Gambling Tips > Blackjack

A Detailed Look at Blackjack Hands

By Henry Tamburin


Have you ever thought about how many different hands you get when you play blackjack, and how frequently you get them? What about the win rates for these hands, specifically, which hands generate a profit and which hands result in a loss? Allow me to explain.

 

You can be dealt 34 different hands at the start of a round. They are hard hands of 5 through 19; soft hands of A-2 through A-10; and a pair of Aces through Tens.

 

The percentage of times that you will be dealt these 34 hands varies dramatically. Fortunately, the most common hand for players is a pair of 10s because there are more tens than any other card rank (a pair of 10s include Jacks, Queens, and Kings). You’ll be dealt a pair of 10s about 9.2% of the time.

 

The second most frequent hand ... and you may be surprised at this ... is 12 and 13 (you’ll get these roughly 8.1% of the time). The next most frequent grouping of hands is the hard 14, 15, and 16 (7% frequency for 14 and 15, and 6% for the 15 and 16). Do you know why these stiff hands (12 though 16) have high frequencies and, therefore, are common hands that we often must agonizing over? This is because there are many combinations of cards that can result in a total of 12 through 16.

 

Happily, a blackjack hand is a common hand that occurs about 4.7% of the time due to the large number of tens in a deck of cards. On the other hand, pairs occur less frequently (less than 1% of the time except for the pair 10s). Ditto for soft hands (1.1%). If you ranked the 34 hands from most frequent to less frequent, this is what you’d get with the pair of 10s being the most frequent hand:

 

Hand Frequency

10s

Stiff 12-16

A-10, 11, hard 18 and 19

Hard 7-10

A-2 through A-9, hard 5 and 6

Pair Aces and 9s

 

Knowing the frequency of each hand is only one part of the equation. The other is the advantage, or average gain or loss, we can expect for each hand.

 

The hand with the greatest advantage is not too surprisingly a blackjack hand (that pays 3-2). Your advantage is almost 150%. The next best hand is a 20 comprised of either a 10-10 or Ace-9 (almost a 60% advantage) followed by hard 19 and 11 (roughly 23% advantage). Pairs from 2s through 9s and soft hands are not very good hands (negative advantage) and, as you would expect, the worst hands are the stiff 12 through 16 (negative 30-40% advantage). Many players are happy with a hard 17. However, a hard 17 has nearly a negative 30% advantage because you win only 29% of the time and push 13%.

 

The following charts summarize the hands with the greatest player advantage followed by the hands where the player is at a disadvantage.  

 

Two Card Hands – Player Advantage

A-10

A-9 and 10-10

11

A-A

11-11

19

5-5

9-9

A-7

 

 

Two Card Hands – Player Disadvantage

Hard 12-17

Hard 5-9

2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8

A-2 through A-6

 

The last bit of information that you might find useful is which first two card hands have the greatest win rate (where win rate is the frequency of each hand multiplied by its advantage).

 

Win rate is how much money we win or lose for each hand. There are eleven hands that we make money and not too surprisingly the A-10, 10-10, 11, and 19 rank as the most profitable hands for players.

 

Here are the eleven most profitable hands ranked highest to lowest:

 

 

Two Card Hands – Most Profitable

A-10

10-10

11

19

10

A-9

A-8

A-A

5-5

9-9

A-7

 

The hands where we experience the greatest losses include, not surprisingly, the stiff hands from 12 through 16, the 5, 6, and 7 hard hands, soft hands A-2 through A-6, and the following pairs: 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 6-6, 7-7, and 8-8. The other hand which is a loser (and this may surprise you) is a hard 17 and hard 18. Many players believe 17 and 18 are good hands; however, if you were dealt a hard 17 and 18 on every hand for the rest of your life, you would die a loser.

 

If I were a blackjack player, at the minimum, I’d know how to play the top 10 most profitable hands, the ones that generate the most profit when you play blackjack. If you screw up playing these hands, you will blow your chances of possibility walking away from the tables with a profit.  

 

Note: The above data is for a six-deck game. A single-deck game has much different stats. If you want to review the data for the single deck game, visit “What are the Good Blackjack Hands” page on www.blackjackincolor.com.