There are several different ways to play blackjack. There is a large amount of strategy involved at quite a high level. Many people think that it is just a game based purely around luck. However, this is not the case. Blackjack does have some luck attached to it, and it would be disingenuous to claim otherwise.
However, it also has a great deal of skill attached. A good blackjack player can reduce the house edge down to almost nothing, and depending on the version of blackjack being played, some can even turn it in their favour.
However, there are some hands that strike fear into even the best blackjack players out there. One specific hand almost creates a chill in the air when it is mentioned – the hard 16.
What is a hard 16?
A hard 16 can occur in several different ways. Many people think that a hard 16 is when 16 occurs without an ace. However, this is not always the case. The true definition of a hard 16 is a hand that equals 16 and either contains no aces or the ace has a value of one within the hand. Many people either forget about or are not aware of the second part of the definition. This means that a hard 16 containing an ace will always have at least three cards.
Some examples of a hard 16 are two 8s or a ten and a 6.
The worst hand in blackjack?
It is a commonly held belief that the hard 16 is the worst hand in blackjack. It makes things very difficult for players when it comes to choosing the right moves. This is because a hard 16 really is the hardest hand to win with when playing blackjack.
Without getting into the stats too heavily, the chance of winning when you have a hard 16 is at best 30%. At worst, it gives you a 23.4% chance of winning. This means that even if you make absolutely the right choices in terms of your strategy, you will still lose seven games out of ten.
Is there anything that you can do to increase your chances of winning? Put simply, there is not a huge amount you can do to swing the hand back in your favour. However, you can give yourself at least a fighting chance of winning the hand.
How to play a hard 16: The basic method
When playing a hard 16, there are several ways to do so effectively. While there is no surefire way to make you win more than you lose, there are several ways to keep your bankroll as high as possible. However, how you play depends on what the dealer is showing and, in some cases, what you have in your hand.
First, we need to look at the case where your hard 16 is made up of two 8s. In this case, it is always best to split the hand. This is because you have a much better chance of winning from a position of having an 8 as your hand than you do with a hard 16. While some people may feel that it is best to surrender rather than risk losing two hands, splitting your hand will give you more of a return in the long run. Of course, this requires knowing how to play with an 8, which is covered in a different guide.
If you do not have a pair of 8s, when you use the basic method, the composition of your hard 16 does not matter. All you need to do is check what the dealer is showing. If the dealer is showing a relatively low card, which is any card between two and six when playing blackjack, you want to stand on what you have. The reasoning behind this is that if the dealer is showing a low card, they have a good chance of busting when it is their turn. This means that you do not want to run the risk of busting yourself. The reasoning behind this is that even if the dealer busts, you will not get a return on your best if you bust yourself.
If the dealer is showing a seven or an eight, the right move is to hit. This is because the chances of the dealer busting with a card of seven or above are much lower. Because their chances of busting are lower, you may as well take the risk of trying to improve your hand than standing on a 16, which is unlikely to be a score good enough to win.
If the dealer is showing a ten or better, the best move is to surrender. If the option to surrender is not available, you should hit. This is because if the dealer has a ten or better, the dealer is very likely to get a good hand. If you can surrender, you will receive half of your wager back. This is definitely a better outcome than losing all of it. If surrendering is not an option, hitting is the best option because the dealer is likely to have a good score, and 16 is almost guaranteed to lose in that scenario.
Following these hints will help in almost all hard 16 blackjack scenarios that you will come across. However, there is some more advanced information that you can follow if you want to increase your chances of winning by even more, but it does require more concentration and being aware of your own hand.
How to play a hard 16: The advanced method
The advanced method of playing a hard 16 requires a little more ability to analyse a situation than the basic method. Fortunately, it only contains one additional piece of information to remember. If your hand consists of three or more cards, instead of hitting when the dealer has ten or more, you should stand. This will increase your chances of winning by aiming to make the dealer go bust.
The reason behind this is quite simple. It is essentially a very rudimentary form of card counting, but really it is just simple logic. If you have three or more cards making up your hard 16, it makes sense that you will have a lot of low-value cards in your hand, so it is less likely that there are low-value cards left in the deck. Therefore, there are two reasons for standing. First, if you hit, it stands to reason that you are more likely to bust. Second, it also means that the dealer is more likely to bust.
While it does not increase your chances of winning by a significant amount, it does increase them by enough to make it a worthwhile choice.
Is a soft 16 bad?
A soft 16 is a hand that adds up to 16 when the ace is worth 10. So, an ace and a five would be a soft 16. A soft 16 is a much more favourable hand than a hard 16 and does not evoke the same level of fear. It is much easier to decide what to do when playing a soft 16. There are just two choices to make. First, remember that you should never stand or surrender. Other than that, you just need to look at what the dealer has. If the dealer has a four, five or six, double down if you can. If doubling down is not allowed, your decision much easier – just hit. A soft 16 is much easier to deal with than a hard 16, and it offers a much better chance of winning.
The reason behind this is that with a soft 16, you will not be out if you bust, as the ace will be worth one in that scenario. It means that it is always worth hitting not only because of the possibility of getting a high score but also because of the security blanket the ace provides.
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Words: Sean McNulty