Three of the worst blackjack hands people tend to play wrong.
If you’ve ever played blackjack in a land-based casino, you’ve probably witnessed some really bad mistakes by players. You may have even made some yourself—hopefully just a few in your novice days. Today, we’re going to talk about three of the worst mistakes people make, and why they do it.
This guide covers situational hand values of Soft 17, Soft 18, and Hard 12; the most commonly misplayed blackjack hands. If you happen to be using a correct, basic 21 strategy chart, you’ll know how to maneuver these hands in every possible situation. If, however, you’ve prematurely tossed out your strategy chart, believing you have it memorized, you may be among the guilty.
How to Play the Worst Blackjack Hands
Soft blackjack hands—any hand that utilizes an Ace for a point value of 11—are the easiest to misplay. A hard 12 can also be a scary situation, leading to heart palpitations and common mistakes.
Soft 17 vs. Any Up Card
A Soft 17 is most often made up of 6+Ace, or any 3-card combination or more, wherein the Ace counts as an 11. Most players who misjudge this hand do so because they are following the strategy of a Hard 17. With a hard total, the odds of busting are much higher, therefore a basic strategy chart will rarely, if ever, call for hitting, regardless of the dealer’s up-card.
On a soft total, however, there is no chance of busting. As such, this hand should almost always be hit. A 17 might sound like a relatively high hand total, but it’s really not. Unless the dealer busts—which only occurs on 28.36% of all hands—the best you can hope for is a push.
Soft 18 vs. 9, 10, Ace
A Soft 18, unlike the hand above, should usually be stood upon—unless it happens to be up against a dealer’s 9, 10 or Ace. A hard 18 isn’t a bad hand, most of the time. And, like a Hard 17, a Hard 18 should always be stood upon. No matter what the dealer is showing, your odds of busting are simply too high to be worth the risk.
With a Soft 18, and 9, 10, or Ace in the dealer’s corner, probabilities are not in your favor. Since you can’t bust, you’re better off taking the hit and working with the new total as the basic 21 strategy chart dictates.
Hard 12 vs. Bust Cards
A Hard 12 can be a scary hand. It’s abysmally low, yet instantly triggers the player’s fear of busting. Relax! The truth is, the player’s odds of busting are only about 31%. That leaves a 69% chance you’ll improve the hand. How you handle this situation should be based entirely on the dealer’s up-card.
This becomes one of the most commonly misplayed blackjack hands when the dealer is showing a “bust” card. The Dealer’s Bust Cards are 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6; called this because the dealer has at least a 1-in-3 chance of busting.
This doesn’t mean you should hit Hard 12 any time a bust card is present, though. Some players will hit with the dealer showing 2 or 3. Basic strategy tells us this is the wrong move. The dealer’s odds of improving, plus your odds of busting, don’t boil down to a high probability of you winning. In this case, take the hit.
Conversely, when the dealer has a 4, 5 or 6 showing, his odds of busting are 40-43%; high enough to dictate that you should stand on that menial total of 12, despite it being among the list of worst blackjack hands to be dealt.