When should you hit or stay in Blackjack?
Hit or Stay?!
The game of Blackjack has often been debated as to whether it is a game of skill, guts or just pure luck. However, the answer is not so simple. At the risk of further compounding the issue, it’s pretty much all three. Whilst the player has no control over what cards come out (thus, it is partly a game of luck) there are also some informed and astute choices that a player can make in order to maximise their chances of winning, or minimising losses. There are also, of course, times when it’s a tight squeeze and it’s a case of who has the most confidence. So when, crucially, should a player ‘hit’ or ‘stay’?
Under 11? Hit!
If the player has a hand that totals 11 or less, the smart move is to always hit. Cards only run from one to ten, so at worst, you’ll get an ace (which can be either a 1, 10 or the player’s choice depending on what rules the casino is running) or another low card, or a high ace, 10 or suit card…all of which will count as ten, and thrust the player closer up to that crucial 21, or bang on in a perfect scenario. It should be noted that a ‘soft’ low number should be treated the same; a soft 13 is never going to be a popular choice, so consider it a 3, start back at the beginning and hit!
10, 11 or 12? It’s Tight…
This is where the game turns into a real gamble, and is simply a case of how daring the player is. Many strategists will suggest doubling down on 10 or 11, and this can result in a nice payout. However, from 12 onwards, it’s a little tougher; statistically there are more a similar amount of low cards to high cards, so a 12 is possibly one of the most frustrating points to be at when deciding whether to hit in Blackjack. We’ve all seen someone hit and then get a 22.
13 or to 16? Play safe!
A 13 or above is the point where any player is statistically more likely to tap out, and not by choice. When counting the 10 and suits, coupled with the fact the player already has a higher number, there is more chance of a bust. That’s not to say a player shouldn’t hit. The ability to hit in Blackjack at whatever point the player wants is the beauty of the game’s freedom. Some players actually love the thrill of ‘hitting’ or ‘twisting’ on a high hand, as the adrenalin rush is part of the fun.
17 or over? Stay! Please, Stay!
This is one of those common sense moves. Unless you’re one of the aforementioned thrill seekers who love the ‘heat’ of twisting on a high hand, there is no sensible move to be found in hitting with 17 or over. Firstly, dealers have to hit all the way up to 16, and stop at 17, so statistics are already on the player’s side. But the highest numbered card the player can get and stay in the game is a 4; this is the crucial point where the player really should be looking to just sit and enjoy what they have, safe in the knowledge that carrying on is foolish, and the house can take the heat instead.
There are also some other instances where a hit can lead to some smart moves. If the player has two low cards and has decided to split, then they’re back at square one with each hand and should follow the above rules for each of the two hands. Similarly, there are times with high numbered cards where a player should not be splitting at all. Ever seen a sensible player split a pair of nines or tens? Unless they want to double down on each hand and act like a big shot at the table, there’s no reason to hit and blow possibly one of the strongest hands at the table.
In summary, there really is no hard and fast rule. Blackjack appeals to those who love the thrill of blindly hitting as much as it does to strategists and number crunchers who can sit and tot up the possible options at the table. But for those of us who want to have a bit of fun, there are some common sense moves that mean we can all enjoy the game and maximise our chances of winning whilst still erring on the side of caution.
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