When to draw and not to draw in Blackjack


When you first start playing Blackjack, you may look at your cards and not know whether to stick (refuse any more cards) or draw (ask for one or more cards). Here are some guidelines to remember:

  • Never take a card on 17 or more (unless you have an ace and a 6 — a soft 17 that you can’t go bust on)
  • Never stick on 11 or less. Draw at least one card to get closer to 21.
  • On hands ranging from 12 to 16, the dealer’s hand affects your strategy:
    • If the dealer has an ace, court card, 10, 9, 8, or 7, take an extra card if your total is more than 11 but less than 17.
    • If the dealer has a 4, 5, or 6, stick on any total of 12 or more.
    • If the dealer has a 2 or 3, stick on any total of 13 or more.

Here’s an example to help you see the logic behind these guidelines. Say that you have a 10 and a 6 for 16, a lousy hand. If the dealer has a 10, a court card, or an ace up, you’re a heavy underdog, but the odds say that your best shot is to take another card and hope to improve your hand. If the dealer has a low card up, however, your best chance of winning the hand is for the dealer to bust. You should stay where you are and hope that the dealer gets a bad second card (a 10 or court card) and then busts when he’s forced to draw a third card.