What’s the worst hand you can find yourself with in blackjack? There are a few contenders, but regular players would say that the dreaded 16 is the most common difficult hand, especially if you’re facing a strong play from the dealer.
The first thing to acknowledge with a 16 is that you’re probably going to lose. The key is to have a consistent strategy when faced with this hand that will reduce your overall losses in the long term. Yes, when you have a 16 hand, you’ll lose more often than you win, but by swinging the odds slightly more in your favor you can cut your losses over time. Here’s how.
Why is 16 such a bad hand?
The trouble with 16 is that it’s neither one thing nor the other. If you hit, you’ve got a good chance of going bust, but if you stand, you’re fairly likely to get beaten by a better hand. If you’ve got two eights, you could split your hand, but then you risk losing two bets rather than just one. Whether you’re playing with friends or enjoying an NJ online casino, it’s a frustrating position to find yourself in.
A hard choice
If you have a hard 16 (a hand adding up to 16 where the ace counts as one, or you don’t have an ace at all), then the best choices are as follows. If the dealer has a small card (i.e. a six or lower) then stand. You’re gambling that they may not be able to get enough extra cards to go over 16 without going bust. If the dealer has a seven or higher, then hit. Your chances of winning are still slim, but if you follow this strategy every time you have a 16, you’ll reduce your losses in the long run.
If you have a hard 16 consisting of three or more small cards and the dealer shows a ten, you should stand. The reason is that there are fewer small cards left in the pack, and if you hit, you need a five or lower to avoid going bust, so the odds are very much against you.
If the casino lets you surrender, then this is almost always the best option with a hard 16 against a nine, ten or an ace. Yes, it sticks in the craw to go down without a fight, but the odds are so much against you that it’s better to lose half your bet automatically than to lose all your bet most times. Again, this will save you money in the long term as you just won’t win a hand with a 16 often enough to make playing it worthwhile.
With a soft 16, where you count an ace as 11, always hit. If your dealer has a six or smaller, then you should double down. If you have two eights, split your hand. This gives you two reasonably strong hands as well as two bets at risk. Do this even if the dealer has a nine, ten or an ace, as although you’re still in a losing position, your chances are slightly improved by splitting, and you’ll lose less this way in the long term. Splitting is marginally better than surrendering.
16 is undoubtedly a poor hand but you’ll find it comes up fairly often, so you’d better get used to it. By following the strategies above, you’ll minimize your losses and will hopefully have a better hand in the next round.