This article explains the card values in the game of blackjack, how to determine the total of a hand, and the difference between a hard and a soft hand. 

Table of Contents

Cards Used to Play Blackjack

Blackjack uses a conventional deck of 52-playing cards. Each deck contains the following cards and their corresponding point value.


Ace 1 or 11
2 2
3 3
4 4
5 5
6 6
7 7
8 8
9 9
10 10
Jack 10
Queen 10
King 10
  • All cards count their face value in blackjack.
  • Picture cards count as 10, and the ace can count as either 1 or 11.
  • You can count the ace as either 1 or 11 but it is always assumed that the ace counts as 11 unless it makes your hand total exceed 21, in which case the ace reverts to a value of 1. 
  • Card suits have no meaning in blackjack.
  • In a single deck of cards, 16 have a point value of 10 (30.7%). 
  • Your chances of drawing a card with a point value of 10 are greater than any other card in the deck.

Hand Total

The total of any hand is the sum of the point values of each card in the hand. For example:

4 + 5 = 9

J + Q = 20

10 + 6 = 16

5 + 9 + 7 = 21

Ace + 5 = 16

4 + Ace + K = 15


Blackjack Hand

When the point value of the initial two cards that are dealt to a player totals 21, this is known as a blackjack hand. The latter occurs when a player is dealt a card with a point value of 10 (e.g., 10, Jack, Queen, or King) and an ace.

10 + Ace = Blackjack

Queen + Ace = Blackjack

A player blackjack will beat a dealer hand that totals 21 in three or more cards. For example,

A + K (blackjack) beats a 9 + 2 + Q (21).

If you split a pair of aces and receive, say, a queen to one ace, and a jack to the other ace, both hands total 21, not blackjack. (That’s because the initial two cards in the hand were a pair of aces.)  

When your initial two-card hand contains an ace, you should always count the ace as 11. For example:

A + 5 = 16

3 + A = 14

Suppose in each of the above hands you drew another card and it was a picture card, giving you the following three-card hands. 

A + 5 + Q

3 + A + K

In both cases, the total point value of your hand would exceed 21 if you counted the ace as 11. Therefore, you would count the ace as 1 and the hands would total 16 and 14 respectively.

A + 5 + Q = 16
3 + A + K = 14

Dealer holding Cards

Picture Cards

As mentioned previously, all the picture cards in blackjack have the same point value of 10. Players are allowed to split any initial two-card hand when the point value of the two cards is the same. Therefore, you are allowed to split a hand consisting of not only two 10s, but also any picture card and a 10, or two different picture cards, such as:

Q + K

J + 10

K + K

Hand Terminology

In the game of blackjack, it’s not only the total of the hand that determines how you should play it but also the composition of the cards in the hand, especially when an ace is present.  For example, look at the following two hands that total 16.

10 + 6 = 16

Ace + 5 = 16

Even though the totals of the hands are the same, the blackjack basic playing strategy for the 10 + 6 is different than that of an A + 5. 

A hard hand is any hand that either does not contain an ace or, if it does, counts the ace as 1. For example, the following are all hard hands:

10 + 8 = hard 18

5 + A + K + 2 = hard 18

A soft hand is any hand that contains an ace that counts as 11. (You can never bust when you draw one card to a soft hand.)

A + 5 = soft 16

A + 3 + 4 = soft 18

3 + 2 + A + A = soft 17

Often a hand may start as a soft hand but upon drawing one or more cards, it will convert to a hard hand. For example, suppose the player’s initial two cards were an ace and 4, which is a soft 15. The player draws another card and receives an 8.  His hand converts to a hard 13.

A + 4 = soft 15

A + 4 + 8 = hard 13


  • The cards 2 through 10 count face value.
  • All face cards count 10.
  • The ace can count as 1 or 11.
  • The total of a hand is the sum of the point values of the cards in the hand.
  • A blackjack is any initial two-card hand that contains a 10-value card and an ace.
  • A blackjack hand beats an ordinary 21 hand of three cards or more.
  • You can split any two cards whose value is the same, including all 10-value cards.
  • A hard hand is any hand that does not contain an ace, or it does, the ace counts as 1.
  • A soft hand is any hand that contains an ace counted as 11.

Henry Tamburin is one of world’s most respected blackjack experts and a world-class player. He is the author of the Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide, and Blackjack: Take The Money and Run. He edited the monthly Blackjack Insider Newsletter, and was a featured blackjack columnist for Casino Player magazine, Midwest Gaming and Travel magazine, Gaming South magazine, Southern Gaming magazine, New England Gaming News, Jackpot, Bingo Bugle, and Casino City Times.