Hitting and standing are two very important decisions that blackjack players have to take depending on the situation and their blackjack strategy. To 'hit' is to ask for another card while 'stand' means they stay on their current total and end their action.
It is important to understand when to hit and when to stop hitting in blackjack in order to avoid busting and improve your odds of winning.
When to Stop Hitting in Blackjack
Hitting, in spite of being the most common action to take in a game of blackjack, is to be avoided in certain situations. Part of a good blackjack strategy is knowing when to stop hitting in blackjack to avoid busting. Generally speaking, you should stop hitting when:
- You have a hard total of 17+
- You have a total of 13+ against the dealer's 2-6
- You have a soft 20, which is an Ace-9
- You have a total of 12+ against the dealer's 4-6
- You have a soft 18 with A7 against the dealer's 2, 7 and 8
- You have a soft 19 with A8 unless you are doubling against a 6 in a table where the dealer has to hit a soft 17
A soft hand in blackjack is a hand where one of the two cards is an ace. The ace can either count as 1 or 11 so your hand has some flexibility (being dealt A4 can either be 5 or 15). A hard hand in blackjack is a hand where neither of the two cards is an ace and therefore has no flexibility.
As well as these situations, hitting should be avoided by the player when the dealer holds a 5 or 6. This is because when a dealer is showing these cards they have the highest chance of busting (42.89% and 42.08% respectively). When the dealer busts we automatically win so if we think the dealer has a high chance of busting we shouldn't risk busting ourselves.
In another scenario, when the dealer holds any card 7 through ace, the player should stop hitting only when he has a 17 or higher. 16 happens to be one of the most commonly misplayed blackjack hands as most players prefer to stand at 16, regardless of the dealer's up-card. However, when the dealer has a 7 or higher, there is a greater risk of losing if you stand compared to the risk of busting.
There are several scenarios that recommend staying or stopping hitting in blackjack. This is where blackjack charts come in handy since these can tell when to hit or stay.
Blackjack Dealer Bust-Out Odds
One of the most important blackjack tips that are often missed by the players is not to assume that the dealer has a ten in the hole. In fact, they will only have a ten 30% of the time, based on 16 tens per 52 card deck. The fact is that the dealer has a chance of busting almost 28% of the time.
The dealer's bust-out rates are the highest when they're holding the lowest cards. Cards 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 have a bust-out rate 35.30%, 37.56%, 42.28%, 42.89%, and 42.08% respectively. When the dealer's upcards are 2 through 6, they are on average twice as likely to bust as when they hold 7 through ace. There is also a common myth that a 2 is a good upcard for the dealer to have. This is untrue as the dealer will bust over three times more often when holding a 2 compared to an ace (35.30% vs 11.65%).
Apart from sticking to the main basics of hitting and standing, a blackjack player will need to consider his own bust rates in order to decide whether to hit or stand. A player should stop hitting in blackjack when their chances of busting are higher than the dealer's chances of busting.
Strategy for Playing With the Worst Hand
Sometimes, the deck will deal you a bad blackjack hand, and often there's not a lot you can do about it other than accept you're likely to lose. However, even with these hands, it's important you play as optimally as possible to ensure you don't lose EV.
One of the worst situations is when the dealer has an ace. Considering that in blackjack, a card with a value of 10 including the Face cards has more chances of appearing than any other single value card, the dealer has a blackjack roughly 4/13. Also, the dealer with an ace has fewer chances of busting. Therefore, in such a situation, the player should be aggressive and hit to get a good hand like 17 and above to play well against the dealer's possibly strong hand.
The dealer's card being a 10, J, Q, or K is also a somewhat negative situation for the player as there is a 1/13 chance of the dealer having a blackjack. With a hit, the player can make get a 21 from his 11. As the player still has a risk of busting, he should hit 10 or less, hit 12-16, and stand at 17+.
If the dealer shows a 7, 8, or 9, then the player has a better chance of winning as the dealer cannot possibly make a blackjack. The player, however, needs a strong hand to compete. If you have a 10 or 11, you have a fair chance of making it 20 or 21. It is ideal to hit 9 or less, hit 12-16, and stand at 17+ in order to minimize the risk of busting.
When the dealer's upcard is a 4, 5, or 6, he is very likely to bust. Given that this is a comparatively advantageous hand from the player's perspective, he must double down with a 9, 10, or 11. Hitting 8 or less and standing at 12+ should be preferred over other actions. A dealer's card being a 3 is another favorable situation as the dealer has some real chances of busting.
For the player, it is slightly better to hit with a 12 even if there is a chance of busting in 4/13 situations. Doubling down on 9, 10, or 11, hitting at 8 or less, and 12, and standing at 13+ are wise decisions to take at the moment. When the dealer has a 2, on the other hand, it is good for the player to hit on a 9 instead of doubling so, he should hit 9 or less, hit 12, and stand at 13+.
In a game of blackjack, remember that the dealer must stand once he reaches 17 or above. However, the player can take the chance and go for the low-value cards to reach closer to 21. A beginner player should practice in live casinos using small bets to get a grip on how the game works.
Know When to Stand With Card Counting
The technique of card counting puts the player in a better position to beat the house edge. Quite naturally, if a blackjack player is good at card counting, then they are able to make better decisions regarding when to stop hitting in blackjack. Before understanding what actions to take based on the true count derived from card counting, let's quickly take a look at how card counting is done.
First, each card is assigned a specific value. In the Hi-Lo system, cards 2-6 are +1, 7-9 are 0 and 10-Ace is -1. As the cards are dealt, the player will add 1, subtract 1, or do nothing as per the card's values. Next, a running count of cards is maintained before coming to a true count. In a broader sense, the true count is equal to the running count divided by the decks remaining. For instance, if the running count is 10 and there are 5 decks remaining then, the true count is 2.
The player's decision to stand or hit will depend on the true count, the dealer's and the player's cards, and the blackjack basic strategy merged into them. Considering that you are playing a multi-deck game where the dealer stands on soft 17, the following playing decisions (when to stand) must be taken.
|Player's Total vs. Dealer's Up Card||True Count||Playing Decision|
|16 vs. 9||5||Stand at +5 and above|
|16 vs. 10||0||Stand at 0 and above|
|15 vs. 10||4||Stand at +4 and above|
|13 vs. 2||-1||Stand at -1 and above|
|13 vs. 3||-2||Stand at -2 and above|
|12 vs. 2||4||Stand at +4 and above|
|12 vs. 3||2||Stand at +2 and above|
|12 vs. 4||0||Stand at 0 and above|
|12 vs. 5||-1||Stand at -1 and above|
|12 vs. 6||-1||Stand at -1 and above|
Now, here is an example of interpreting and approaching the chart in the desired way. If the player has a hand of paired queens against the dealer's 6, it's reasonable that your instinct is to always stand. You have the second-highest total and the dealer has a significant chance of busting - why would you risk it? However, if the true count is 5 or higher, then the shoe is richer in 10 value cards and therefore the player must split the queens to maximize the value.
Following a blackjack betting chart and understanding the optimal blackjack strategy, along with this knowledge of when to hit and when to stop hitting in blackjack significantly improves your chances to win.
This article was published on September 28, 2021, and last updated on August 17, 2022.