What are the most profitable starting hands in blackjack?

When playing any casino game, players are often keen to know what the signs are that their luck is in. Blackjack players are no different. Regardless of the level that they may be playing at, every player wants to know the same thing: which are the most valuable starting hands that you can be dealt at the start of a game? Read more about the best Blackjack starting hands.

When looking at what’s meant by ‘valuable’ we mean the cards that have a great mathematical chance of leading to a win. When looking at the types of starting hand a player can have, we’re looking at:

  • Splits
  • Double downs
  • Soft totals
  • Hard totals

If you’ve played blackjack at all, you’ll know that your starting hand can certainly make your game, even if it doesn’t go as far as breaking it. Interested to know the starting hands that are going to give you the very best chance of a win? Then keep on reading.

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Best blackjack starting hands

The best Blackjack starting hands

There are five starting hands to consider if you’re looking to identify the most valuable. In descending order, these are:

  • Soft 20 – this means looking at a soft total of ace and 9 against a dealers up card being an 8
  • Hard 20 – a hard total of 20 against the dealers 8 up card
  • Hard 11 – the hard total of 11 vs the dealers up card being a 6
  • Soft 18 – this is the total of an ace plus 7 against a 7 up card from the dealer 
  • Traditional 21 – a blackjack 

You may recognize the names of some of these hands, but you might not know quite why they’re so valuable. We’re going to take a look at each of these in turn so that we can fill you in. 

Blackjack as your starting hand 

When it comes to a great starting hand, you’re not going to be able to beat a natural 21. When you’re playing at the right blackjack tables, you’ll find that the payout for this is set at 3:2. The comes in at 1.5 times your original bet. Of course, there are more and more tables moving away from the 3:2 and opting for 6:5 – we suggest you avoid these if you can.

A natural 21 is made up of an Ace along with any other card that is worth 10. this hand can’t lose: the only possible outcomes are a win or a tie. This makes it the best hand, and the most profitable one, that you can start with.

Soft 18 

The soft 18 is made up of an Ace and a 7. The value here is set at 0.3996 of the player’s original bet. So, what does this mean in monetary terms? Well, for every $100 that a player wagers they’d gain an extra $39.96. However, while the payout is relatively attractive, it’s not quite that simple. To hit that $39.96  the player needs to follow the adjusted index numbers and then double their bet when the value of the true count is more than 22. This uses the USTON APC count and pulling it off is quite rare. 

Hard 11

Another of the most valuable starting hands is 11. This can be made up in the following ways:

  • 8 + 3
  • 9 + 2
  • 7 + 4
  • 6 + 5

The value of this hand works out at 0.6675 of the player’s original bet. Working on the same logic of our previous example, that means that for every $100 wagered, a player is set to gain an impressive $66.74. Again, to hit this a player needs to follow the adjusted index numbers. They also need to double their bet whenever the value of the true count is more than minus 16. This again relies on the USTON APC counting method and occurs 97% of the time.

Hard 20 

This hand is one that any blackjack player would be more than happy to start a game with. Made up with two 10s, this hand leads to players achieving a profit of 0.7918. In the long run, what this means is that players achieve a gain of $79.18 for every $100 that is bet. Something that will reduce the chances of this happening is splitting the 10s. There are times when splitting 10s is the right thing to do, mathematically, but personally, we think that it’s justifiable to hold out for the $79.18 profit. 

Soft 20 

The last starting hand to consider is a set 20. This is made up by combining an Ace with a 9. The value of this hand, over the long term, comes in at the same as the hard 20. That means that it’s worth 0.7918 which equates to a $79.18 gain for every $100 that a player wagers. To achieve this a player needs t double at the time that the index value of 7 is reached. This is reached by using the USTON APC count. 

Final thoughts on the best Blackjack starting hands

To make these hands fulfill their potential, they need to be played in the correct way. However, there are times when you should consider going against the right thing so that you divert attention away from yourself. Sure, this may cost you a little in the short term, but blackjack is a long-term game where the results add up over time.

When you consider any starting hand, there will always be a value that’s associated with it. The value is arrived at by looking at the percentage of the bet that is lost, or won, on average over the long term. 

What impacts the value of your starting hand are the two cards that you’re dealt as well as the dealer’s up card. Sometimes, the dealer’s up card will change your course of play and you may lose the ability to gain maximum profitability from your hand. It’s important to look at all of your results over the long term and not to become hung up on losses that will, invariably, occur. Remember that all of the above goes regardless if you are playing at a land-based casino, online casino or live casino. As long the game follows the rules of blackjack the best blackjack starting hands are the same, and therefore so is the optimal blackjack strategy.

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Best blackjack starting hands