Essential Blackjack Card Values to Know

Blackjack Card Values

Blackjack may seem straightforward, but understanding card values is key to optimizing your chances at winning. In this section of our online blackjack guide, we discuss the importance of starting hands, from the best to the worst.

Understanding Card Values

Knowing how to calculate hand values in blackjack is straightforward, so there’s no need to worry. The first step is understanding how different cards are scored. While some values are obvious, others require a bit more attention. Reading up on essential blackjack strategy is highly recommended.

Numbered cards are easy: their value matches their number. A three card is worth three points, and a nine card is worth nine points. In a standard deck, you’ll find 36 numbered cards, ranging from 2-10 across four suits.

Face cards—jack, queen, king—all have a value of ten. In a single deck, there are 12 face cards, representing four suits.

The ace is unique, offering two possible values: either1 or 11. The player often has the flexibility to choose the value of an ace, making it crucial in Soft Hand totals, which we’ll discuss later. Each deck contains four aces.

It’s worth mentioning that in blackjack, the suit of a card doesn’t impact the hand’s total value.

Player’s Objective in Blackjack

The goal in blackjack is simple: beat the dealer. You can do this by either hitting a score of 21 or by the dealer exceeding 21, known as busting. A score of 21 can be achieved right off the bat with an Ace and a 10-point card, commonly referred to as a blackjack. If you bust, you lose automatically.

Achieving a Score of 21

Hitting 21 is possible through various card combinations. The ideal scenario is to have an Ace and a 10-point card in your initial two-card hand. You can’t exceed 21 with your first two cards, but you can reach 21 precisely with this combination.

Playing Against the Dealer

If you don’t land a blackjack with your opening hand, your next aim is to outscore the dealer without busting. To improve your hand, you can request additional cards, known as hitting. Every new card adds to your total, so you’ll need to balance the risk of busting against the potential reward of a higher score. If you decide not to take more cards, you can stand.

Worst-Case Scenario

The least favorable hand you can have totals 16 points. With this hand, your chances of busting are high if you opt to hit for another card.

Splitting Cards

If your initial two cards are of the same value, you have the option to split them into two separate hands. This move requires an extra bet but can improve your odds, particularly with a pair of eights.

Dealer’s Role and Advantage

At the start of a blackjack round, players receive two cards. The dealer may have one card facing up and another facing down, or just one card facing up. This partial information hints at the dealer’s potential total. After players make their decisions, the dealer reveals any hidden cards and plays based on set rules. The dealer must hit until reaching at least 17 and then stand. You can win by either outscoring the dealer or if the dealer busts.

Dealer’s Ace Use

If the dealer has an Ace, it counts as 11 points if that total exceeds 17.

Odds and House Edge

The house advantage in blackjack varies between 0.25% and 2% depending on game rules. In practical terms, a flawless player might expect to retain $98 from an initial $100 bet. However, the game’s random nature means you could either win more or lose more based on your luck and strategy.

Card Values in Blackjack

The suite of the card has zero value, for example a 2 of Clubs has the same value as a 2 of Hearts.

Card ValueCard Symbols
22 of Clubs
33 of Clubs
44 of Clubs
55 of Clubs
66 of Clubs
77 of Clubs
88 of Clubs
99 of Clubs
1010 of Clubs, Jack of Clubs, Queen of Clubs, King of Clubs
1 or 11Ace of Clubs

Soft Hands in Blackjack

A soft hand has an Ace that can count as either 1 or 11 points. Examples of soft hands include a combination of an Ace with a four, an Ace with a nine, or an Ace, a four, and a three. Soft hands give players an edge because they can’t bust on the next hit. But hitting isn’t always wise. For instance, an Ace and a nine make 20, which is generally a score you’d want to stand on.

For decisions on soft hands, refer to a basic blackjack strategy chart for the best long-term results. More on this will be discussed in the next chapter.

Hard Hands in Blackjack

A hard hand is one where the Ace can only count as 1 point, or a hand with no Ace at all. Examples include a combination of an Ace, a five, and an eight or a ten and a seven. Hard hands are less flexible. Often, these hands started soft but turned hard when the total exceeded 10. This happens because counting an Ace as 11 would make the total go over 21, resulting in a bust. Therefore, the Ace has to count as 1 point.

To further strengthen your general knowledge of blackjack, we recommend reading up on some basic blackjack history.

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