When a dealer shows a 10 upcard at online or live blackjack, she or he is in the driver’s seat because they have a 77% chance of getting to a final hand that totals 17 through 21 and only a 23% chance of busting. A ten, therefore, is a very strong dealer upcard. This means we have to be more aggressive when we are a dealt a stiff hand (hit rather than stand) and less aggressive when we are dealt a two-card soft hand (hit rather than double down). We also should surrender several hands even when it results in forfeiting half our bet. What follows is the accurate blackjack strategy for any hand when the dealer shows a ten upcard. 

Fortunately for players, the playing strategy against a dealer’s ten upcard is nearly the same for any number of decks of cards or mix of playing rules, with only a few exceptions discussed below.

Notations used in this article:
S17 = Dealer must stand on soft 17 (A-6)
H17 = Dealer must hit soft 17
DAS = Doubling down after pair splitting is allowed
NDAS = Doubling down after pair splitting is not allowed
H = Hit
S = Stand
P = Split
Dh = Double down if allowed; otherwise, hit
Rh = Surrender if allowed, otherwise hit.
Rs = Surrender if allowed, otherwise stand

MULTI-DECK GAME

Regardless of the blackjack rules, use the following strategy when facing a dealer’s 10 upcard.

Surrender if allowed, otherwise hit, if holding:

  • Hard 15 and 16

Double down if allowed; otherwise hit, if holding:

  • Hard 11

Split if holding:

  • Pair of As, and 8s

Hit if holding:

  • Hard 5 through 10
  • Hard 12 through 14
  • A-2 through A-7
  • Pair of 2s through 7s

Stand if holding:

  • Hard 17 through 20
  • A-8 and A-9
  • Pair of 9s and 10s

Below is the corresponding playing strategy arranged into three color-coded tables for Hard Hands, Soft Hands, and Pairs. The first row in each table represents the player’s hand (in the case of hard hands, it represents the total count of the cards), and the second row contains the correct playing strategy against a dealer’s 10 upcard regardless of the mix of rules.

MULTI-DECK: HARD HANDS VS. A DEALER'S 10 UPCARD

5-9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17-20
H H Dh H H H Rh Rh S

MULTI-DECK: SOFT HANDS VS. A DEALER'S 10 UPCARD

A-2 A-3 A-4 A-5 A-6 A-7 A-8 A-9
H H H H H H S S

MULTI-DECK: PAIRS VS. A DEALER'S 10 UPCARD

A-A 2-2 3-3 4-4 5-5 6-6 7-7 8-8 9-9 10-10
P H H H H H H P S S

WHAT IF YOU ARE PLAYING A DOUBLE-DECK GAME?

You are in luck. The playing strategy for a double-deck game is identical to the above multiple-deck game.

WHAT IF YOU ARE PLAYING A SINGLE-DECK GAME?

The strategy is the same as the multi-deck strategy above except for the following two strategy changes:

  • Hit (rather than surrender) hard 15 against a dealer 10 upcard
  • Surrender 7-7 against a blackjack dealer 10 if allowed, otherwise stand.

SINGLE DECK: HARD HANDS VS. A DEALER'S 10 UPCARD

5-10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17-20
H Dh H H H H Rh S

SINGLE DECK: PAIRS VS. A DEALER'S 10 UPCARD

A-A 2-2 3-3 4-4 5-5 6-6 7-7 8-8 9-9 10-10
P H H H H H Rs P S S

FOR MORE PRECISION

You can gain some precision in your playing strategy if you take into consideration the composition of the cards that comprise your 15 and whether your 16 is multi-card or the result of a split.

  • In a double- or multi-deck game, if your 15 consists of an 8-7, hit against a dealer 10 upcard (rather than surrender).
  • •    In all games, if your 16 is multi-card or the result of a pair split, stand against a dealer’s 10 upcard instead of hit.

PRACTICE PLAY

To be sure you have the strategy down pat for playing your hand against a dealer’s 10 upcard, determine how you would play each of the 10 hands listed below, jot down your decision on paper, and then check it against the correct play at the end of this article. (Your goal is to be able to play every hand accurately, regardless of the number of decks of cards or mix of playing rules.)

GAME HAND PLAY
Single-Deck 10-5  
Multi-Deck 9-9  
Double-Deck 6-4  
Multi-Deck 10-5  
Double-Deck 8-8  
Double-Deck 10-4-2  
Single Deck 7-7  
Multi-Deck 5-5  
Double-Deck 9-6  
Double-Deck 6-5  

For more playing strategy tips, consult Chapter 3 in my Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide and see the Blackjack Chart tables

Correct plays for the hands in the table are:

  • Surrender if allowed, otherwise hit
  • Stand
  • Hit
  • Surrender if allowed, otherwise hit
  • Split 
  • Stand
  • Surrender if allowed, otherwise stand
  • Hit
  • Surrender if allowed, otherwise hit
  • Double down if allowed, otherwise hit
About the Author
By

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.