The Best and Worst of Blackjack – Hands, Side Bets, Splits, & More

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Knowing the best blackjack hands, side bets, splits, and so on is the best way to set yourself up for success in one of the most rewarding and strategic casino games available. By that same logic, knowing the worst of blackjack is the only way to avoid the game’s classic pitfalls. We’ve compiled a list of the best and the worst hands, side bets, splits, and more to help you hone in on the best of blackjack.

Read on to understand why it’s the most popular table game at real money online casinos.

Best & Worst Starting Cards in Blackjack

Best Starting Card in Blackjack

The best starting card in blackjack is an Ace. An Ace is valuable for many reasons, primarily due to its potential to create a natural blackjack (an automatic win that often features a higher payout), as well as its flexibility (Aces can act as a 1 or 11). It should go without saying that receiving a 10-value card is perhaps the second-best starting card in blackjack, as it also creates potential for a natural blackjack.

Worst Starting Card in Blackjack

The worst starting card in blackjack is the 5 card. No other card has so few possible good outcomes. For example, a 6 card could lead to receiving two 6’s for a split (depending on the dealer’s card), whereas a player never splits 5’s. However, a player does double down against a hard 10 against any dealer cards except 10 and Ace, so two five is a great starting hand. A soft 16 (a 5 and Ace) is also only good for the double-down against a dealer’s 4, 5, or 6, which is very few compared to most other soft hands.

Best & Worst Blackjack Hands

Best Hand in Blackjack

The best hand in blackjack is, you guessed it, blackjack! The blackjack hand consists of an Ace and a 10-value card. It results in an automatic win (unless the dealer also gets blackjack, in which case it counts as a tie, and you receive your bet back). In addition, winning with a blackjack hand features a higher payout than winning with a regular hand, making it even more coveted.

Worst Hand in Blackjack

The worst hand in blackjack is a hard 16. For the best odds, players have to hit against any dealer card over 6, which is the same for several other hands. But the hard 16 has the fewest possible good cards after a hit: 2, 3, 4, or 5. Anything more, and the player busts, while an Ace creates 17, which has the lowest likelihood of beating the dealer.

Times to Hit

Best Time To Hit

Generally, the lower your hand, the better it is to hit. If your hand is 9 or under, you should almost always hit. If your hand totals between 12 and 16, you should only hit if the dealer’s card is 7 or higher. As we’ll cover below, if your hand is a hard 17 or better, you should never hit. Of course, this is a simple understanding of options and doesn’t take into account moves like doubling down or splitting.

Worst Time To Hit

The worst time to hit in blackjack is on a hard 17 or better. Even against a dealer’s 10 or Ace, a player should never hit on a hard 17, 18, 19, or 20. Of course, you can’t hit on a hard 21; you’d already have won (or tied if the dealer also has 21).

Best & Worst Cards to Split

Best Cards to Split

The best cards to split in blackjack are Aces and 8s. If the option exists, these cards should be split regardless of what card the dealer is showing. In the case of Aces, splitting gives you two chances to get a 10-value card and complete a blackjack. Then, 8s should be split as well because together, they are weak, sitting at the border between hitting and standing. However, when split, they give you the opportunity to create stronger hands.

Worst Cards to Split

Players should never split 5s or 10s. The reason is that two 10s give you the second-best hand in blackjack. Splitting it would be sacrificing it for a low chance of getting two more second-best hands. And a pair of 5s should be used to double down against all dealer cards except 10 and Ace.

Best & Worst Moves in Blackjack

Best Move in Blackjack

The best move in blackjack is to simply follow strategy. This includes following the advice on this page, as well as following a blackjack strategy chart if you don’t have the ideal moves memorized. The best thing you can do for yourself is to stick with the tips and strategies you know. Veering off course is a quick way to lose.

Worst Move in Blackjack

The worst move in blackjack is taking insurance. Players should never take insurance against a dealer’s Ace. According to mathematically perfect odds, you are always better off refusing insurance. Even if the dealer has a blackjack here and there, in the long run, players will lose the insurance bet more often than not.

Best & Worst Side Bets in Blackjack

Best Blackjack Side Bets

In general, side bets will increase the house edge and should be avoided. However, if you are looking for the potential to win big, you might consider side bets. With that in mind, the best blackjack side bet is Perfect Pairs, which offers the potential to win 1,000 to 1 or a progressive jackpot. If you’re going to lose more often than you win, you might as well go big.

Worst Blackjack Side Bets

The worst blackjack side bet is the 21+3, which offers an extremely high house edge along with relatively low win potential. Odds-wise, that’s an unappealing combination.

Best & Worst Versions of Blackjack

Best Version of Blackjack

The best version of blackjack to play, if you can find it, is single-deck blackjack. Because it consists of just one deck of 52 cards, it offers the best odds when following the correct strategy. Aside from that, players should look for a version of blackjack that features the most player-friendly rules. These include dealers standing on soft 17, blackjack pays 2:1, and double down allowed at any time.

Worst Version of Blackjack

The worst version of blackjack is one that contains the least player-friendly rules. This includes variations that allow the dealer to hit on a soft 17, games that feature mandatory antes, and games that feature mandatory side bets. Try to avoid these if at all possible, and search for the best versions of blackjack we covered above instead.

More Blackjack Guides

About the Author

Craig Corbeels

Craig Corbeels

Craig Corbeels is a lead writer and gambling expert for Bonus.com. He has been involved in the online gambling industry since 2013. Previously, he worked for Gamesys and Bally's Interactive as a copywriter and social media strategist for multiple North American online casinos.
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