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Frequently misplayed hands in blackjack

Frequently misplayed hands in blackjack


As one of the most popular games played at online or physical casinos, a fair amount of mystique has built up around the best strategies to deploy in a game of blackjack. Novices players are often too easily drawn in by the complicated strategies and betting systems developed by the ever-increasing number of casino-gurus out there before examining their own performances and in-game reactions. In this article, you will get a brief overview of some of the hands you will likely come across in a typical game of blackjack, along with some strategies to help you deal with them. While not guaranteeing your chances of success, the strategies below should help you deal with some of the uncertainty that crops up mid-game and give you a better handle on the game.

Getting strategic – blackjack strategies and misplayed hands

When it comes to upping your game and deploying a more focused strategy, players are often quick to turn to the so-called basic blackjack strategy. This refers to the strategy of card counting developed in the 1980s by Edward Thorp, who literally wrote the book on basic strategy. At its simplest, a basic strategy involves players using a mathematical method to count the cards on the table. Using Thorp’s calculations, players can then calculate what the house edge in a given game based on what cards are face up on the table. This does not necessarily give you a sure-fire strategy for success. However, it does give you an awareness of what statistical edge you may or may not have in a particular game.

Although very popular, the basic strategy is relatively complex and can take quite some time to both master and implement successfully. A much simpler alternative is to consider some of the most commonly misplayed hands that might be the cause of a less-than-stellar performance during blackjack games. Taking note of these misplayed hands can increase your in-game awareness and give you a better understanding of how blackjack games commonly unfold. If you spot any of these hands at the blackjack table, this guide tells you whether you should take a hit, stand, double-down or surrender. While these considerations are not a guarantee of success in a specific game, the strategies suggested in this article will give you a slight statistical advantage in the long run. Given that the outcome in blackjack is, as in all card games, dictated by chance, you should not take any specific results as a given.

Misplaying a hand – what does it mean?

When players misplay a hand, it means that they have somehow underutilised the hand they have been dealt relative to those already on the table. Misplaying hands is a mistake even the most advanced players can sometimes make. However, once you become aware of the hands that are commonly misplayed, you can significantly reduce the chances that you will fall prey to them. With that said, here is a brief overview of some of the most commonly misplayed hands, along with a brief description of what to do when you encounter them.

A pair of 9s versus a single 9

If you are dealt a pair of 9s (hard 18) and the dealer also shows a 9, you might be tempted to stand given that you have a hard 18. Statistically speaking, however, your chances of winning increase if you opt to split instead of stand.

If you have a hard 18 against a solo 9, the chances of you winning are 8 out of 20. However, if you choose to split those two 9 cards, each of the 9s has a chance of winning 9.5 hands out of every 20. This may not seem like much of a difference, but that is a significant statistical increase compared to choosing to stand on the hard 18.

A 12 card against a 3

Typically, in a game of blackjack, conventional wisdom dictates that players will stand if the dealer shows a low-numbered card. However, if the dealer shows a 3 card and you have been dealt a 12, this conventional wisdom might not give you the best chances of success. Statistics dictate that you can only go bust on a 12 with a 10 card or any of the face cards. This means that your chances of winning are decent, as you have a solid prospect of scoring a high hand from between 17 to 21 if you choose to take a hit. Furthermore, a 3 card is not quite as weak as you might think, and the chances of the dealer going bust aren’t high compared to other low cards. For this reason, if you get dealt a 12 and the dealer shows a 3 card, taking a hit has a good chance of leading to success.

Hard 16 versus a dealer 10

In the heat of a game, players will usually let out audible groans when they get dealt a 16 pair. This is because it is statistically one of the worst hands to have in a game of blackjack. Your chances are even worse if you get dealt a  hard 16 (a 16 hand with a pair of 8s) and the dealer shows a high card, such as a king, jack, or queen. If your casino game provider allows you to surrender and give up 50% of your bet, this is a good situation in which to do it. Although you’ll be bidding farewell to 50% of your bet, which is understandably painful, you are statistically more likely to lose it all if you’re dealt a hard 16 and the dealer has a high card. This makes surrendering a slightly safer bet, and you should seriously consider it in these circumstances.

Soft 18 against a 9 or higher

If you get dealt a soft 18, it is widely accepted that this is a good time to stand, as it is such a strong hand. If you take a hit on a hard 18, the chances of you going bust are pretty strong. However, if you are dealt a soft 18, it is surprisingly safe to take a hit. If you stand on a soft 18, your chances of winning a given hand are roughly 8 out of 20. However, if you take a hit, this increases the odds to 9 out of 20. You should note that this strategy only applies if the dealer is dealt a high card. If the dealer has a low-numbered card (especially a 3 card or lower), this strategy will more than likely see you go bust.

11 pair with a 6/5 versus a dealer 10

If you get dealt an 11 pair consisting of a 6 card and a 5 card and the dealer has been dealt a 10 up-card, most players will instinctively double down, as they assume the dealer is statistically more likely to be dealt another 10 card and thus go bust. However, if you are initially dealt a two-card 11 (by a 6/5, 9/2, or 7/4 pair) you are likely to make a 20 or 21 by taking a hit more often than the dealer will make a 20. As such, when you double down on this combination, you will win six times out of 11.


When novice players are looking to upgrade their blackjack skills, they are often quick to look to advanced strategies to increase their success rates. However, complicated strategies are no guarantee of success, and if not learned correctly, they might hurt your chances at the card table. Therefore, intermediate and beginner blackjack players should first consider the above list of the most commonly misplayed hands to see if they have fallen prey to any of them during a game. If you bear these in mind the next time you play a game, you might be able to spot some of these hands on the table and prevent a potential loss.

If you want to put any of the above strategies to use, we here at Bitcasino offer one of the biggest selections of virtual blackjack games around. With over 30 different types of blackjack on offer, there’s a rule set and game type to suit every playing style. Sign up today and get started with a free, play-for-fun account. The play-for-fun option is a great way to try out some of these strategies in a zero-risk environment with no commitment.

Words: Sean McNulty
Images: Shutterstock


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Frequently misplayed hands in blackjack
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