Best and Worst Starting Hands in Blackjack

Best and Worst Starting Hands in Blackjack

Published Date · Oct. 18, 2022 · Last Updated · March 13, 2024 ·Read Time · 3 mins

What is a Starting Blackjack Hand?

A starting hand in blackjack refers to the first two cards dealt. At the start of the game, the player and the dealer receive two cards each. The player’s cards are face up, while the dealer shows one card face up and the other face down.

From there, the player and dealer choose whether to hit or stand. The starting hand is those initial two cards, but which are the best and which are the worst?

What are the Best Starting Blackjack Hands?

#1. Ace & 10: The best starting hand in blackjack is an ace, together with a 10, Jack, Queen, or King. Remember that the aim of the game is to hit 21, or get as close as possible to this number without busting.

An ace can count as 1 or 11 while the ten, and all picture cards, score 10 points. Therefore, an ace and a 10, J, Q or K can score a perfect 21.

In theory, this cannot be beaten but remember that the dealer only has to tie the player’s score. If they draw 21, they win the pot.

#2. A score of 20: is also considered to be a strong starting blackjack hand. A hard ten can be hit with a combination of tens or any of the picture cards.

In order to beat this hand, the dealer would have to draw 20 or 21. Statistics show that a blackjack starting hand of 20 has around an 80% chance of winning.

#3. A score of 10 or 11:  is more than useful in blackjack. Remember that 16 of the 52 cards in a standard pack are worth ten points in this game. Therefore, there is a good chance of drawing a ten or a picture card and making a total score of 20 or 21.

Drawing a 10 or 11 as a blackjack starting hand also means that players can double down. This rule allows for doubling of the bet before the next card is hit.

#4. 19 or soft 20: A soft 20 is a combination of an Ace and a 9. 19 can be made using a number of combinations, but both are strong starting hands in blackjack.

To beat these scores, the dealer will need to go high, with 19 as a minimum.

What are the Worst Starting Blackjack Hands?

You’ve seen the best, but what about the rest? What are the worst blackjack hands, the ones that will leave players with a battle to beat the dealer?

#1. Player’s Total is 16:  Any combination that adds up to 16, with the exception of two eights, usually spells bad news. It’s not a competitive total, and mathematical probability dictates that the player is likely to bust on the next draw of a card.

If the dealer’s upturned card is a ten or an ace, it could even be time to concede.

#2. 16 via two eights:  This is still bad, but it’s not the worst starting hand in blackjack. By having two matching cards, the player can split them and play them as two separate hands. The stakes are increased, but there is always a chance of claiming a ten or an ace on the next draw.

#3. Stiff 12 to 17:  All is not lost when a blackjack starting hand reveals 12 to 17. There is still a chance of drawing a lower-value card and remaining in the game.

Once again, however, probability is not on the player’s side. The maths suggests that there is a greater chance of drawing a high-value card and busting. It could be worse, but any score between 12 to 17 does not represent an ideal blackjack starting hand.

What Next?

Knowing the rules of the game is the first starting point when getting involved with online casinos. From that phase onwards, players can begin to develop their own strategies.

In this particular game, those strategies are all based on knowing which are the best and worst blackjack starting hands. This is the very foundation of the game. Like all card games, there is an element of chance, and that appears in the starting hands.

Players then have to implement the strategy to determine their next move. Knowing all about the quality of that opening hand helps you reach a decision.

All casinos offer blackjack play in some form, but let's take a closer look at some of the best ones.


Phoebe Greenwood

Content Writer