How to Know When to Hit or Stand in a Blackjack Game

Portrait of a croupier holding playing cards, gambling chips on table

Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games, and has been made famous by movies such as Rain Man, The Hangover, 21 and Casino. The premise of the game is simple. You – and anyone else present at the table, real or virtual – get dealt two cards, and so does the dealer. The goal is to get as close as possible to a score of 21, and beat the dealer.

When to hit or stay in blackjack

Once you get dealt your first two cards, you need to decide if you are going to “hit” or “stand,” sometimes also referred to as “stay.” To stand simply means you’re satisfied with the cards that you’ve been dealt, and do not want any additional draw cards. To hit means you want to draw another card (or more), to try and improve your hand.

The decision you make all comes down to knowing the value of each card in your hand, and understanding general blackjack rules. Cards with numbers on them provide that specific number value, but face cards, such as jack, queen and king, are worth 10 points (as well as the 10s themselves, of course.) An ace can be worth 1 or 10 points, depending on which is better for your hand (i.e. which number can help you get closer to 21.)

Knowing when to hit or stand in the game is not only an important part of actually being able to play blackjack, it can also reduce the house edge by half, which makes it one of the best casino games to play if you’re looking for good betting odds. This is also true for knowing when to split or double down in the game (which we’ll discuss further on.)

At an online casino, players can action this by clicking either the “hit” or “stand” button on their screens. Meanwhile, players at a brick-and-mortar casino can use different hand signals to let the dealer know what they want to do. Once the signaling is done, that means your hand is complete for that round. Players are allowed to hit on any hand that totals 21 or less, but of course it’s not advisable to do so on anything too close to 21 (see our “When to stand” section further down) because – in the event that your hand exceeds 21 – you’ll have “busted” and will automatically lose your bet.

Blackjack: When to hit

 Player holding blackjack playing cards, chips on table

If your hand has a total of 8, it only makes sense that you hit. This is because the chances of you making a good hand are high, with so many 10-value cards in the deck. It is also wise to hit if the dealer has a relatively higher-value card in their hand such as a 7, 8 or 9, because they are likely to make 21, and the main aim of the game is to beat the dealer’s hand.

While it’s not advised, some players choose to hit when they have a hand total of 12 or 13 and the dealer has a lower card. That hand is very unlikely to win but it just might, depending on what card you’ll draw next.

Quick Tips:

  • Hit if you have an 11 and the dealer has an ace
  • Hit if you have a 10 and the dealer’s face-up card is also 10 or an ace
  • Hit if you have a 9 and the dealer shows a 2, or 7 through ace
  • Always hit on 5, 6, 7 and 8.

Blackjack: When to stand

If your hand totals 17, 18, 19 or 20, then you should stand, no matter what. This is because you have a pretty good chance of going bust as your next card is likely to make your hand go over 21. Some hands, such as 10-10 or 9-9, can be split into two new good hands (as we mention below.)

It’s also important to know the difference between “soft” and “hard” hands. Hands that contain an ace, which counts as 1 or 11, are called soft hands, because they are malleable and can change depending on what you need; while hands made up of the other cards are called hard hands. Your decision to stand will also be based on which group your hand total falls into.

For instance, you should stand if the dealer’s face-up card is a 6 or below and you have a hard 16 (say consisting of a 7 and 9). Hit if the dealer shows a 2, or double down on cards 3 through 6 if you have an ace, 2, 3, 4 or 5.

You can also make a strong hand with soft cards if you draw a high-value card.

Quick Tips:

  • Always stand if you have 17-21
  • Stand if you have 13-16 and the dealer shows a 2 through 6.
  • Stand if you have a 12 and the dealer has a 4, 5 or 6.

What does ‘split’ mean in blackjack?

There are also some other betting options available to you during the game. If you get two cards of equal value, you can choose to “split,” which is simply splitting this pair of cards into two hands. You’ll then be dealt an additional card for each of these hands. Or, you can choose to “double down,” which means doubling your bet, taking an extra card and then having to “‘stand.”

Blackjack hit or stand chart

Croupier behind gambling table in a casino

The blackjack strategy chart is there to help guide you as to what to do in every situation when playing the game. (You can easily find various versions by searching online.) Also sometimes referred to as a “blackjack hit table,” it has a simple format, showing both the dealer and player’s possible hands, and what action you should ideally consider taking for each combination. You can use the table to scan for the dealer’s card (you only see one of them during play – the other is revealed at the end, when everything shakes out and winning bets are paid up) and look through the corresponding columns for your combination to see what to do. The strategy chart is based on probability theory, which does not guarantee you a win, but at least points you in the right direction to help you improve your odds.

You can also make use of other strategies to win, and calculators to help you check probabilities. However, remember that certain strategies such as card counting are frowned upon and can even have you banned from a land-based casino. This technique does not work online, though, as cards are shuffled on every round using an automated shoe that’s governed by random number generator (RNG) software.

Blackjack variations

Overall, blackjack rules are very simple to follow. However, there might be slight differences depending on the variation you choose to play.

It is also important to note that some variations, such as Atlantic City and European blackjack, may have different side bets or progressive jackpots which can alter the hit and stand betting system. If so, you may have an option to “surrender”, should you want to give up your hand early. This special option returns 50% of your bet, so it helps you cut your losses if you get a dud hand.  

FAQs

We’ve covered all of the basics above, but to focus on some more specific queries, here are some frequently asked questions and answers about this pacy card game. At the very least, these will help to clarify what not to do in blackjack!

When not to hit in blackjack

Okay, so let’s start with the question, “When should you not hit in blackjack?” Well, this depends on many factors, but there are certain tactics you can use that can help to increase your odds of winning (although there are no guarantees.)

Generally, one of the first guidelines that are given is that you should not hit if your hand totals 17 or above. This is because you’ll risk going over 21, meaning you will bust, and your winnings will be forfeited.

Should I hit or stand on 16?

If your card hand totals 16, you should stand if the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6.

Do you hit on 12?

No, if you have a card hand that totals 12, you should stand if the dealer has a 4, 5 or 6.

Should I hit on 13?

No, if you have a card hand that totals 13, you should stand if the dealer shows a 2 through 6.

Do you hit 13 against a 2?

No, stand if the dealer’s face-up card is a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6.

Do you always double down on 11?

A good strategy is to double down if your card hands total 11, and the dealer is showing a card that is lower than 10.

Put our blackjack strategy tips into practice at Borgata Online

Knowing when to hit or stand is key if you want to play blackjack successfully. The strategy chart makes it even easier to decide for every hand in this fast-paced table game, and although it doesn’t guarantee you a win, it does help improve your chances of winning. Sometimes the choice is pretty obvious and you just need to follow your instinct. 

So, why not come to Borgata Online and learn some more by playing some of the live casino online games available at our online casino? You can try out some simple blackjack strategy on our demo games or play for real money! We also have many other types of online casino games for you to explore when you register at Borgata Online.