It’s a disappointing situation at the blackjack table, to see the casino dealer showing a 2 when you’re looking at a 12. You’re frightened of taking a card because of the seemingly inevitable picture card and it can be a frustrating hand to play. Let’s sort out once and for all how to play this most irritating of blackjack hands.

The main reason that a 12 against the dealer’s 2 causes blackjack players problems, is that it can be very tricky to bring yourself to take a card, because it’s always frustrating when that 10 comes out and you think to yourself “I knew that was coming, why did I do it?”
But we only remember the times when it goes badly and tend to forget when it works. Computer simulations show that hitting in this situation is the best play, as 65% of the time, you won’t bust.

If you think about it, only four cards in the deck can bust your hand – any Ten, Jack, Queen or King. That means that you have any Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9 on your side and almost half of those cards will give you a powerful blackjack hand (the latter four give you 18 through 21). When it is written out like that, it seems pretty obvious what to do.

Too simplistic a view for you? Maybe you’re right, so here’s a few more figures. Blackjack simulations also prove that hitting your 12 against the dealer’s 2 will see you win 37% of the time, while standing will result in the dealer busting 35% of the time.

This 2% difference may seem like peanuts, but it matters over time. If I offered you the choice of $102 or $100, which would you take? So if I offered you a loss of $63 or a loss of $65, which would you take? A 12 against a 2 is not a profitable blackjack situation, so you should be looking to minimise your long term losses, because that 2% can really pick at your bankroll over the years.

Something else to consider for when your 12 is made up of a pair of sixes: you should definitely split that pair. A 12 against the dealer’s 2 fares worse than a 6 against a 2, which wins around 43% of the time. Yes, this blackjack hand is another long term loser, but it loses less often than your original hand of 12, so it is definitely worth splitting.

You should also split if your 12 consists of two Aces, but then I suspect you knew that already!

Good luck at the blackjack tables and keep hitting those 12 against 2 situations!