How to Play Blackjack Hand 12 or 13

Some hard totals in blackjack are more difficult to handle since they are neither high enough to stand on nor low enough to hit without a significant risk of breaking the hand. This gets many recreational players perplexed causing them to make intuitive decisions while at the table and we all know what hunches translate into in the context of gambling – excruciating losses in the long term.

Two of the hands many unwitting players tend to struggle with are hard totals 12 and 13. Some people are bold enough to always hit those hands in an attempt to outdraw their dealer. Others are terrified of the idea of busting on a hit so they always decide to stand.

What both types of players choose to ignore is that mathematically, there is a right and a wrong way to play hard 12 and hard 13. It all comes down to what dealer upcard you are facing. In this article, we explain the right ways to play these totals and tackle some commonly committed mistakes.

The Optimal Playing Decisions for Hard 12

The Optimal Playing Decisions for Hard 12Like all hard totals, hard 12 lacks an Ace that can be counted as 1 or 11 which takes away the much-desired flexibility of its soft cousin. This hand total can result from the following two-card combinations: 6-6, 7-5, 8-4, 10-2, and 9-3.

A pair of Aces also results in a 12 but we are not discussing this here because this is a soft total that calls for an entirely different approach. The correct playing decisions for a hard 12 are based solely on the upcards of the dealer.

The number of decks and the playing conditions for the dealer do not affect your decisions in this case since the optimal strategy for hard 12 is the same no matter whether you are playing single-deck, double-deck, multiple-deck, H17, or S17 blackjack.

Basic strategy advises players to stand on hard 12 against dealers who expose a 4, a 5, or a 6. If you take the time to examine the chart in our article on blackjack odds and probabilities, you will immediately notice that these three cards are very disadvantageous for the dealer because they carry over 40% risk of the dealer busting.

Misplaying Hard 12 against the Dealer’s Deuce

blackjack live dealersOne of the most striking things about this hard total is that it appears on the list of the most frequently misplayed hands in blackjack despite the fact the basic strategy decisions for hard 12 are among the simplest to learn because they are pretty much the same regardless of deck number and dealer standing rules.

Many unknowledgeable players tend to misplay their hard 12 particularly when they are up against a dealer exposing a deuce. As we explained, the correct play for hard 12 against a 2 is to hit. Yet, many people choose the opposite move – they stand instead of hitting because they are scared of busting with a ten-value card.

All qualms of the house outdrawing them disappear because the deuce is a bad card that exposes the dealer to the risk of busting, right? But then again, there is also the “10 in the hole” rule some players always abide by, reasoning that the dealer’s hole card should always be considered a ten-value one. The dealer would flip a 10 next to their deuce, take another hit, and bust.

And, yes, the deuce is surely not the most advantageous card for the dealer but it does not put them in the worse possible position, either, like a 5 or a 6 does. Their bust frequency with the deuce is lower as we told you earlier, which skews the probabilities of winning the hard 12 with a hit in your favor, albeit slightly.

The Optimal Playing Decisions for Hard 13

blackjack hard 13 betThe optimal playing decisions for hard 13 are also the same regardless of how many decks you are playing and the fixed rules set by the house. This is yet another hand that lacks an Ace or when it contains one, it has a value of 1 only. Here are a few examples of hard 13 hands: 7-6, 8-5, 9-4, 10-3, 10-2-A, and 9-3-A.

Since hard 13 is more prone to busting than hard 12 (with 5 out of 13 card denominations that can break the hand), players should approach it more conservatively. Basic strategy recommends standing on hard 13 against upcards 2 through 6 because these put the dealer in a breaking position.

Conversely, the optimal approach for hard 13 when the dealer shows cards 7 through Ace is to take a hit. These cards are more likely to result in pat hands and put the dealer in a standing position where they outdraw the player’s hard 13.

Now that you know how to approach hands 12 and 13 against all possible upcards of the dealer, these two hard totals should no longer pose as a predicament to you at the blackjack table. Moreover, the strategy works in both online and landbased blackjack games.