Blackjack Hands Guide: How to Play Blackjack Hands | LeoVegas

Blackjack Hands Guide

Blackjack is all about making hands and chasing totals. The main total you’re chasing is 21. You get two cards to start with, but, from there, it’s your decision whether to stand or hit (unless you get blackjack).

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There are many factors you need to consider before you make a move. However, it all starts with a basic understanding of blackjack hands. Without knowing what a blackjack hand is, you’ll never know what’s strong or weak. If you don’t know what’s strong or weak, you’ve got no shot at making the mathematically correct move.

Therefore, everything starts with blackjack hands. That’s what this guide is all about. In the following sections, we’ll outline what hard and soft blackjack hands are. We’ll also walk you through the best blackjack hands, and what to do with certain cards. So, if you’re ready, put your blackjack hands up, and let’s begin.

Definition of Hard & Soft Hands in Blackjack

Blackjack hands can be hard or soft. A hard hand is made up of two or more cards, none of which are an ace. A soft blackjack hand is made up of two or more cards, at least one of which is an ace.

Blackjack Hands Examples:

  • Hard Blackjack Hand = 9c + 9h = 18
  • Soft Blackjack Hand = Ah + 7s = 8 or 18

A soft blackjack hand is soft because you can’t go bust, no matter what the next card is. You can’t go bust because aces are worth 1 or 11. In our example, there are two possible totals: 8 (1 + 7) or 18 (11 +7). This shows you why it’s impossible to bust with a soft total.

In our scenario, the player could stand on 18. However, if they wanted to push for a better total, they could hit. If they drew a 3, they’d have 11 + 7 + 3 = 21. If they drew a 7, they’d have 1 + 7 + 7 = 15. That’s how soft blackjack hands work and why they present unique opportunities in a game.

Blackjack Hand Rankings

Blackjack hands are ranked on two qualities: a card’s face value and the sum of all cards in a hand. Let’s start with face values:

CardValue
2-10Value is the card’s face value
Jack, Queen, King10
Ace1 or 11

From these values, you can rank blackjack hands based on the sum total of each card in a hand. To show you what we mean, here are some examples of blackjack hands.

  • 5c 9c 2h = 16
  • 10h 10c = 20
  • 8d 2c 2h 6c = 18
  • Ace King = 21 (blackjack – the best hand in blackjack)

How to Play Hard Hands

Hard blackjack hands don’t typically have as many variables to consider as soft ones. That’s because the total is fixed, so you know if the next card can bust you or not. For example, if you’ve got hard 18, you know any card worth 4 or more will send you over the maximum total of 21.

Therefore, the general rule with hard hands is to be conservative with high totals and aggressive with low totals. You can also use basic strategy to factor in the dealer’s up card, which is something we discuss in our guide on how to win at blackjack.

The general point here is that you stand when you’re strong and hit when you’re weak. So, if you’ve got hard 18, it’s usually best to be conservative and stand. If you’ve got 12, it’s probably best to play aggressively and hit.

How to Play Soft Hands

Soft blackjack hands may require a bit more thought because you can’t go bust. This means you can play more aggressively and hit more often. Consider this scenario:

  • Your hand = 6c + Ad = 7 or 17
  • Dealer’s up card = 7

If you had a hard 17 in this situation, you’d probably stand against the dealer’s 7. Your hand is quite strong but not a guaranteed win. However, hitting is probably a bit too risky because any card of 5 or over will bust you.

However, because you’ve got soft 17, there are options. You can play conservatively and stand. Alternatively, you can play aggressively and hit. The rationale for hitting would be that you figure the dealer’s hidden card is worth 10 (a standard assumption in blackjack). Therefore, in this scenario, the result would be a draw.

So, if you want to avoid that and go for glory, you can hit safely in the knowledge you won’t go bust. This would be described as a high-variance play because you’ll hit a worse total more times than you hit a better total than 17 when you draw a single card. But the times you do draw a better card, you’ll have a better chance of winning the hand.

This is the art of playing soft blackjack hands. Knowing when to step on the gas and be aggressive versus playing conservatively is a matter of personal preference. If you enjoy a higher-risk strategy, be aggressive. If you prefer to keep your risk as low as possible, play soft blackjack hands conservatively.

What to Do When You Have Two Aces?

Two aces are worth 2 or 12. You can’t say that both are worth 11 because that would give you a total of 22, which is classed as going bust. Therefore, when you’re dealt two aces, you’ve got a dilemma: play it as a single hand or split.

The preferred strategy for most blackjack players is split. A standard game of blackjack has 6 or 8 decks in play. As there are more cards worth 10 a deck, this means the most likely card you’re going to draw will be worth 10. We’re not saying the next card out of the shoe will be worth 10, but it is statistically more likely.

Because of this, paying an extra bet to split aces can be a good idea because you stand a good chance of at least one hand being worth 21. The odds are good and casinos know this, which is why you can’t hit blackjack when you split aces. Some casinos also limit you to one card when you split aces. This should factor into your decision but, even when you take these restrictions into account, it’s still not a bad idea to split aces.

What is a Soft 17 Rule in Blackjack?

The soft 17 rule applies to the dealer. The dealer has to hit until they have a total of at least 17. This applies even if the dealer has soft 17. This can affect certain decisions when you’re playing basic strategy. However, the soft 17 rule doesn’t directly affect you because you can hit or stand on this total.

Blackjack Hands FAQ

What is the best hand in blackjack?

The best hand in blackjack is an ace and a 10. This hand is called blackjack and gives you an unbeatable total of 21. Moreover, this hand pays out more than a standard winning hand. The payout for blackjack is 3:2, while standard payouts are 1:1. The only time an ace and a 10 aren’t classed as blackjack is when you split aces.

Is it better to play two hands in blackjack?

Playing two blackjack hands at once will increase the cost per round but, if you know how to use basic strategy and the cards go your way, it can increase your win rate. Playing two blackjack hands also gives you a degree of control because you can stand/hit on your first hand to help your second hand.

Do you show your hand in blackjack?

Yes. All blackjack hands are shown. You start with two cards face-up. The dealer starts with one card face-up and one face-down. However, the dealer always reveals their hidden card.

What hands do you split in blackjack?

Splitting blackjack hands is only possible when you’re dealt a pair. For example, you could split 8c 8h. The best blackjack hands to split are high pairs e.g. 8 8, 9 9, 10 10, and A A.

Which hand type is better?

Soft blackjack hands can be better than hard hands because you can’t go bust. This means you’ve got more options with regard to hitting, standing, and doubling down. However, you need to know basic blackjack strategy to make use of the fact you can’t go bust.

What are the odds of winning a blackjack hand?

The odds of winning will depend on the hand you’re dealt. However, when you take into account all possible blackjack hands and run them through a calculator, the probability of an overall win is 42.22%. The chance of a tie is 8.48%, and the chance of a loss is 49.10%.

How many possible blackjack hands are there?

There are 34 different blackjack hands you could be dealt at the start of a game. This figure includes hard totals from 5 to 19, and soft totals from A+2 to A+9, A+T (blackjack), and A+A.

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