Standing in Blackjack

A blackjack player must know the strategy for standing in blackjack, based on their cards and the dealer’s cards, to maximize their winning chances.

Hitting and standing are the two most important playing actions in blackjack. A blackjack player must know the strategy for standing in blackjack, based on their cards and the dealer’s cards, to maximize their chances of winning.

They must also, at the same time, avoid misplays resulting from misconceptions about how to play hands and a clear lack of strategy.

Standing and Hitting in Blackjack Basics

Standing in blackjack means not taking any further cards and staying with the total you have. Blackjack players should almost always stand on totals of 17, 18, 19, and 20 because with these cards, regardless of what the dealer has, taking another card would mean likely going bust.

Blackjack strategy also requires players to look out for totals such as 8-8, 9-9, or 10-10, all of which are usually stands but can be split to form good hands when card counting. The concept of hard hands and soft hands is also important when it comes to standing in blackjack.

For example, if the player has a hard hand of 16 with a 9 and a 7, they should stand if the dealer shows cards between 2 to 6. On the other hand, a hand of soft 16 with an A-5 is worth hitting or doubling down if the dealer shows a 2 or 3-6 respectively.

Hitting in blackjack means taking another card from the dealer. In general, if the player has a total of 11 or lower, they must hit or double down, no matter which cards the dealer holds. Similarly, if the dealer has a high card and is likely to make 21 or at least, close to 21, the player should consider hitting the high hands such as 14, 15, and 16 too because the idea behind standing or hitting is ultimately to beat the dealer’s total.

When to Stand in Blackjack

A hand of blackjack

To stand in blackjack is to hold the total and end the turn. As a blackjack player, whether you should hit or stand depends a lot on the dealer’s blackjack hand. In scenarios when the dealer has a 10-value card, the player needs a strong hand to win. If the player has a 17 or higher it is best to stand so that they do not go bust. In blackjack, whether to hit or stand on 16 is a matter of the basic strategy.

When the dealer has 7, 8, or 9 cards, it is hardly ever possible for him to make a blackjack and this improves the odds in favor of the player. If the player is already holding 17 or higher, they should stand. However, if the player has 16 or less, it is best to hit and try to make a stronger hand.

The player must also stand on anything 12 or higher if the dealer has a 4, 5, or 6 as it’s likely the dealer will bust. For the very same reason, a player should stand on 13 or more if the dealer has a 2 or 3 value card.

When to Hit in Blackjack

Hitting is one of the most important playing actions in blackjack and it is an instruction given by the player to the dealer, requesting them to give an extra card. The decision to hit also depends largely on the dealer’s hand and the player’s hand.

For a player, one of the lowest EV scenarios is when the dealer has an Ace. This is because they have the highest chance of hitting a 10-value card and making blackjack. In this case, the player must keep hitting until they have a value of 17 or above, which can be considered a strong enough hand. Similarly, when the dealer is showing a 10, 9, 8, or 7, the player should hit until they have a value of 17 or higher.

On the other hand, if the dealer has a 4, 5, or 6, it is crucial to ensure that the player does not go bust. Hence, they can hit or double down when holding 11 or less but avoid hitting with 12 or higher. If the dealer has a 2 or 3, the player must hit on 12 or lower and stand on 13 or higher.

Hitting and Standing on Soft/Hard Hands

Hard hands and soft hands in blackjack have a significant role to play in implementing the basic blackjack strategy. The difference between a hard hand and a soft hand is a single card that is the ace. A soft hand comprises an ace, which can either be 1 or 11 and a hard hand is devoid of an ace. Soft hands have greater flexibility than hard hands.

The concept of hard hands and soft hands is crucial for two main reasons. First, it defines some of the standard rules of the dealer’s blackjack play. In a few blackjack variants, the rule requires the dealer to hit on soft 17 as a must while in some other variants; it says that the dealer must stand on all 17. Understanding the hard and soft hands in blackjack equips the player with the knowledge and strategy to anticipate how the dealer is going to play their hand.

The importance of the concept of hard and soft hands with regards to the basic blackjack strategy primarily lies in the fact that with a soft hand, the player can always choose to hit without going bust. In fact, the strategy is to keep hitting with soft hands until they turn hard, with a few exceptions.

On the other hand, with a hard hand of 11 or lower, the player should hit or double down and with a hard hand of 17 or higher, they should stand. If the player has a hard hand between 12 and 16, they should he should hit/stand/surrender depending on what the dealer is showing as their upcard.

Let’s understand a similar situation with the player having a soft hand. If they hold a soft 19 or 20 with an ace and an 8 or 9, they must always stand as that hand is strong enough to play against any dealer upcard. However, if they have a soft 17 or less, they can choose to hit or double down. The soft 18, combining an Ace and a 7, is a bit tricky to play. The decision to hit or stand or any other playing action depends on the dealer’s card, the number of decks of cards with which the game is being played as also the rules, and how the dealer is playing their hand.

Sizing the Dealer’s Upcard

It is quite clear by now that the dealer’s upcard plays a crucial role in determining the playing decision of the player in blackjack. This upcard of the dealer gives the player valuable information about their position and odds of winning in the game.

Even though the player is unable to see the dealer’s hole card, the possible outcomes of a certain situation can still be predicted. Apart from considering the dealer’s hole card, players might also consider the rest of the cards in the deck but that is only when they are following the strategy of card counting.

The odds and probabilities of the dealer busting based on the card he holds are summed up in the following table:

Dealer’s Up CardDealer’s Chance of Going Bust% of Advantage for Basic Strategy Players
235.30%9.8%
337.56%13.4%
440.28%18.0%
542.89%23.2%
642.08%23.9%
725.99%14.3%
823.86%5.4%
923.34%-4.3%
10, J, Q, K21.34%-16.9%
A11.65%-16.0%
The chance that the dealer will bust based on their upcard

Misplayed Hitting and Standing Scenarios

Misplays are quite common when it comes to a blackjack player deciding to hit or stand in certain situations. Some of these are:

Standing with a 16 over a 7 Up Card

Standing on a 16 when the dealer shows a 7 is a very commonly misplayed hand. What the player should instead do is hit to try and get a low card, such as 2 or 3 to significantly increase his chances of winning. The rule of thumb is that a 17 against a dealer’s 7 is a significantly stronger hand than a 16.

Standing with a 12 over a 3 Up Card

Standing with a 12 over the dealer’s upcard of 3 is a wrong playing decision that players often take. In such a situation, the player must hit against the weak upcard of the dealer. This is because when the player has a 12, there are just 4 cards that can make them bust and 5 cards that can get them anything between 17-21. Plus, with a 3, the dealer has fewer chances of busting.

Standing with an 18 over a 10 Up Card

A soft 18 is often considered a hand that can hardly be improved. No doubt, it is a tricky hand to play especially, when it is against the dealer’s upcard of 10. But standing with this soft 18, in such a situation, will lead to more losses than wins. Hitting is the highest EV play, so players should be brave enough and take a chance by hitting on the soft 18.

Hitting with an Ace and Five

With an Ace and 5 in hand, most blackjack players take a straight hit. However, the correct play would be to double down if the dealer’s upcard is a 4, 5, or 6. These are the cards where the dealer has the highest chances of busting, so instead of hitting, doubling down would be the right choice.

Standing with 9 pairs

Most blackjack players almost instinctively stand with a pair of 9. However, you should only stand with this hand when the dealer has a 7 or lower value card. On the other hand, if the dealer has an 8 or higher, standing would be a misplay. Instead, the player should split and increase the chances of getting a push or winning the hand.

Card Counting While Hitting and Standing in Blackjack

The basic blackjack strategy helps blackjack players in learning and understanding when and where to hit and stand when playing. Apart from following the blackjack strategy, there is another technique that can assist players in making the right playing decisions and this technique is card counting.

Card counting is a mathematical process of keeping a running count and eventually, a true count of the cards in the deck by assigning specific values to sets of individual cards.

By applying this technique, players or card counters can get an idea of how many cards are remaining in the deck and thereby, predict the likelihood of high or low cards coming out next.

Card counters try to estimate the number of aces and face cards left in the deck. If there are a higher number of high-value cards in the deck, they bet higher and if there are fewer aces and 10 and face cards in the deck, they bet less. By manipulating the bets to match the probability of hitting blackjack, card counters can beat the house edge and turn the odds in their favor.

So, whilst card counting is a mathematical technique that works quite well when trying to gain an edge, especially in single-deck blackjack games, it is very difficult to perform in real-time. The biggest disadvantage of card counting is that it cannot be used in casinos where Continuous Shuffling Machines (CSM) are being used.

In these games, the already dealt cards are put back into the machine and reshuffled. This makes card counting almost impossible. As well as this, casinos keep a close watch on card counters and if any player is suspected to be counting cards, they might even be banned from playing in the casino.

Standing in Blackjack: FAQ

Here are some of the most common questions about hitting and standing in blackjack answered in brief:

What happens when you stand in blackjack? 

When a player stands in blackjack, they get no more cards and end their turn. Standing is often the right playing decision when the player has a high probability of going bust.

What is hitting in blackjack?

Hitting in blackjack means the player asking for another card from the dealer and continuing with the game.

When is the right time to hit and stand in blackjack?

The right time to hit/stand is determined by the dealer’s up card and the player’s cards in hand. Generally, hitting is done to make a stronger hand and standing is to avoid going bust.

Is it important to consider the upcard of a dealer?

The dealer’s upcard is very important when it comes to whether the player hits or stands in the game. The dealer’s up card provides valuable information about the probable actions of the dealer as well as the possible outcomes of their hand.

What are soft and hard hands?

Hard hands are hands that are without an Ace. Soft hands are hands with Aces, which can be considered to be either 1 or 11. Soft hands are more flexible than hard hands in blackjack.

Should you stand when you have a 16 while the dealer has a 7?

Standing when you have a 16 and the dealer has a 7 is a common misplay. Instead, the player should hit and take the chance. If they draw a small value card, this can increase their chances of winning.

What is a stiff blackjack hand?

A still blackjack hand is a hard total of 12 through 16 made with the player’s first two cards.

Can card counting help you know when to stand and hit? 

Card counting can help players know when to stand or hit as it gives players an insight into what cards are likely to come next, allowing players to adjust their strategy accordingly

Is it worth learning card counting?

Card counting is a technique worth learning because its application can truly beat the house edge. However, it is difficult to implement in casinos using CSMs.

Understanding the concepts of hitting and standing in blackjack and identifying the ideal situations for taking these actions whilst also avoiding the common misplays are ways you can increase your chance of winning at blackjack.