Page 12 - Jackpot Magazine Tunica ~ January, 2022
P. 12

Hard hands aren’t always difficult to play
 “I like to play blackjack. I’m not addicted to gambling. I’m addicted to sitting in a semi-circle.”
— Mitch Hedberg
Henry Tamburin is the author of many best-selling books on gambling, including Blackjack: Take the Money and Run. He was also a longtime contributor to Jackpot! Tamburin wrote about more than just how to play the various casino games; he focused on playing strategies that would help players learn more and then, hopefully, win more.
One of columns focused on what to do with those hard hands in blackjack. And by “hard hand,” he didn’t just mean a difficult hand. Blackjack hands are often referred to as being “hard” or “soft,” and knowing the difference between the two could mean the difference between winning and losing.
known as a “pat” hand
because you would stand
pat and not take a hit. A
pat hand also wins when
the dealer busts but it
could also win or push depending upon the outcome of the dealer’s hand.
I’ll focus on the standing and hitting strategy for hard hands, which I’ve group them into three categories.
Hard 17 through 21
You should always stand on 17 through 21 regardless of what the dealer shows (this assumes the playing rules do not allow surrender). The reason is you have a strong hand and most of the time you
Hard 12
You should stand on hard 12 when the dealer shows a 4-6 upcard and hit if she shows a 2 or
3 or a 7 though ace. Take note that many players won’t hit their 12 against a dealer’s 2 or 3 because they are afraid to bust. Unfortunately, that is a mistake; the best play is to hit even though you are the underdog. Are you still not convinced? Then look at these percentages.
If you stand, you win 35 percent of the time and lose 65 percent.
If you hit, you win 37 percent of the time and lose 63 percent.
Regardless if you hit or stand on your 12 against a 2, you are a big underdog because you stand to lose more hands than you will win. However, if you look carefully at the percentages, hitting wins you 2 percent more times than standing will. Therefore, you hit 12 vs. 2 because in the long run you will lose less money than standing. (Losing less money is an important strategy in blackjack for those hands that you are the underdog.)
Some casinos allow players to surrender their hands. This means forfeiting half your wager in exchange for the right to play your initial two-card hand. Generally, you should surrender only hands when the house edge against you is greater than 50 percent. This means you should surrender the following hands in a six- or eight-deck game:
Hard 16 (but not 8-8) against a dealer 9, 10 or ace upcard
Hard 15 against dealer 10 upcard.
(Note: The above strategy assumes that the casino allows late surrender.)
Do you have a question on the best way to play to win? Email this magazine at jackpotmagazine@
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    Let’s see what Tamburin had to say in this past column he wrote about blackjack strategies for hitting hard hands. Regardless
of when it was written, the information in it remains true today.
A hard hand in blackjack is any
hand that either doesn’t contain an ace, or if the ace is present, it counts as 1. Here are some examples of hard hands, with the ace counted as one:
5-8 (hard 13), 10-6 (hard 16), 10-6-ace (hard 17) and ace-7-10 (hard 18)
A soft hand is any hand that contains an ace counted as 11:
Ace-6 (soft 17), ace-2-3 (soft 16) and 5-2- ace (soft 18)
Generally, hard hands from 12 through 16 are also known as “stiff” hands because the hand could break with a one-card draw (e.g., 10-4 is a hard 14 that could break if you drew an 8 through 10). The only way you can win when you stand on a stiff is the dealer must bust. This will occur roughly 28 percent of the time.
A hard hand that totals 17 or higher is
and hit if the dealer shows a 7 though ace. The reason you stand on these stiff hands when the dealer shows a small upcard is due to the double-bust rule. This means that if a player busts and the dealer busts in the same round, the player still loses.
Therefore, even though you are an underdog when you hold these stiff hands, you are less of an underdog when you stand (and hope the dealer busts) rather than hitting (and risk busting).
are the favorite so don’t mess with a potential winner. A 17 is an anomaly; against a dealer’s 6 upcard you are the favorite but against any other dealer’s upcard you are the underdog. So why do we stand? Because your chances of busting if you were hit 17 are too great so the better play is to stand (even though you
are still an underdog).
Hard 13 through 16
You should stand on your stiff 13 through 16 hands if the dealer’s upcard is 2 through 6,
  12 JACKPOT! MAGAZINE January 2022

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