Commonly Misplayed Hands in Blackjack

Our guide on the most commonly misplayed blackjack hands, and how to play them right to win in the long run.

Blackjack is a card game where strategy plays a very significant role. In fact, it is one of the most strategic casino games out there and there is a statistical probability of each hand.

Players must know how to use the basic blackjack strategy and take prompt decisions at every turn in the game. However, even with a smart strategy in place, some of the rather pro gamblers often end up misplaying a hand. And this misplaying is common for a few blackjack hands that can actually make the player quite confused.

Here are the most commonly misplayed hands in blackjack and the statistical right play in the given situations.

most common misplayed blackjack hands
List of the most common misplayed blackjack hands.

Pair of 9’s vs 9

The Common MisplayThe Right Play
The Player stands when having a pair of 9’s against the dealer’s 9.The player should split the pair of 9’s to improve the odds.

The pair of 9’s vs 9 is one of the most commonly misplayed blackjack hands. When the player gets a pair of 9’s and the dealer also puts up a 9, the basic instinct of the player is to stand since he has the hard 18.

However, contrary to what is normally played, it is always good to split instead of stand. This is because when the player has a hard 18 against a 9, the chances of winning are say 8 out of 20, which is definitely good as an odd. But, if the player strategically splits the 9’s then each of those 9 will have a chance of winning 9.5 hands every 20, which are even better odds.

So, basically, the misplaying lowers the odds by 1.5 and that is what players should be careful about.

12 vs 3

The Common MisplayThe Right Play
Players avoid a hit when dealt 12 against the dealer’s 3.The player should hit when having 12 against the dealer’s 3.

When the player has a 12 that is a 10-point card and a 2 (a stiff hand basically) and the dealer has a weak card, then the player doesn’t usually hit. But if the dealer’s weak up card is a 3 and the game is between the player’s 12 and the dealer’s 3, then hitting turns out to be the right play.

To understand why hitting is a misplay, you need to look at the percentages and the odds. So, when the player has a 12, there are just four cards that can make him go bust and five cards that can get him a seventeen to twenty-one. Hence, the player should hit in this situation. Another reason to hit is that with a 3, the dealer has fewer chances of busting and 3, in particular, is not such a weak card. So, the ideal play is to hit that hand.

Hard 16 vs 10

The Common MisplayThe Right Play
The player stands at a hard 16 against the dealer’s 10.The player must surrender. If surrendering is not allowed by the casino, then hit.

A hard 16 against the dealer’s 10 is undoubtedly a bad blackjack hand. The player is already in a losing situation and a hit or stand just worsens it. However, assuming that this 16 is not a pair of 8’s, the player should best surrender.

When the player surrenders, he loses 50% of the bet. Many players misplay here by avoiding a surrender because they think that they are giving away half of their money to the casino. On the contrary, the fact is that with a hard 16, the player has a probability of losing more than 50% if he doesn’t surrender.

Some casinos will, however, not offer the surrender rule. In such cases, the player should hit the 16 to make his position slightly better.

Soft 18 vs 10

The Common MisplayThe Right Play
Players stand on a soft 18.Players should hit on soft 18 when playing against a dealer’s 10.

Players usually stand on a soft 18, assuming that 18 is a hand that cannot be improved. However, when the player has a soft 18 against the dealer’s 10, then standing on the soft 18 is definitely a misplay.

A hand of 18 doesn’t bring many odds in favor of the player but standing on it means losing more hands than winning any ever. That is why the right way to go about it is to hit on a soft 18. In such a situation, a hit would mean losing not quite as much. So, a player should always hit on that soft 18 and give himself the best chance of winning.

Pair of 8’s vs 10

The Common MisplayThe Right Play
The player stands, considering it as a losing situation.The player must split and start with a hand of 8 to improve the odds of winning.

A pair of 8’s in the player’s hand against a dealer’s 10 is one of the most commonly misplayed hands in blackjack. When the dealer has a strong up card, players feel that they are already in a losing situation. A 16 against a 10 is a bad hand for sure but if this 16 comprises a pair of 8’s, then the situation is different.

Ideally, the player should split the 8’s and when he does so, he is starting a hand with an 8. The chance of winning with an 8 against a dealer’s 10 is 38%, which is much better than standing at 16 and having just a 23% chance of winning. By splitting, the player improves the odds of winning.

16 vs 7

The Common MisplayThe Right Play
The player stands when holding a 16 against a dealer’s 7.The player should hit on the 16.

When the player is holding a 16 against a 7 in the dealer’s hand, the common misplay is to stand. Contrarily, the right play is to hit on the 16 when playing against the dealer’s 7. By doing so, the player might just end up drawing a small number card such as 2 or 3 and get a win. This will also improve the player’s odds to a point that he will be able to mitigate the losses over time.

One significant rule to remember here is that an 18 vs a dealer’s 7 is stronger than a player’s 18 against a dealer’s 10.

11 vs 10

The Common MisplayThe Right Play
Standing on an 11 against a dealer’s 10.The player should double the bet.

11 vs 10 is a tricky blackjack hand to play. When the dealer shows a 10, there is a greater chance that he will have a second face down 10. So, if the player has an 11, there are really high chances of him getting a 20 or 21. Hence, the right play is to double the bet so that the player has a significantly higher return for just 2% less of a chance of winning. The misplay is definitely to take a stand by being apprehensive.

When the player doubles with a 11 against the dealer’s 10, he actually plays to the odds using a counter-intuitive strategy. Remember that doubling would mean receiving one more card and then standing automatically.

A-6 vs 3, 4, 5 or 6

The Common MisplayThe Right Play
Hitting or standing on A-6 vs 3, 4, 5 or 6Doubling down in all these hands.

Hitting on an A-6 vs a 3,4,5 or 6 in the dealer’s hand is a common misplay. Actually, when the dealer has a 3, 4, 5, or 6, the player has a fair chance of applying a smart strategy and turning the A-6 into a profitable deal.

Ideally, for an A-6 vs 3, 4, 5, or 6, the best play is to double down and increase the average win to at least 5.7 cents per dollar of the original wager. A hit or stand in the same situation would lead to an average loss.

When the player doubles down, he cannot hit for a second time. As a result, he might lose a particular hand that he could have won by hitting. But overall, the average profit will be double when he doubles down.

A-7 vs 9, 10 or A

The Common MisplayThe Right Play
The player stands on a soft 18 of A-7.The player should hit at soft 18.

A-7 is a soft 18 in blackjack and players feel that it is a strong hand that is not to be messed with and hence, they prefer to stand. However, to stand at A-7 against a dealer’s 9, 10 or A is a common misplay. In fact, 18 is not a good enough card in blackjack. So, ideally, the player should hit at soft 18.

The scenario and the odds will go like this. When the player stands on a soft 18 against a dealer’s 9, he has a chance of winning in 8 out of 20 hands. However, if the player hits, till he gets a soft 19, hard 17, or goes bust, he has a chance of winning 9 out of 20 hands. So, by hitting instead of standing on a soft 18, the player improves the odds of winning.

Taking Insurance Is a Bad Move

Insurance is indeed a bad move in blackjack. It is a side bet placed by the player on the assumption that the dealer might have a natural blackjack. The odd against the dealer having a blackjack, when their up card is an ace, is 9:4. Plus, insurance increases the house edge than its usual 0.5%. This is enough indication that taking insurance is not worth it and it is disadvantageous for the player.

There are only rare instances when the odds are in favor of the dealer drawing a 10 value card after an ace, making the player’s insurance bet successful. However, for that, a player needs to be an expert in card counting and very few players can implement card counting strategies efficiently throughout the game. Also, modern blackjack is played with multiple decks of cards, which makes card counting difficult and the probability of an insurance bet being successful, rare.

By practicing the optimum blackjack moves and staying aware of the most common blackjack misplayed hands, you can master this interesting game of blackjack and improve the odds of winning by taking the right decision.