When to Hit and When to Stand in Blackjack

November 19, 2020

Even if you’re a complete Blackjack newcomer or have never played a game before, you are likely to have a basic idea of when you should hit or stand. A rule many inexperienced players follow says you hit if you have a total of 15 or lower and stand with one of 16 or higher.

This is incorrect, to put it mildly.

The only correct answer to when to hit and when to stand in Blackjack is when basic strategy tells you to! It’s much more complicated than just looking at how likely it is that you’ll bust and what the dealer’s hand holds, although these are factors you need to consider.

Defining Hit and Stand

Hitting and standing are the two most basic moves in 21 but there are other options. You get two cards, as does the dealer, in the traditional version of the game, with the latter receiving one facing up and one facing down. The cards are all worth points according to their rankings, with these determined by their numeric value.

So, the seven of hearts is worth seven points. The face cards, the jacks, queens, and kings, are worth 10 points each and aces are worth one or 11, whichever works out best for you. Scores are the point values of the cards added together, with the higher total winning the bet. With a catch! Any score of 22 or higher is a bust or automatic loss.

As you play, the basic moves are hitting, or getting another card, and standing, or foregoing more cards and allowing the dealer to play their hand.

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Going Bust

You get the first move in Blackjack and it’s vital that you avoid busting as far as you can. Doing it will mean you lose your bet, even though the dealer hasn’t played yet. The higher your total, the higher the likelihood that the next card dealt will push you over the goal, 21.

If, for example, you have a card total of 10 points, it’s impossible that you’ll bust. The highest possible card value is the ace, with 11 points, and this would give you the dreamed-of total of 21. It’s also impossible to bust with an 11-point ace since it can also count as 1. This makes standing on a point of either 10 or 11 silly.

But once you reach a minimum of 12 points for your hand, going bust becomes a possibility. Any card that’s nine points or lower will improve your total but anything of 10 or more will end the game.

Basic Strategy is Your Best Move

No matter whether you’re a serious Blackjack player looking to consistently turn a profit or a more casual one aiming at having a good time, it’s impossible to play this game without knowing basic strategy. This system of betting tells you when to hit and when to stand with every possible combination of cards in your hand and on the table. It was generated by running millions of hands through a simulator and determining which move was optimal in every case.

The easiest way to learn it is to download a chart or table online. Tables usually have the dealer’s possible up cards listed along the top and your possible totals listed down the left-hand side. All you need to do then is cross-index what you have with what your dealer does, and the table tells you what to do. The one tricky aspect is that the right moves to make vary slightly based on game conditions.

So, the basic strategy for a single-deck game won’t be the same in every situation as the one for an eight-deck variation of Blackjack. With experience, you’ll be able to spot these dissimilarities quite quickly, however, especially if you’ve memorised the basic strategy for one-deck Blackjack. It doesn’t change over much and you’ll rapidly be able to learn the rules for your favourite version of 21!