Hit & stand strategy

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Hitting or standing is the most common decision that you will have to make at the blackjack table. Therefore there’s a huge value in learning what the mathematically correct decision is for every scenario that you face.

In general the worst hands that you can be dealt are those that are hard (not containing any ace) with a value of 12 – 17. On average you’re being dealt such a hand four times out of ten and with only a few exceptions you’re always the underdog, no matter what the dealer’s card is showing. The best that you can do in those scenarios is therefore to play in a way that in the long run will minimize your losses.

In the following article we will use the optimal blackjack strategy, known as basic strategy, to show you if the mathematically best decisions are to hit, stand or any other option to minimize the losses from those scenarios. We will also teach you what the best decisions are for any other hand that you’re being dealt, which is based on what card the dealer is showing. Not only will this allow you to minimize your losses, but you’ll also be able to maximize your profits.

How hit & stand is used

When you’re using basic strategy to play in a mathematically correct way, the question whether you should hit or stand is always the last one you should ask yourself. This should never be done before having asked if surrendering the hand, splitting it or using the doubling down option would be the best alternative.

If it turns out that none of these options are mathematically correct to use or if you have already split a pair that’s been dealt to you, then it’s time to ask if hitting is the right decision or if standing would be better. As long as you haven’t used the surrender or doubling down option and your hand has a value of 21 or less, you’ll always have the option to hit an extra card. If you decide to stand, the hand value that you have will be matched against the dealer’s to decide who will win the hand.

When you should hit & stand

To be able to play in an optimal way using basic strategy, it’s important to be aware that the number of decks in play and the rules at the table have a significant impact on the mathematically correct decisions. In the tables below you’ll be able to easily find out what hands you should hit and stand depending on what hand you have compared to what the dealer’s card is showing, as well as depending on the number of decks used and what the tables rules are.

Please note that these tables are based on the fact that the surrender option is not available. If early surrender is offered it is for instance always mathematically correct to surrender a hand value of 5 if the dealer is showing an ace. Should you be playing at a table that does indeed offer the surrender option, it’s highly recommended that you read through our article about surrender strategy. This way you can be sure that you’re always playing in an optimal way.

In the most left column of the tables below you’ll find your own hand, whereas the rest of the columns are showing whether you should hit or stand depending on what the dealer’s card is showing. The white, empty columns mean that the mathematically correct decision neither is hitting or standing, but that you should either use the double down or pair splitting option.

The tables are divided so that all hands that are pairs have their own table. They’re also split into different ones depending on the number of decks used and what the table rules are. In the tables that show all hands except the pairs, you’ll find all the hard hand values listed first (hands without an ace), followed by the soft ones (hands with an ace).

“S17” means that the dealer always has to hit on a soft hand value of 17, whereas “H17” means that the dealer always has to stand on all hand values of 17. “DAS” is short for “doubling after split” and “NDAS” for “no doubling after split”, which shows if the table rules allow doubling down after a split or not.

Please note that it’s only the pair decisions of hitting and standing that are affected by DAS and NDAS. All of the other hands are only affected by the S17 and H17 rule. Please also note that the mathematically correct decisions on pairs sometimes are the same whether it’s S17 or H17 and are therefore listed in the same table.

Decks: 1
Table rules: S17
Type of hands: All except pairs

Dealer’s card
Your hand 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
5 H H H H H H H H H H
6 H H H H H H H H H H
7 H H H H H H H H H H
8 H H H H H H H H
9 H H H H H
10 H H
11
12 H H S S S H H H H H
13 S S S S S H H H H H
14 S S S S S H H H H H
15 S S S S S H H H H H
16 S S S S S H H H H H
17 S S S S S S S S S S
18 S S S S S S S S S S
19 S S S S S S S S S S
20 S S S S S S S S S S
21 S S S S S S S S S S
A – 2 H H H H H H H
A – 3 H H H H H H H
A – 4 H H H H H H H
A – 5 H H H H H H H
A – 6 H H H H H
A – 7 S S S H H S
A – 8 S S S S S S S S S
A – 9 S S S S S S S S S S
A – 10 S S S S S S S S S S
H = Hit an extra card
S = Stand

Decks: 1
Table rules: S17, DAS
Type of hands: Pairs

Dealer’s card
Your hand 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
2 – 2 H H H H
3 – 3 H H H
4 – 4 H H H H H H H
5 – 5 H H
6 – 6 H H H H
7 – 7 H S H
8 – 8
9 – 9 S S S
10 – 10 S S S S S S S S S S
A – A
H = Hit an extra card
S = Stand

Decks: 1
Table rules: S17, NDAS & H17 NDAS
Type of hands: Pairs

Dealer’s card
Your hand 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
2 – 2 H H H H H
3 – 3 H H H H H
4 – 4 H H H H H H H H
5 – 5 H H
6 – 6 H H H H H
7 – 7 H H S H
8 – 8
9 – 9 S S S
10 – 10 S S S S S S S S S S
A – A
H = Hit an extra card
S = Stand

Decks: 1
Table rules: H17
Type of hands: All except pairs

Dealer’s card
Your hand 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
5 H H H H H H H H H H
6 H H H H H H H H H H
7 H H H H H H H H H H
8 H H H H H H H H
9 H H H H H
10 H H
11
12 H H S S S H H H H H
13 S S S S S H H H H H
14 S S S S S H H H H H
15 S S S S S H H H H H
16 S S S S S H H H H H
17 S S S S S S S S S S
18 S S S S S S S S S S
19 S S S S S S S S S S
20 S S S S S S S S S S
21 S S S S S S S S S S
A – 2 H H H H H H H
A – 3 H H H H H H H
A – 4 H H H H H H H
A – 5 H H H H H H H
A – 6 H H H H H
A – 7 S S S H H H
A – 8 S S S S S S S S S
A – 9 S S S S S S S S S S
A – 10 S S S S S S S S S S
H = Hit an extra card
S = Stand

Decks: 1
Table rules: H17, DAS
Type of hands: Pairs

Dealer’s card
Your hand 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
2 – 2 H H H H
3 – 3 H H H
4 – 4 H H H H H H H
5 – 5 H H
6 – 6 H H H H
7 – 7 H S H
8 – 8
9 – 9 S S
10 – 10 S S S S S S S S S S
A – A
H = Hit an extra card
S = Stand

Decks: 2
Table rules: S17
Type of hands: All except pairs

Dealer’s card
Your hand 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
5 H H H H H H H H H H
6 H H H H H H H H H H
7 H H H H H H H H H H
8 H H H H H H H H H H
9 H H H H H
10 H H
11
12 H H S S S H H H H H
13 S S S S S H H H H H
14 S S S S S H H H H H
15 S S S S S H H H H H
16 S S S S S H H H H H
17 S S S S S S S S S S
18 S S S S S S S S S S
19 S S S S S S S S S S
20 S S S S S S S S S S
21 S S S S S S S S S S
A – 2 H H H H H H H H
A – 3 H H H H H H H H
A – 4 H H H H H H H
A – 5 H H H H H H H
A – 6 H H H H H H
A – 7 S S S H H H
A – 8 S S S S S S S S S S
A – 9 S S S S S S S S S S
A – 10 S S S S S S S S S S
H = Hit an extra card
S = Stand

Decks: 2
Table rules: S17, DAS & H17 NDAS
Type of hands: Pairs

Dealer’s card
Your hand 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
2 – 2 H H H H
3 – 3 H H H H
4 – 4 H H H H H H H H
5 – 5 H H
6 – 6 H H H H
7 – 7 H H H
8 – 8
9 – 9 S S S
10 – 10 S S S S S S S S S S
A – A
H = Hit an extra card
S = Stand

Decks: 2
Table rules: S17, NDAS & H17, NDAS
Type of hands: Pairs

Dealer’s card
Your hand 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
2 – 2 H H H H H H
3 – 3 H H H H H H
4 – 4 H H H H H H H H H H
5 – 5 H H
6 – 6 H H H H H
7 – 7 H H H H
8 – 8
9 – 9 S S S
10 – 10 S S S S S S S S S S
A – A
H = Hit an extra card
S = Stand

Decks: 2
Table rules: H17
Type of hands: All except pairs

Dealer’s card
Your hand 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
5 H H H H H H H H H H
6 H H H H H H H H H H
7 H H H H H H H H H H
8 H H H H H H H H H H
9 H H H H H
10 H H
11
12 H H S S S H H H H H
13 S S S S S H H H H H
14 S S S S S H H H H H
15 S S S S S H H H H H
16 S S S S S H H H H H
17 S S S S S S S S S S
18 S S S S S S S S S S
19 S S S S S S S S S S
20 S S S S S S S S S S
21 S S S S S S S S S S
A – 2 H H H H H H H H
A – 3 H H H H H H H
A – 4 H H H H H H H
A – 5 H H H H H H H
A – 6 H H H H H H
A – 7 S S H H H
A – 8 S S S S S S S S S
A – 9 S S S S S S S S S S
A – 10 S S S S S S S S S S
H = Hit an extra card
S = Stand

Decks: 4/6/8
Table rules: S17
Type of hands: All except pairs

Dealer’s card
Your hand 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
5 H H H H H H H H H H
6 H H H H H H H H H H
7 H H H H H H H H H H
8 H H H H H H H H H H
9 H H H H H H
10 H H
11 H
12 H H S S S H H H H H
13 S S S S S H H H H H
14 S S S S S H H H H H
15 S S S S S H H H H H
16 S S S S S H H H H H
17 S S S S S S S S S S
18 S S S S S S S S S S
19 S S S S S S S S S S
20 S S S S S S S S S S
21 S S S S S S S S S S
A – 2 H H H H H H H H
A – 3 H H H H H H H H
A – 4 H H H H H H H
A – 5 H H H H H H H
A – 6 H H H H H H
A – 7 S S S H H H
A – 8 S S S S S S S S S S
A – 9 S S S S S S S S S S
A – 10 S S S S S S S S S S
H = Hit an extra card
S = Stand

Decks: 4/6/8
Table rules: S17, DAS & H17, DAS
Type of hands: Pairs

Dealer’s card
Your hand 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
2 – 2 H H H H
3 – 3 H H H H
4 – 4 H H H H H H H H
5 – 5 H H
6 – 6 H H H H H
7 – 7 H H H H
8 – 8
9 – 9 S S S
10 – 10 S S S S S S S S S S
A – A
H = Hit an extra card
S = Stand

Decks: 4/6/8
Table rules: S17, NDAS & H17, NDAS
Type of hands: Pairs

Dealer’s card
Your hand 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
2 – 2 H H H H H H
3 – 3 H H H H H H
4 – 4 H H H H H H H H H H
5 – 5 H H
6 – 6 H H H H H H
7 – 7 H H H H
8 – 8
9 – 9 S S S
10 – 10 S S S S S S S S S S
A – A
H = Hit an extra card
S = Stand

Decks: 4/6/8
Table rules: H17
Type of hands: All except pairs

Dealer’s card
Your hand 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
5 H H H H H H H H H H
6 H H H H H H H H H H
7 H H H H H H H H H H
8 H H H H H H H H H H
9 H H H H H H
10 H H
11
12 H H S S S H H H H H
13 S S S S S H H H H H
14 S S S S S H H H H H
15 S S S S S H H H H H
16 S S S S S H H H H H
17 S S S S S S S S S S
18 S S S S S S S S S S
19 S S S S S S S S S S
20 S S S S S S S S S S
21 S S S S S S S S S S
A – 2 H H H H H H H H
A – 3 H H H H H H H H
A – 4 H H H H H H H
A – 5 H H H H H H H
A – 6 H H H H H H
A – 7 S S H H H
A – 8 S S S S S S S S S
A – 9 S S S S S S S S S S
A – 10 S S S S S S S S S S
H = Hit an extra card
S = Stand

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The logic behind hit & stand

A common mistake among blackjack players is to always stand on hard hands with a value of 12 – 16. This is due to fear of busting the hand, which is fairly easy to do with these types of hands. It’s not always the wrong decision to stand on these hands, but when the dealer is showing a 7 or higher the dealer has a high probability of ending up with a hand value of 17 – 21. Because the dealer is that strong we need a higher value ourselves if we want to optimize our play. Therefore it’s mathematically correct to hit in these scenarios, provided that using surrender or splitting the hand is not an option.

Another common mistake among players is to stand on soft hands. The hand A – 6 is especially one where a lot of mistakes are being made as it’s assumed that a value of 17 is good enough to stand on. If it was a hard 17 it’s always correct to stand, but with a soft one that’s never the case. The reason is simply that it isn’t possible to bust by hitting another card and therefore the mathematically best decision is to either double down the hand or hit until reaching a hard 17-21 or soft 18-21.

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Last words

Hitting or standing is always the last thing you should consider when optimizing your play by using basic strategy. First of all you should always ask yourself if the mathematically correct decision would be to surrender the hand and get half the stake back, split your hand into two (if you’ve been dealt a pair) or double your stake by using the double down option.

Even though hitting and standing is the last decision you should be making, it is infact the one that you will have to do the most. You therefore have a great possibility to reduce the edge of the house by learning how to make these decisions in a mathematically correct way, which you do if you’re following the optimal blackjack strategy, basic strategy.