When a dealer shows a 9 upcard in blackjack, she has about a 77% chance of getting to a final hand that totals 17 through 21 and only a 23% chance of busting (depending on the number of decks shuffled).

A 9, therefore, is a strong card for the dealer, which means we have to be more aggressive when we are 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 one hand, even when it means we forfeit half our bet. What follows is the accurate playing strategy for any hand when the dealer shows a 9 upcard. 

9 upcard
Fortunately for players, the playing strategy against a dealer’s 9 upcard is nearly the same for any number of decks of cards in blackjack or mix of playing rules, with only one exception discussed below.

Notations used in this article:

S17 = Dealer must stand on soft 17
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

Playing a multi-deck game 

Regardless of the playing rules, use the following strategy when facing a dealer’s 9 upcard.

Surrender if allowed, otherwise hit, if holding:

  • Hard 16


Double down if allowed; otherwise hit, if holding:

  • Hard 10 and 11
  • Pair of 5s


Split if holding:

  • Pair of As, 8s, and 9s 


Hit if holding:

  • Hard 5 through 9
  • Hard 12 through 15
  • A-2 through A-7
  • Pair of 2s, 3s, 4s, 6s, and 7s


Stand if holding:

  • Hard 17 through 20
  • A-8 and A-9 
  • Pair of 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 8 upcard regardless of the mix of rules.

Hard Hands

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


Soft Hands

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



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

What if you are playing a single- or double-deck game?

The playing strategy for a single- or double-deck game is identical to the above multiple-deck game except for one strategy change:

  • Do not surrender hard 16; hit instead.


Hard Hands

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


Practice Play

To be sure you have the strategy down pat for playing your hand against a dealer’s 9 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.

1. Single-deck 6-2  
2. Multi-deck 5-5  
3. Double-deck 8-3  
4. Multi-deck 9-7  
5. Double-deck A-7  
6. Double-deck 2-2  
7. Single-deck 10-10  
8. Multi-deck 9-9  
9. Multi-deck 9-3-4  
10. Double-deck 10-6  

For more playing strategy tips, consult Chapter 3 in my Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide.

Correct plays for the hands in the table are:

1. Hit
2. Double down if allowed; otherwise, hit
3. Double down if allowed; otherwise, hit
4. Surrender
5. Hit
6. Hit
7. Stand
8. Split
9. Hit
10. Hit

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.