Blackjack Playing Strategies
Blackjack is one of the most popular games to play at any casino. This is partly due to its overall presence and popularity, but more so for the chance to use blackjack strategies. Most games in a casino will be based on luck and random chance. In fact, many of the most popular casino games like roulette or keno will completely rely on luck and you will have little interaction that can change the outcome of the game beyond how you bet from play to play.
With blackjack, you can use skill to lower the house edge online and in person. By playing correctly, gamblers can slim that house edge to one of the smallest margins in the casino.
There are numerous blackjack strategies that will work and help to win you money. The easiest one to get started with is basic strategy. This is a mathematical way of playing every hand based on what the dealer is showing. While memorising this can be a daunting task, most casinos will sell cheat sheets in the gift shop. You can also print one online for free, like the one here.
Splitting is a popular strategy you can employ if you are dealt two of the same card (especially 8s or Aces), where you can split those cards into two separate hands. You’ll have to double your bet — with half to one card and half to the other — then the dealer will give you two more cards, one for each hand you’ve created.
There are two reasons to split:
- When you’re dealt 8s, you want to split because 16 is a miserable hand to begin with — you’re still below where the dealer will stand (17) but any card six or higher will bust you out — and because an 8 is a fine starting hand (be that with two cards, or as two single cards having split 8s).
- With aces, splitting creates the chance for two (or possibly more) blackjacks and other positive hands.
- A player splitting aces starts with two hands with an 11 value.
- Should they get a 10 or picture card on either hand, there’s a blackjack, or automatic win.
- If either hand doesn’t reach 21, the player should consider whether the hand is in the 17-21 target range, and try to get each hand there.
- A risk-taking player may opt to hit the highest hands, knowing they can reduce both, one or neither of their original aces to ace’s to a value of one (if necessary).
- To hit multiple blackjacks, one or both of the original split aces needs to find another ace, and each ace then needs a 10 or picture card to match.
Splitting is a worthy strategy both in brick-and-mortar casinos and online.
Insurance is an option provided by the casino to gamblers when the dealer is showing an Ace. Most insurance policies will offer the player 3-2 odds on the dealer making blackjack, which sounds more enticing than it is. Players will lose money on insurance bets in the long run. There are times when, if counting cards, players may pick up an edge by taking insurance. But since players cannot count cards online, they should never use the insurance option.
Surrendering is another option blackjack dealers offer that players are better off ignoring. When players surrender, they can recoup half of their bet, but have to give up the other half in exchange for surrendering their hand. There are times surrendering may seem like a plausible option — like when the player is dealt a 16 and the dealer shows a 9 or 10 — but players are better off just standing in the long run.
The exception to this, like with insurance, is that card counters may be able to use the option effectively, but for online gambling, surrendering is not a viable option.
This is the most known blackjack strategy and is very simple to use. When you double down, you put an equal bet to your original and are dealt one more card. You get the chance to double your money on a very strong starting hand. If you have 11 total as your first 2 cards, you should always double down, since nearly a third of the deck will give you 21 and more than half the cards will push you to 17 or higher. Players may also wish to double on 9s and 10s in certain situations. We recommend you consult the table below to find out when. This option is equally viable online and in person.
Card counting is the most complex blackjack strategy. It requires immense memory skills and the ability to do quick math in your head. The purpose of counting cards is to get an idea of when the deck is especially stacked with high or low cards. While you can never guess exactly what card will come, knowing the deck is full of high cards is a great benefit. You can make bigger bets when the count is in your favor to maximize winnings. To learn more about counting cards check out Instructables.com.
While learning to count cards can lead to big payoffs — and also potential banning — from brick-and-mortar casinos, it’s worth noting that the strategy is impossible to implement online. The reason counting works in person is that it’s unfeasible to shuffle hundreds of cards between every hand. Online, though, casinos can virtually shuffle cards between each hand, rendering card counting useless.
Advanced Blackjack Strategies
There are a number of other strategies that some recommend with varying results.
Mimic the Dealer: This strategy recommends players gamble by the dealer’s rules, hitting with 16 or less and standing on soft 17s or higher. Players never double or split, either. The strategy isn’t an optimal one, though, as it creates a house edge of 5.48 percent.
Assume 10 in the Hole: In this case, the player always assumes the unseen dealer card is a 10 and bets accordingly. For instance, if the dealer is showing a 9 and the player has 18, he or she would hit, even though anything higher than a 3 will bust out the player. There are times when assuming a 10 aligns with basic strategy, but using the strategy exclusively will lose the player money in the long run.
Players should consider how long they want to play and how much money they are willing to lose when deciding on bankroll and bet size. Assuming players follow basic blackjack strategy perfectly, the house edge should come in around one percent. If players are making $10 bets, that means they should expect to lose $10 for every 10 hands played. Online, it’s not unreasonable to expect to see two hands a minute or more, so a half hour of play on $10 bets will cost a player an average of $60.
Results can swing pretty widely from that average, so players should provide themselves a nice cushion with their bankroll, but never go in with more money than you’re willing to lose.
Perfecting blackjack strategies requires a lot of practice. Even without the complication of card counting, memorizing basic strategy — when to hit, stand, split or double — is a task that requires repetition. Lucky for you, online casinos are the perfect place for that, since players can play more hands in less time than in brick-and-mortar gambling halls.
To start playing try any of the casinos offering blackjack below, although our favorite blackjack casino is Royal Vegas, which we recommend you check out.