The Best & Worst Starting Hands in Blackjack | LeoVegas

The Best & Worst Starting Hands in Blackjack

Unlike other casino games like roulette and baccarat, where players bet and wait for the outcome, blackjack requires a level of strategic thinking. To play the game well, you don't need to be a mathematical genius; simply having some basic knowledge can improve your performance and help you get the most out of the game.

Table of Content:

The primary concern when playing blackjack revolves around the strength of your starting cards compared to the dealer’s upcard. The stronger your cards are compared to the dealer’s, the better your likelihood of winning. Here, we will discuss the best and worst blackjack hands and their details.

Understanding Starting Hands in Blackjack

A starting hand in blackjack refers to the initial two cards dealt to the player and dealer at the beginning of the game. The player’s cards are dealt face up while the dealer shows one card face up and the other face down.

From here, the player and the dealer can decide their next moves based on the value of their cards. However, not all starting hands are equal, and some are better than others. A strong hand puts you in a favourable position to win, while a weak starting hand can lead to unfavourable outcomes.

Starting hands are particularly important in blackjack because they allow players to determine their strategy and chances of winning. The value of your starting hand will determine whether you should hit, stand, split, or double down.

The Best Starting Hands in Blackjack

As established, when it comes to playing blackjack, understanding the value of your starting hand is essential for determining your blackjack strategy and thus increasing your chances of becoming a more successful blackjack player. As a player, your ultimate goal to win the game is to get as close to 21 as possible without exceeding it.If your total exceeds 21, you bust and your time in the round ends. Essentially, your goal is to have a higher total than the dealer without busting.

There are several strong starting hands you should keep in mind while playing. These hands, discussed in detail below, are some of the best positions you can find yourself in while playing a hand of blackjack.

Blackjack Against Any Non-10 Ace Card

The most favourable hand in blackjack is undoubtedly a Blackjack, also known as a Natural 21. This is when a player is dealt an Ace paired with a 10-value card (for example, 10, Jack, Queen, or King) for 21 points.

This hand gives the player a significant advantage. Here, if a player bets $100 and gets a Blackjack, it is impossible to lose! That said, the hand will be tied if the dealer also has a natural blackjack.

Hard 20 Against 8

A hard 20 is a strong hand in blackjack, comprising of two 10-value cards. It is particularly valuable when the dealer has an 8 upcard. Statistically, if this hand is played optimally, a player can return an average profit of $79.19 for every $100 wagered. The dealer can beat a hard 20 only by having a total of 21.

In specific scenarios, the dealer may reach this total through various combinations, like having a 6 as a hole card to make a total of 14 and then drawing a 7, for a total of 21. While many combinations can result in a dealer having a total of 21, according to computerized simulations, the dealer will lose 79.18% of the time when such combinations are considered.

Hard 20 Against 7

Another strong hand is when a player has a hard 20 against a dealer’s 7 upcard. When this hand is played optimally, the player can expect to return on average $77.32 for every $100 bet. The significance of the dealer’s 7 upcard is that most variation game rules state that the dealer must stop drawing cards (stand) on a total of 17.

Additionally, since the deck contains a greater number of cards with a value of 10 than any other value, there is a high likelihood that the dealer’s hole card is a 10-value card. However, there is a chance that the dealer may draw to a 20 or 21; that is when the player would either push or lose.

The Worst Starting Hands in Blackjack

In contrast to the best-starting hands, there are also hands in blackjack with a low probability of winning. Such hands, referred to as the worst starting hands, can often lead to losses if not played correctly.

Players often make common mistakes with weak hands, like hitting or doubling down when it’s not recommended. Such errors can lead to the player busting or losing their bet. Below are examples of the worst starting hands in blackjack:

16 Against 10

Holding two cards totalling 16 against the dealer’s 10 upcard is the worst starting hand in blackjack, with a negative expectation of 0.5398%. There are occasional wins when the player draws a low-value card and stands while the dealer busts. Of course, there is also the possibility of standing on 16, hoping that the dealer draws a low card and then a high card, meaning they go bust. Either way the stats tell us you don't want to be in this position.

16 Against Ace

A 16 against a dealer’s Ace has a negative expectation of 0.5171%. Having a total of 16 offers the player very limited options to form a good hand. Conversely, an Ace gives the dealer the highest possible number of cards to create a strong hand.

16 Against 9

A player’s total of 16 against a dealer’s 9 upcard results in a negative expectation of 0.5093%. With a total of 16, the player has very limited options to create a good hand, while a 9 upcard for the dealer is a strong one. As there are more 10-value cards in the deck, there is a considerable probability that the dealer will end up with 19.


Below are some commonly asked questions related to the best and worst starting hands in blackjack:

What are the best starting hands in blackjack?

The best possible starting hands in blackjack are a Blackjack, i.e., an Ace paired with a 10-value card and a hard 20.

How do I identify the worst starting hands?

Put simply, the worst starting hands in blackjack are those with a low probability of winning, such as a 16 against a dealer’s 10 upcard.

Can starting hand decisions affect long-term profitability?

Yes, starting hand decisions can greatly affect long-term profitability in blackjack. Optimal starting hand decisions can increase your winning chances, resulting in long-term profitability.

Is it possible to win consistently with poor starting hands?

No. That is because the game heavily relies on probability and basic strategy, both of which are optimized for better starting hands.

How can I improve my starting hand strategy?

You can improve your starting hand strategy in blackjack by learning basic strategy and understanding the value of your cards compared to the dealer’s upcard.

Learn more about blackjack in other guides: