Blackjack Hands 

Written by: Jeremy Olson, OUSC Online Casino and Games Expert

Learning about blackjack hands is essential because it helps you decide whether to hit, stand, or take other actions. Though all casino games have elements of chance, this one is a game of skill. When you learn basic strategy, you’ll increase your odds of winning.  

Each hand value calls for four strategies: hit, stand, split, or double down. The value of your hand changes the probability of getting a 21 or busting. Keep reading this blackjack hands guide to learn more about playing your cards right and increasing your odds of winning.

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What are Blackjack Hands?

blackjack rules intro

A blackjack hand consists of two or more cards the player receives from the dealer. Each round begins with the dealer distributing two cards to each player: the hole card (face-down) and the face card (face-up). Once the player sees their two cards, they decide whether to hit or stand. 

Hitting means you want a third card, and standing means you don’t want another card. Other decisions are available like splitting, doubling, and surrendering. However, the choice to hit or stand is fundamental to any blackjack hand. You can continue hitting until you bust. In twenty-one, you bust when your hand adds up to more than 21.  

Blackjack Hand Values

Before playing, players must learn the blackjack hand values. These are easy but are essential for strategy. All face cards have a value of 10, while the ten-card also counts as 10. Number cards have the value of the number on the card. Aces can count either as 1 or 11, which makes it a pivotal card when determining strategy. 

blackjack hand card values chart

Blackjajck Soft Hands

Blackjack Soft Hand

If a player holds an ace, the hand might be “soft” or “hard.” A soft hand is one where the ace is worth one. The value of the soft hand is that it can’t bust. If you receive a card that would make the hand worth more than 21, you can choose to make the ace worth 1 instead of 11. 

Blackjack Hard Hands

Blackjack Soft Hand

Most blackjack hands are hard hands. If you don’t hold an ace, then it’s a hard hand. If you’ve received a third card and the value is 12 or more, then the hand is hard. These hands have no room for error because they can bust on the next card. 

How to Play Soft Hands in Blackjack

Imagine that you’re dealt a hand, an ace, and a 5. As a soft hand, it can be worth either 6 or 16. You would hit the hand, hoping for another 5 (to equal 11). If you get a card between 6 and 10, then ace becomes a hard-11. For instance, if you received a 7, the hand would be worth 13 now (6+7). You’d want another hit, though you’d face the possibility of busting with the 4th card. 

Blackjack Hand Chart

A blackjack hand chart guides the move you should make with every potential combination of hands. One side of the chart shows the player’s hand value, while the other shows the dealer’s hand value.

The columns and rows intersect to show what you should do in each case: Hit, Stand, Double-Down, and Split. Charts usually are color-coded to make reading them more manageable, while initials often indicate the moves: H, S, D, SP. 

Basic Blackjack Strategy table

Blackjack Hand Signals Guide

Players use hand signals to the dealer which move they wish to make. In a noisy casino, these help communication and cut down on mistakes. Below are the blackjack hand signals you should learn, along with their meaning. If you forget these signals, ask the dealer for a reminder. It’s in their best interest that they understand your gestures. 

  • Hit

    Gently tap the table in front of you. It indicates you want another card.
  • Stand

    Wave your hand over your cards. It means you don’t want another card.
  • Double Down

    Pick up the correct amount of chips (the same as your bet) and place them on the table next to your original wager. These should be outside the betting box but next to it. Players double-down on their bet when their cards are good, and the dealer’s face-card looks weak.
  • Split

    If you receive a matching pair of cards, you have the option to split. It creates two hands, each with the same-sized bet matching the original wager. The dealer distributes a card apiece to each of the new hands. To indicate you want to split the pair, point with your fingers in a V sign to show you want to divide your hand instead of doubling down.
Blackjack Hand Signals Infographic

Blackjack Winning Hands

Players optimize their odds by increasing their bet size when they have an advantage. You should avoid doing so when you have a bad hand. Players can increase bets in two ways, doubling-down or splitting pairs. Much of the blackjack strategy involves spotting potential blackjack winning hands and taking advantage of your best chances to win.  

Best Hand in Blackjack

Blackjack Best Hand Icon

The best blackjack hand is a two-card 21, meaning an ace and a card with the value of 10. That means King, Queen, Jack, or Ten.

When you receive a two-card 21, it’s called a blackjack or a “natural blackjack.” This hand beats every other hand in the game. 

Worst Hand in Blackjack

Blackjack Worst Hand icon

The worst blackjack hand is 16. If you stand, you face high odds that the dealer will have a stronger hand. If you hit, you face high odds that you’ll bust.

This is why you should always split 8s – not because of the strength of a hand worth 8, but because you avoid the worst hand.

Best Hands to Split in Blackjack

Always split aces and 8s in blackjack. Roughly one-third of all cards in a deck has a value of 10. If you split aces, this means you have two excellent chances at a 21. Also, since 16 is a lousy hand, you split the 8s to give yourself two opportunities to improve on 16. 18s aren’t perfect, but they win more hands than 16s will. 

Finally, while splitting other numbers depends on the dealer’s up-card, you should never split tens, fours, or fives. Two tens are a good hand, two fives equal ten, and two fours equal eight, so these have better chances of winning than most other hands. 

Best Hands to Split in Blackjack

Odds of Winning a Blackjack Hand

Blackjack Payouts and Odds Chip Stack Percentage Icon

The probability of winning a hand in blackjack is 42.22% while losing is 49.10%. The likelihood of a tie is 8.48%. In most versions of blackjack, the house edge derives from the fact that the dealer goes after the player.

Therefore, the player has a chance to bust before the dealer ever has to make a move, or before they have the possibility of busting.

Try Your Hand at Blackjack Today!

Of all casino games, blackjack has the best odds, usually with a house edge of 1% or less. Players must learn the basics if they want those great odds. Understanding the blackjack hand values gives you a better understanding of the game. Hand charts, on the other hand, help you visualize and memorize the basic strategy. 

Before playing, you should know the blackjack hand gestures to make betting more straightforward. Learning a few simple gestures cuts down on confusion and makes the game run smoother. Whether you’re about to play online or with real-life dealers, refer back to this blackjack hand guide to refresh your memory.

FAQ – Blackjack Hands

The following queries are some of the most common questions we receive about blackjack hands.

What is the highest hand in blackjack?

The highest hand in blackjack is a two-card 21, also called a “natural blackjack.” This can look like an ace and a ten, jack, queen, or king.

What is the probability of winning a blackjack hand?

The probability of winning a blackjack hand is 42.22% when using an optimal playing strategy. Blackjack has some of the best odds with a house edge of just 1% or less.

Jeremy Olson

Jeremy Olson OUSC Online Casino and Games Expert

Jeremy Olson started in the gambling world by taking beatings in blackjack and poker. That was almost 20 years ago. Ever since then, he became obsessed with becoming a better gambler. That pursuit led him to write. He mainly focuses on his stronger areas of expertise, table games strategy, online casino reviews, and online casino bonuses.

Learn More About Jeremy