Most players know not to stand on a total of 10 or 11; however, knowing when to hit or double down seems to confound them. This article will give you tips on how to accurately play your 10 and 11 in Blackjack.
DIFFERENT WAYS TO GET A 10 AND 11
First, let’s look at the different ways you can be dealt a 10 or 11.
FOR A 10:
FOR AN 11:
When you are dealt a two-card 10, there are three viable playing options:
- Double down
- Split (in the case of 5-5)
With an initial hand that totals 11, the viable playing options are:
- Double down
Here is the optimal way to play each hand.
BASIC PLAYING STRATEGY FOR 10
When you are dealt a two-card hand that totals 10, regardless of the composition of the cards in your hand, or the number of decks of cards, or mix of playing rules, you should always:
Double Down if the dealer’s upcard is 9 or less
- Hit if the dealer’s upcard is 10 or Ace
- Never split a pair of 5s; play the hand as a 10
Sometimes you will have a 10 consisting of three (or more) cards. For example, suppose your initial two cards were a 3 and a 4, you hit and draw a 3, giving you a 10. Once you draw a third card, the double down option is no longer available; therefore, you should hit instead. Likewise, if the blackjack rules forbid doubling a 10, then you should also hit.
The following color-coded chart summarizes the strategy for playing a two-card 10 (including 5-5).
Note: In this article, the following abbreviations are used:
H = Hit
Dh = double down if permitted; otherwise hit
s17 = dealer must stand on soft 17
h17 = dealer must hit soft 17
As you can see, the playing strategy for a 10 is straightforward: always double down on dealer’s 9 or less, and hit against a dealer’s 10 or Ace upcard in all games.
BASIC PLAYING STRATEGY FOR 11
The basic playing strategy for a two-card hand that totals 11 depends upon the number of decks of cards being used and if the game is s17 or h17.
In a single-deck game, you should always double down an 11 against any dealer upcard.
Many players hesitate to double their bet on an 11 against a dealer’s strong Ace. But here are the facts. In a single-deck game with h17, you win fewer hands overall when you double down but you win twice as much as when you hit, making doubling the preferred strategy. (It's not how many hands you win or lose that’s important; it’s how much money you end up with. In the case of an 11 against a dealer’s A, after playing 100 hands at $1 bet per hand, you’ll win $16 on average by hitting but $24 by doubling down.)
DOUBLE-AND MULTI-DECK GAME WITH S17
In a double- and multi-deck game with s17, you should double down when the dealer’s upcard is 10 or less and hit when the dealer’s upcard is an Ace.
Note: Notice in a double-deck game with s17, you win slightly more by hitting against an dealer’s Ace compared to doubling (which wasn’t the case in the single-deck game).
DOUBLE- AND MULTI-DECK WITH H17
When the playing rules specify that the live blackjack dealer must hit soft 17 (h17), you should double down on 11 against all dealer upcards (including against an Ace). (This is the same strategy as in a single-deck game.)
The contributing factor for doubling against a dealer Ace is that when she must hit soft 17, she will bust 3.4 % more often (compared to standing on soft 17), which makes doubling down a better play over hitting.
COMPOSITION-DEPENDENT STRATEGY DOUBLE-DECK GAME (WITH S17)
For extra precision in a double-deck game with s17, you should hit your 11 against a dealer’s Ace when your 11 is composed of:
- 9 plus 2
- 8 plus 3
The logic for hitting is you have one card in each hand (the 8 and 9) that you would like to receive on a double-down draw. The fact that these cards were removed from the decks (they are in your hand) decreases the chances that you will get them on a double down draw. This makes hitting a slight favorite over doubling.
Sometimes you will have an 11 consisting of three (or more) cards. For example, suppose your initial two cards were a 2 and 4, you hit and draw a 5, giving you an 11. Once you draw a third card, the double down option is no longer available; therefore, according to the above Blackjack strategy chart you should hit. Likewise, if the playing rules forbid doubling an 11, then you should hit instead.
You will always win more or lose less if you follow the above optimal playing strategy for a 10 or 11.