to simply stand in certain situations and avoid hitting. Some of these instances when players should not hit, based on the player’s hand and the dealer’s upcard, are as follows:

  • The player has a hard total of 17+
  • The player has a total of 13+ against the dealer’s 2-6
  • The player has a soft 20, which is an Ace-9
  • The player has a total of 12 against the dealer’s 4-6
  • The player has a soft 18 with A7 against the dealer’s 2, 7 and 8
  • The player has a soft 19 with A8 unless they are doubling down against a 6 in a table where the dealer has to hit a soft 17

In another scenario, when the dealer has a card between 7 and Ace, the player should stop hitting only when they have a 17 or higher. Similarly, with a hard 16, the player should avoid hitting and instead, stand if the dealer shows small cards like 2 through 6.

When not to hit when playing blackjack
A rundown of when not to hit when playing blackjack

Hands You Should Hit

According to the basic blackjack guide and the rules of the game, there are a few hands that you must hit. Let us first talk about one of the most feared and hardest hands for beginners to play, hard 16. Hard 16 is a hand that does not contain an ace and even if it does, the ace counts as 1. A hard 16 can be 10-6, 5-7-4, or 7-8-ace for instance.

Although it is quite a high hand, a player should only stand with hard 16 when against a dealer’s 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. However, when the dealer has a high card like 7, 8, 9, 10, or ace, the player should hit to improve their odds of winning.

There are other hands where hitting is the best decision for the player. If the dealer’s upcard is a 2 or 3 and the player’s hand is 12 or less, hitting is necessary because the dealer has a 36% chance of going bust. A player should hit on 11 or less no matter what the dealer is showing.

In situations where the dealer has a 7, 8, 9, 10, or any of the face cards, the player should hit on a 16 or less. Hitting on 16 or less is also the optimal strategy to apply if the dealer’s upcard is an ace. This is because there is a 31% chance of blackjack against the player along with the fact that the dealer has more options to score between 17 and 21.

Opportunities to Split and Double

Apart from hitting and standing, there are two more playing decisions that are often taken and these are splitting and doubling down.

A player is offered the chance to split two hole cards if they are a pair. They have to decide to split the pair right after the cards are dealt, otherwise, they play the hand as normal. If the player chooses to split the pair into two standard hands by matching the original bet with a second wager, they get the chance to double their winnings.

Some of the favorable situations and opportunities to split are when the player is dealt a pair of 9 and the dealer has a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, or 9. However, if the dealer has a 7, 10, or Ace, it is better to stand. Similarly, if you have a pair of 6 and the dealer has a card between 2 and 6; the split is the best strategic decision to take. Splitting is also the way to go if the player has 7 and the dealer has a card between 2 and 7.

Doubling down is a bet that provides the player with the opportunity to double the value of their bet but they are limited to taking one card. There are some situations where the highest EV play is to double down. If the player has a hard 9 and the dealer’s upcard is 2-6, then the player can double down.

A blackjack hand

Similarly, if the player has a hard 10 and the dealer’s face-up card is lower than a 10, doubling down will bring the highest expected value. The best situation to double down is when the player is holding 11 as it’s profitable to double against every dealer upcard except an ace.

Another good opportunity to double down is when the player has a soft 16, 17, or 18, and the dealer’s face-up card is two 6. If the player has an ace in the initial two-card hand along with a 5, 6, or 7, and the dealer has got a 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6, it is ideal to double down. This is because the ace can be valued 1 or 11 and taking one more card, in this situation, can significantly improve the hand of the player.

Should You Use a Blackjack Strategy Card?

A blackjack strategy card briefly lays down the best action a player can take given their hand and the dealer’s upcard. It is absolutely feasible to use a blackjack strategy card at the table if you are unfamiliar with basic strategy. Using a blackjack strategy card is allowed by most casinos and players can buy the same from the casinos or online for $5 or so. A strategy card can be quite helpful for beginner players who are yet to gain experience and implement the strategies accordingly.

When to Take Blackjack Insurance?

Insurance is a side bet offered to the player, which they can place on the assumption that the dealer has a natural blackjack as their up card is an ace. Insurance is usually a bad bet except for a few occasions when it can actually benefit the player.

One of those occasions is when playing single-deck blackjack. Let’s look at an example:

During the first round of the game, the player sees the value of 14 cards, of which only one of them is a 10 and the rest of the cards are lower than a 10. The deck now has a total of 38 cards, 15 of which are tens. The dealer’s upcard is an ace and you’re offered insurance on your hand – should you take it?

Given that 15 of the remaining 38 cards are tens, we can work out that around 40% of the time the dealer has a blackjack. When the odds of the dealer having blackjack are this high, it’s a good idea to take insurance.

Understanding when to hit and when not to hit in blackjack, based on the situation, is crucial to improving your odds of winning at the table.