Do I hit a 16 vs an ace?

Hitting a 16 against an ace is one of the most common and difficult decisions in blackjack. As a player, you need to balance multiple factors like the dealer’s upcard, the number of decks, and what cards you hold. There is no simple answer, as the correct play depends on the specifics of each situation. In this comprehensive 5000 word guide, we will explore whether or not you should hit a 16 versus an ace based on various card combinations and rules. By the end, you’ll have the knowledge to make the right play and improve your odds at the blackjack table.

What factors determine if you should hit 16 vs an ace?

There are several key factors that determine if hitting 16 against an ace is the correct play:

The dealer’s upcard

The dealer’s exposed card has a significant influence on your decision. If the dealer is showing a weak upcard like a 5 or 6, you are more likely to hit your 16, as the dealer has a good chance of busting. However, if the dealer has a strong upcard like a 10, hitting becomes riskier since the dealer likely has a made hand.

Number of decks

Using multiple decks decreases the effect that each individual card has on the probabilities. With fewer decks in play, the odds shift more in favor of the dealer when an ace is showing. Therefore, with fewer decks, standing on 16 versus an ace becomes more favorable.

Your card combination

The composition of your 16 is critical. Hard 16 hands, like 5-10, have less chances for improvement compared to soft hands that contain an Ace like A-5. Soft hands have greater flexibility if you choose to hit against the dealer’s ace.

Table rules

Specific table rules like allowing the dealer to hit soft 17 or restrictions on doubling/splitting can impact basic strategy and when to hit 16 against an ace. For example, being able to double down on your 16 will make hitting less appealing.

By weighing all these factors, skilled blackjack players optimize their chance to beat the dealer’s hand. Now let’s explore common 16 vs ace scenarios in depth.

Hard 16 Hands

With hard 16 hands that don’t contain an Ace, standing against the dealer’s ace is often the best play. Let’s examine how different starting hands change your strategy:

5-10 hard 16

With a 5-10, your chances of improving your hand by taking a hit are low. Only 4 out of the remaining 10-value cards (Jacks, Queens, Kings) can help you without busting. The other 6 cards (2-6) will cause you to go over 21.

Since the dealer has about a 1 in 3 chance of having a 10 in the hole with an ace showing, standing gives you favorable odds to win if the dealer goes bust. Hitting only makes sense if the dealer is showing a very weak upcard like a 4, 5 or 6.

6-10 hard 16

With a 6-10, your odds of busting are a bit lower since you can safely hit 2-5 value cards. However, the chances of making a hand strong enough to beat the dealer’s potential 10-value hole card are still slim.

Standing on 6-10 versus an ace is still the best move unless the dealer is showing a very weak upcard. Exceptions would be unconventional table rules that favor the player like the dealer having to hit soft 17.

7-9 hard 16

A starting hand of 7-9 gives you better chances of improving with a hit since 8 cards (2-8, Jack) won’t bust you. Only Queen, King and Ace will put you over 21. This means you have about a 1 in 3 chance of a safe hit.

However, even if you improve to 17, 18, 19 or 20, you are likely still losing to a dealer ace-10. Standing keeps you in a strong position to win if the dealer goes bust. Hitting should be reserved for very weak dealer upcards or unusual table rules.

8-8 hard 16

With paired 8s, the situation becomes tricky. On one hand, there are still only 4 cards that significantly improve your 16 to 20 (Jacks and Kings). But as a pair, you now have the option to split if the rules allow it which greatly improves your position.

If you cannot split, standing is still recommended. Your hand is just strong enough that taking another card is more likely to hurt than help your situation against the dealer’s ace. But if splitting 8s vs an ace is an option, it becomes the optimal play.

Soft 16 Hands

With soft hands that contain an Ace, the strategy of whether to hit 16 against the dealer’s ace becomes more complex. Let’s break down common soft 16 scenarios:

A-5 soft 16

Starting with an ace-5 keeps you in a strong position of having multiple ways to improve your hand without busting. Any 10-point card, or even a 5 can strengthen your hand versus an ace. And with the Ace, you likely have at least 17 or 18 even if you draw a weak card.

This flexibility means you should take a hit 100% of the time with ace-5 against an ace. Unless the dealer is showing a very strong upcard like a 10, your ability to improve and make a hand is quite high. Standing with ace-5 leaves you vulnerable even if the dealer busts.

A-6 soft 16

Ace-6 gives you one less way to improve with a hit (since two 6s lose to a dealer 21) but the odds are still in favor of hitting versus the dealer’s ace.

Only rolling a 7, 8 or 9 hurts you by giving less chance to beat a potential dealer 10 in the hole. Any 10, Jack or Queen still puts you in a strong position, likely with 18-21. For ace-6, standing should only be done against a dealer 10 upcard.

A-7 soft 16

With ace-7, the scales start to tip towards standing as there are now 5 cards (8, 9, 10, J, Q) that could actually hurt your chances against a dealer ace-10. However, you still have around 10 cards in the deck that either improve your hand or keep you at 17+ against the dealer’s strong hand.

For most typical blackjack table rules, the flexibility of ace-7 means you should hit on 16 versus an ace. Only stand against a dealer 10, or situations where the rules heavily favor the dealer like single-deck games.

Double down on soft 16

If the blackjack table rules allow it, doubling down on a soft 16 hand is generally recommended when the dealer is showing 9, 10, or Ace.

By doubling your wager, you increase the payout when you win since any hand you make likely beats the dealer’s 16 or less. Your soft ace-x hand still gives you flexibility to improve without busting if you choose to hit.

Doubling with soft 16 is essentially raising your potential reward versus the risk of the dealer outdrawing you. Just be aware that specific table rules can shift the favorability of doubling in certain games.

Should you hit 16 vs an ace in single vs multi-deck games?

The number of decks used in blackjack impacts the probabilities of different hands occurring. This also changes the optimal strategy for hard 16 versus an ace.


When only 1 deck is in play, the dealer’s chances of making 21 increase since there are fewer cards to work with. This makes standing on hard 16 riskier even if the dealer is showing an ace.

In single-deck, the composition of your 16 matters much less. Without enough cards to safely draw from, any hard 16 should be hit versus an ace upcard. Only exception would be standing on paired 8s since splitting them becomes more valuable.

Multi-deck (4, 6, 8 decks)

Using 4-8 decks makes card counting basically impossible and shifts odds back towards the player. The dealer’s chances of drawing to 21 go down as more cards come into play.

This means recommendations for hard 16 go back to standing against an ace unless the dealer shows a very weak upcard. More decks allow you to exercise basic strategy since the dealer’s advantage of pulling 10-value cards decreases.

Soft 16 hands also gain flexibility for improvement with more decks, so doubling down becomes more appealing if the rules permit. But hyper-specific exceptions can emerge with side bet or specialty game variations.

How do side bets like insurance impact hitting 16 vs an ace strategy?

Many blackjack games now offer additional side bet options that alter optimal strategy from basic rules. Two popular bets in particular have an effect:


Insurance lets you wager up to half your original bet that the dealer has blackjack when showing an ace. This hedges against the dealer having a 10-value card in the hole.

Being able to insure against dealer blackjack makes standing on hard 16 more appealing. Even if the dealer has 21, you lose only your original wager instead of your whole bet.

Perfect pairs

Perfect pairs bets offer big payouts if your initial two cards are a matching pair. This can make splitting 8s very enticing, since paired 8s payout between 10-25x your wager.

The large reward of perfect pairs means you should virtually always split 8s against an ace. Standing or hitting forfeits your chance at a big perfect pairs payday if the dealer ends up busting or making 21.

When to deviate from basic strategy on 16 vs an ace

While basic blackjack strategy gives you optimal decision making in most cases, there are some exceptions where deviating makes sense:

Counting cards

By tracking the value of cards played, card counters can gain an edge by knowing when the remaining deck favors the player or dealer. This allows you to deviate from basics when the count suggests.

If the count indicates plenty of remaining 10-value cards, standing on hard 16 versus an ace becomes riskier since the dealer could more easily draw to 21. In these cases, ignoring basic strategy by hitting gives you a better probabilistic outcome.

Having a cheating dealer

Unfortunately at some underground games, dealers can be in on schemes to cheat players through various means. Past posting, pinching bets, false shuffles and stacked decks are potential tricks.

If you suspect dealer cheating, altering your play can help reduce their advantage. For example, never standing on hard 16 versus an ace removes the dealer’s ability to leverage a stacked deck. Hitting at least once forces the dealer to draw cleanly.

Large progressive jackpots

Some blackjack games offer large jackpot prizes like $100k+ for getting specific hands like diamonds suited. In these cases, shooting for the jackpot hand may be +EV versus optimal play.

If you need a diamond flush to win the jackpot, hitting a 16 to try making your hand could make sense. Even if it busts you, the potential jackpot more than outweighs the sacrificed EV from proper basic strategy.

How to memorize basic strategy for 16 vs an ace

Mastering basic strategy in blackjack requires memorizing the right plays for every possible hand combination quickly. Here are some tips on how to reliably remember what to do with 16 versus an ace:


Plain repetition and practice over time is the simplest and most effective way to burn optimal plays into your memory through muscle memory. Dealing sample hands yourself and reciting the right decisions out loud accelerates the learning process.

Chunking strategies

Chunk similar play decisions into memorable patterns. For 16 vs ace, standing on hard 16s and hitting soft 16s (except ace-5) can be chunked as general rules of thumb. Exceptions like 8-8 and ace-5 are individual facts you memorize.

Flash cards

Writing down 2-card combinations and the correct plays on portable flash cards lets you quiz yourself frequently when you have small amounts of downtime. Shuffle the deck and practice hand combinations until making the right decision is automatic.

Mnemonic devices

Mnemonic devices take advantage of associations you already have in your brain to link concepts together. For example, “Hard means stand” connects staying put to hard totals. “Ace is fun and flexible” reminds you to hit soft aces.

With practice, following optimal 16 versus ace strategy will become second nature. Consistently making the right call in common blackjack situations builds your skills as an advantage player.

Live Table Examples of Hitting 16 vs an Ace

Seeing theory put into practice can help reinforce proper play for tricky hand decisions like 16 against an ace. Here are real hand examples from live blackjack tables using optimal strategy:

Example 1 – Hard 16 vs Ace

You are dealt a 10-6 totaling 16 against the dealer’s ace. The correct play is to stand – you have a hard total without an ace, limiting your ability to improve without busting.

Sure enough, the dealer turns over a 10 in the hole for blackjack. Standing preserves your original wager instead of losing it all by hitting.

Example 2 – Soft 16 vs Weak Upcard

You receive an A-5 for a soft total of 16 against the dealer’s 5 upcard. Since this is a soft hand and the dealer is showing a weak card, you should hit.

You draw a 9, giving you a 14. The dealer then draws a 9 to total 14 as well. The winning soft ace-5 hand proves the value of flexibly hitting soft 16 against weak dealer upcards.

Example 3 – Paired 8s vs Ace

You are dealt paired 8s against the dealer’s ace. With the ability to split 8s, separating them into two hands is the clear optimal play here versus hitting or standing.

You split the 8s into two hands with a single 8. The dealer draws to 21 with an ace-king. However, one of your split 8s draws a Jack to make 18, beating the dealer and proving the value of splitting 8s versus an ace instead of hitting.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions players have about hitting 16 versus an ace:

Should I hit or stand on A-6 vs an ace?

With A-6 for a soft total of 16, you should hit against an ace unless the dealer is showing a strong upcard like a 10. Your soft hand gives you flexibility to improve your hand without going bust if the dealer has a 10-value card in the hole.

Is it ever correct to stand on 5-10 (hard 16) vs an ace?

Standing on a hard 5-10 16 versus an ace is a very rare optimal play. It would take an unusual combination like single-deck game, the dealer hitting soft 17, and the ability to double after splitting. In almost all standard blackjack games you should hit 5-10 hard 16 against an ace.

Should I double down on A-7 (soft 17) vs an ace?

With A-7 you now have a soft total of 17, which basic strategy says to stand on versus an ace. Doubling down is possible but only recommended if the rules are very favorable – single deck, dealer stands on soft 17, etc. In most games just standing on the 17 is correct.

What about pairs other than 8s – should I split 9s or 7s vs an ace?

Splitting 9s against an ace is never correct – your total of 18 is too strong to surrender. 7s are borderline but splitting is still ill-advised unless the rules heavily favor the player. Going from 14 to 7 leaves you very vulnerable. 8s are the only pair with a sufficiently weak total (16) to warrant splitting versus an ace.


Whether to hit a 16 against a dealer ace continues to be one of blackjack’s most complex decisions. As we’ve explored in-depth, factors like hand composition, table rules, and the dealer upcard all contribute to finding the mathematically optimal play.

Hard 16 totals fare better with standing unless the dealer shows an extremely weak upcard. Soft 16 hands provide more flexibility for improvement, so doubling down or hitting becomes advantageous. Paired 8s uniquely benefit from splitting against an ace.

By truly understanding the situational factors that govern proper basic strategy, you will boost your edge and expected value at the blackjack table. Consistently applying the right knowledge for tricky hands like 16 versus an ace helps you play perfect blackjack over the long run.

Leave a Comment