Best and Worst Starting Hands in Blackjack

Blackjack, Cards, Table, Chips, Money

Ever wondered what the best and worst hands in blackjack are? I show you in this post, and better yet, I tell you what to do when you get them to ensure the best possible outcome.

As you’ll see, in some cases, the best thing you can do is … nothing. In others, you’ll want to bet more aggressively or take the risk and hit. Let’s look at the best blackjack hands first and take it from there!

The Best Blackjack Hands to Start With

Let’s begin by looking at some of the best blackjack hands. If you get these, Lady Luck is in the room, and depending on what you’re allowed to do (e.g., doubling down), it can be smart to be more aggressive. I give you my best tips on what to do when you get these great blackjack hands.

Natural Blackjack (21)

The best blackjack hand possible to get natural blackjack straight out of the blocks. If you don’t know already, natural blackjack is an Ace + 10 or a face card.

A natural blackjack is the best possible hand that automatically wins in most games (unless the dealer also gets it), and it usually pays 3:2.

You couldn’t ask for a better blackjack hand than a natural 21. If you get it, don’t do anything other than play it – the possibility of the dealer having it as well is extremely slim.

Hard 20

Hard 20 is the best blackjack hand you can hope for, aside from natural 21. It’s hard because it’s a 10+10 or two face cards. The only hand that can beat this is a dealer’s blackjack, which is unlikely.

What should you do with a hard 20 blackjack hand? Play it like it is (stand). Most people are likely to split instead, but that’s a mistake unless you’re card counting.

Soft 20

Remember how I said hard 20 is two face cards or two tens? Well, soft 20, by contrast, is an Ace and a nine.

What’s the difference? The ace can act as 1, so if you hit and get anything more than the 2 required to make 21, the ace acts as 1 since that’s what is most beneficial.

With that said, I still recommend standing when you get soft 20. The odds are already in your favor, and you’ll probably win anyway. Why risk it when you’re already almost home?

11 (any combination)

While numerically lower than a hand worth 19, 18, or 17, which are also considered good blackjack hands, one worth 11 has big advantages.

In this case, I’d hit and have a shot at getting either a face card or 10 to make blackjack. However, I’d double down (if allowed) first. This means you double your wager in exchange for another card. Since the odds of getting a high hand here are high and going bust is impossible, it’s worth the risk.

Note that doubling down is entirely optional. If you like low-risk casino bankroll management strategies, that’s fine. I’m a greedy and aggressive player, and when I see an opportunity, I usually seize it. You don’t have to, though.

The Worst Blackjack Hands to Start With

Now, let’s consider some of the worst blackjack hands. These put you in a tough position, and it can be difficult to decide what to do. Nonetheless, I give you my best advice on what to do if you get them.

Hard 16

Hard 16 is any combination excluding an Ace. For example, you might have two eights.

This is considered THE worst hand in blackjack because it leaves you trapped between a rock and a hard place. If you hit, the risk of going bust is quite high, but if you don’t, it’s not a great hand, and the dealer stands a good chance of beating you.

So, what should you do? I would decide based on what the dealer has. If they have a hand worth two through six, I’d stand and hope they go bust. If they have a seven or higher, I’m probably beat. There’s no ideal solution here; you just have to make a decision and hope it works out.

Hard 15

By now, you should intuitively know what hard 15 means; any combination of cards totaling 15, excluding an Ace.

In some ways, this is slightly better than a hard 16, as your chance of going bust if you hit is less. If you stand, you have the same chance of winning as if you had hard 16 because you need the dealer to exceed 21.

What should you do if you have hard 15? Again, it depends on what the dealer has. I’d stand and hope they bust if they have two through six. However, anything higher than that, and I’d hit because I’m probably behind anyway.

Once again, there’s no perfect solution here – that’s why it’s one of the worst hands in blackjack!

Soft 17

An ace and a six is one of the worst blackjack hands you could possibly get. It’s not quite as bad as the others mentioned above, as the ace gives some flexibility. However, it can be tough to know what to do next.

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Remember I said the ace is flexible? It's impossible to bust on a one-card hit when you have soft 17, so I'd usually go for it. It's not a super strong hand, so it's also risky to stand, and there's little to lose by hitting.

As I said, this isn’t the absolute worst blackjack hand, but it’s a tricky one. I’d hit and hope for the best.

More Blackjack Tips

Now you know the best and worst blackjack hands and what to do with them. You’ll always have to make your own decision, but hopefully, the pointers I have given you will make it easier to decide.

Speaking of pointers, here are some more useful blackjack blog posts and pages to read before you play. These can help you win more frequently or at least avoid making costly mistakes.

  • A basic blackjack strategy is essential if you want to maximize your chances of winning. Take an hour or so to learn it, and it’ll stand you in good stead for years to come.
  • Reading the best books about blackjack, often written by legendary players, can’t hurt, either. They’ll cost you a few bucks to buy, but the information contained in them could make you much more than that.
  • One of the best things you can do when playing 21 at home is use blackjack strategy charts. These charts are tried-and-tested and can tell you what to do in different scenarios.

Of course, all the blackjack tips in the world are worthless if you play at rigged casinos. You need to play at the top blackjack sites with trusted operators, fast payouts, and fair games

Gavin Lucas
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About Gavin Lucas
Hi! I’m Gavin Lucas, a gambling enthusiast with a particular love for video slots and live casino games. I have been writing about gambling online since 2015, and am always keen to try new games as soon as they’re released. Other than gambling, I’m obsessed with technology and I've written numerous articles for CoinGeek on the topic. I’m fascinated by how online gambling will be changed by blockchain technology, micropayments, and the Metaverse. Having tested several blockchain casinos already, I believe I can see what casinos will look like 10 years from now, and I enjoy sharing that vision with others.