Using Borderline Hands as a Guide for Blackjack Strategy

August 8, 2014


If you're a player who is learning blackjack, then you know the importance of knowing which hands you should play one way and which hands you should play another. What happens a lot of the time is that there are borderline hands that could go either way if a small piece of the situation changes. Studying these borderline scenarios can help to really give you a feel for blackjack because you're looking at more difficult decisions instead of the run-of-the-mill simple ones that you run into all the time. Here we're going to look at some borderline hands and what you need to do to understand them.

Let's start with some basic examples. If you look at the hard hands you should double with, generally speaking you're going to have three sets of criteria for playing a nine, ten or eleven. A hard nine isn't very strong compared to tens or elevens, so you need a very weak dealer card to have the advantage. A two through six is considered weak, but a two is the strongest of those cards. Along those lines, you can't double against a two, but you can against the rest of the weak cards when you have a nine.

With a ten or eleven, you're going to have an advantage against all the weak cards, all the medium cards, and some of the strong cards. The tens and aces are strong cards for the dealer. You'll never double into an ace, but you will double into a ten if you're holding eleven because it's harder for the dealer to outdraw you on the first card to come. You're playing this situation based on getting a better total than the dealer more often than not on top of the chances of the dealer going bust.

Here's another fun borderline hand: playing a hard 16 against certain dealer hands. The hard 16 is the worst hand you can have, and playing it against strong dealer hands is a very losing proposition. In fact, it's such a losing scenario that you should actually surrender if you're facing a ten or an ace. However, against a nine, you are going to want to hit instead because it's not quite a bad enough spot to warrant voluntarily giving up half of your bet. You'll lose less than that, on average, by just hitting instead.