There is no denying that blackjack is one of the most popular casino games in the world which provides players with the opportunity to make money. Added to this, blackjack also enables players to compete against the house or the dealer as opposed to taking on other players. With the right blackjack strategy under your belt, you can easily master this exciting and profitable game so let us explore the basic blackjack strategy of how to play blackjack.
Blackjack Rules for UK Players
When it comes to the game of blackjack, the basic strategy used has been tried and tested over the years and today, after many improvements and fine-tuning; the blackjack strategy is designed in order to give a player the long run advantage over the dealer or the house. Using the mathematics of the game as well as gameplay simulations, the blackjack strategy provides the statistical probability of either beating the dealer or improving one’s blackjack hand.
Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games in the world, due to its simplicity, fast pace and low house advantage against skilled players.
The game simply requires you to come as close to 21 without going over, while beating the dealer’s hand. But first, you need to learn how to make the right plays.
The dealer typically plays exactly the same way, regardless of what your hand might be. That’s because the dealer is using the house’s own blackjack strategy—which gives it the advantage over card players.
The dealer always hits on 16 or less, and stands on a hard 17. A hard 17 is when the dealer has a combination of cards that add up to 17 points.
In many casinos, the dealer will take a card on a soft 17, though. A soft 17 is when the dealer has an Ace and a 6.
Because the Ace can be worth one or 11 points, the dealer does not take the risk of going over 21 when hitting on a soft 17.
In many ways, how the dealer plays 21 is very similar to the way most blackjack strategies suggest you play—consistently every time.
When you use proper blackjack strategy, statistics and probability indicate you should win more often than not over the long term.
Of course, luck always plays a role in whether you win or lose. Yet, playing a sound, professional game will reduce the house advantage to nearly nothing.
Understanding Blackjack Odds
The best use of blackjack strategy is to give you the best possible odds to get 21, and the best odds of beating the house.
When played the right way, the house has only a 0.5 percent advantage when playing 21. That gives blackjack the best odds out of all casino games.
The house advantage is due to the fact that you have to make the first play—and you might go bust without the dealer so much as turning a card.
Meanwhile, the dealer is playing by a strict set of rules designed to keep that house advantage working over the long term, regardless of who takes a chance at beating the house.
Some casinos, though, adjust the house advantage by making a tie—otherwise called a “push”—a win for the house.
In other instances, it might be possible to get 21 or blackjack, and still lose if the dealer has an equal hand.
The house also can adjust payouts for getting a blackjack. Some casinos also have differing rules for surrenders and buying insurance, to tilt the advantage even more in their favor.
That makes it important to check the payouts and specific rules to find the casino games with the best odds.
It also makes it critically important to learn blackjack strategy and become a highly skilled player.
Learn to Play Like a Professional
Basic blackjack strategy breaks the game down into a series of propositions based on the cards in your hand and the up card that is showing in the dealer’s hand.
Depending on your hand and what the dealer is showing, you can make the absolute best decision based on sound blackjack strategy.
When you follow the suggested guidelines for blackjack strategy, you stand the best chance of winning.
The possible actions a player can take while playing blackjack vary from stand, hit, split, double down and more.
It is vital for players to understand and to accurately execute the basic blackjack strategy. That’s because even basic strategies are based on the statistical analysis of many thousands of plays, and determine how a player can gain the greatest probability of a win in any situation.
Over the long run, and combined with some timely luck, blackjack strategy is often downright profitable for the card players who use it correctly.
When players use the basic blackjack strategy correctly, they reduce the standard house advantage of between 4 percent and 5 percent to as low as a half-percent or less.
The strategy of 21 will vary based on the overall conditions at the table as well as the number of decks which are being used by the dealer or house. The more decks used, the more you will need to adjust your strategy—in order to account for the additional cards used in the game.
When to Hit or Stand
A blackjack strategy chart tells you exactly which plays to make based on what the dealer is showing, the cards you’re dealt, and the number of decks used in the game.
If you take some time to examine the chart, you will notice that it is really quite simple to follow.
The dealer only has 10 card values you need to track, ranging from the deuce to the ace. Because the 10 and face cards are each worth 10 points, you don’t have to differentiate among them.
Whether you hit or stand depends on the total value of the cards in your hand, compared to the up card shown in the dealer’s hand.
Looking at the chart, the blackjack strategy tells us to stand whenever you have 17 points or more in your hand, regardless what the dealer is showing for an up card.
Reduce the value of your hand by one point to 16, and the chart says to stand when the dealer’s up card is a 6 or lower. It also says to hit if the dealer is showing a 7 or higher value card on the initial deal.
The idea is to give your hand the maximum possible chance to win, versus the dealer’s highest potential hand. After all, the goal is not necessarily to get 21, but to beat the dealer in whatever way you can.
Mastering the game of blackjack does not stop at just basic strategy. That only helps you choose when to hit or stand.
Highly skilled 21 players know that splitting cards is a great way to maximize your profit potential. That’s especially true when the dealer’s up card suggests they have a relatively weak hand.
When playing 21, whenever you are dealt a pair you have the option of betting an additional wager and splitting your cards to create two separate hands against the dealer’s one hand.
Splitting cards requires a disciplined approach to prevent breaking up strong hands—especially if the dealer likely has a weaker hand.
If you have any pair of 10s, Jacks, Queens or Kings, the strategy chart says to leave them alone and force the dealer to beat you.
Unless the dealer gets 21, you have a great chance of winning on the 20 points you got on the deal. So, you don’t want to split any pair of cards that shows a value of 20 points.
Likewise, the chart says to always split a pair of Aces and a pair of eights, no matter what the dealer is showing.
Another good example is when you have a pair of nines—totaling 18 points. That’s a strong hand, but still weak when the dealer is showing a seven, Ace, or a card worth 10 points.
In that case, you would split your cards and hope to improve at least one and preferably both hands. If just one beats the dealer, you get a push. If both do, you win a lot more cash.
When to Double Down
Another advanced blackjack strategy is the double down, which gives you a chance to double your wager and potential winnings after the initial deal.
The idea is for you to lay an additional wager, but you can only get one more dealt card.
With the double down, when the first two cards in your hand total 11 points, the strategy card says you should always double your wager. If the next card gives you 21 points, you likely will win.
When your hand totals 10 points and the dealer is showing a 10 or Ace, the strategy card says to simply take another card, rather than double down.
That’s because the dealer easily could have 20 or 21 points, making it very difficult to beat.
Yet, if the dealer is showing a nine or lower card, and you have a hand worth 10 points, the double down is absolutely the right move. In fact, choosing to not double down in that situation would be the wrong choice.
That’s especially true when situated with an 11 off the deal—and the dealer is showing a weak hand—because many cards worth 10 points remain in the deck.
In such a case, not doubling down would be a big mistake, as you likely would win much more often than lose in that situation.
Those who count cards can find doubling down to be particularly useful.
When to Surrender
Many casinos have a surrender play that cuts your potential loss in half after the deal. The surrender is one that players find useful when dealt a poor hand, and the dealer is showing an Ace or card worth 10 points.
In that case, you can choose to surrender half your bet, but you might have an option of when.
Some casinos allow an early surrender, which you do before the dealer checks to see if they have a blackjack.
There is also the late surrender, which you can do after the dealer checks to see if he or she has 21.
To know when to surrender, though, requires using blackjack strategy.
When playing a single-deck game, the time to consider whether or not to surrender is when your initial hand totals between 15 and 17 points.
If you have 15 points or 17 and the dealer is showing a hard 17 or more, the strategy says to surrender. You would not surrender, however, if the dealer shows a soft 17 or lower hand.
Yet, if you have 16 points, the strategy indicates you should surrender if the dealer is showing 10 or more points.
Like all blackjack strategies, this also adjusts for the number of decks in use.
Tips on Buying Insurance
Another advanced play that can affect blackjack strategy is the buying of insurance, so that you can protect yourself against the dealer hitting 21.
When the dealer is showing an Ace as the up card, you can lay up to half your original wager on whether or not the dealer has a 10-point card in the hole.
If the dealer does have blackjack, then you get paid 2 to 1 on your insurance wager. That means you don’t lose any money on that bet.
A lot of players of 21 will choose to buy insurance if they get a hand worth 19 or 20 points off the deal, but the dealer is showing an ace.
They view buying insurance as a way to protect a strong hand, but you still could lose both wagers, or wind up with a push and a loss.
If your hand is worth 19 points, and the dealer has a 9 in the hole, you would lose your bet, as well as the insurance.
Many professionals, though, do not buy insurance. Instead, they play by the strict rules of blackjack strategy to create the strongest chance of winning over the long term.
When using the basic strategy for 21, buying insurance can cause problems by changing the probability of winning. So for most professionals, insurance isn’t worth the bother.
Additional Advice on Blackjack Strategy
It’s always important to remember that, while basic blackjack strategy is mathematically proven, there will be exceptions to the rules which are based on the conditions, the number of players, and the number of decks in use by the dealer.
Unlike many betting mechanisms, blackjack strategy is a proven system based on scientifically studying the statistics and probabilities behind every potential play.
That doesn’t mean every play will have a predictable outcome, because luck always plays a role. Yet, when you use blackjack strategy correctly, you should find your losing streaks far less common and much shorter than when simply playing based on hunches or intuition.