Picture this: the blackjack table, illuminated by the bright lights of Las Vegas. It's you against the dealer, you shuffle your chips in contemplation. You make your move and leave the blackjack table a winner. Sound good?
You may know how to play blackjack, but do you actually know how to put basic strategy into action? Many players think that because they know the rules, they’ve mastered the game. However, this usually isn’t the case. You need to know not only what options are available to you, but which ones to use and why. Arm yourself with the right knowledge and you increase your chances of beating even the most experienced of Live Blackjack players and dealers.
You may have come across many guides to blackjack strategy online - many of which are complicated. Bear in mind that only the basic strategies have passed the probability test. The beauty of basic strategy is that it doesn’t have to be difficult to understand, and the most simple of techniques can benefit a player. Here, we’re throwing away the unnecessary mathematic equations and getting down to the very core.
Read up on these three reliable strategies that can benefit players of any level. Enhance your online casino experience and increase your chances of winning with the ultimate guide to beating the dealer.
Blackjack Strategy 1: Pair Splitting
When it comes to Pair Splitting there are two types of player: those who split needlessly and without reason, and those who never split at all and shy away from the option completely. When a pair is dealt you, the compulsive need to split can take over. Don’t fall into the trap.
However, don’t shy away from this clever blackjack feature either. Pair Splitting is actually designed to give the player an advantage. After all, two hands means double the chance of winning. Knowing what to do with a pair, in terms of when to split and when not to split, is crucial. Be sensible, and Pair Splitting can work in your favour.
For those who are unaware of what Pair Splitting entails, it gives you the option to split a pair into two separate hands, should you be dealt two cards of the same value. The value of the wager placed on the second hand must be equal to your original bet. The hand to your right is your first hand and must be played out before the left can come into play.
So when should you split? It may be tempting to split a pair of 10s, as it seemingly gives you a better chance of winning. But don’t sacrifice a hand total of 20 for the sake of two losing hands. You should also never split on a pair of 5s for similar reasons. Always split on Aces or 8s. An Ace already puts you at an advantage- two Aces even more so. Two 8s bring you to 16, and suddenly hitting is a risky move.
Use this strategy wisely and to your advantage - not the dealer’s. If you’re close to 21, resist the the urge to split.
Blackjack Strategy 2: Doubling Down
The doubling down method can be used to increase your potential payout. It also increases your chances of breaking even or winning. The option to double down is available when your cards have been dealt, alongside hit and stand. Doubling down allows you to double your initial bet in exchange for one draw card, therefore sacrificing the option of drawing multiple cards. This means you will go forward with a three card hand. So when should you double down?
When deciding your next move, there are two factors to consider: the total value of your hand, and the dealer’s visible card. How close to 21 is the value of your hand? If the total of your hand falls into the late teens or equals 20, it’s smart to avoid the Double Down button. You should also take into account hard and soft hands. A soft hand is any hand in which Ace acts as 11 instead of 1. If your hand is a hard 8, 9, 10 or 11, or a soft 13 through to 18, then it’s time to double down, as you’re the least at risk of going bust when Doubling Down with these hands. If you decide to double down with a soft hand, the Ace will automatically convert from an 11 to a 1, giving you a better chance of achieving 21.
Blackjack Strategy 3: Hit or Stand?
You’re in the middle of a round, your cards have been dealt, perhaps you’ve split a pair or decided to double down… now you’re faced with your final decision: hit or stand? This may seem like very basic level, but it’s important to think about your next move very carefully. Knowing when to hit and when to stand is crucial when one card stands between winning and going bust.
Remember: the aim is to achieve a hand that exceeds the dealer’s but does not go over 21. If you choose to hit, you’ll be dealt another card, which may take you closer to 21, or it could mean game over. Standing means you’re committed to your hand, and you don’t want any more cards, meaning your hand is complete for that particular round of blackjack.
Many blackjack players fear being busted by a one card draw. This is highly possible when your hand is a hard 12 to 16. However, it all depends on the dealer’s up-card. If the dealer is showing a card that’s value is between 2 and 6, they are probably going to have to keep drawing cards which puts them at risk of going bust themselves. In this situation it’s wise to stand and hope for the second outcome.
However, if the dealer holds an up-card that is a 7 through to an Ace, they are more likely to obtain a hand value of between 17 and 21. If you hold 16 or less, and cannot use the pair splitting or doubling down options, your odds are higher if you hit and risk going bust until you achieve at least a hard 17. This puts you in a stronger position.
When deciding whether to hit or stand, you should bear hard and soft totals in mind.
If you’re dealt an ace along with an 8 or 9, you should stand regardless of the dealer’s up card, unless the dealer has a 6. At this point it’s a good idea to double down. If you’re dealt an ace alongside a 2 or a 3, it’s better to hit unless the dealer’s up-card is a 5 or a 6, in which case you should double down.
Most online blackjack games require the dealer to stand at 17. You should also stand with a hard total of 17 regardless of the dealer’s up-card. Also stand with hard totals from 13 to 16 as long as the dealer’s up-card is no higher than 6; anything higher dictates you hit. If your hard total is 8 or less, definitely hit.
Putting Blackjack Strategy Into Action
Strategy is about making smarter moves so you don't increase the house edge. Getting to grips with basic strategy is the first step to becoming a more skilful player - anyone can play like a pro if they know the ins and outs of the game. Better yet, blackjack basic strategy can be implemented in any type of game, whether you’re playing in land based casinos, live casinos or online table games.
The best part about this popular game is that you have an element of control over the outcome. Of course, you can’t choose which cards are dealt to you, but you can make strategic choices about what to do with those cards. There is always an optimal way to play - consider this based on the cards in front of you. Don’t make irrational, rushed decisions or be tempted to take unnecessary risks. Unlike a game of roulette, where you can’t influence the outcome of a round, blackjack puts players in the driving seat. Now it’s time to hit the accelerator.
£10 free - No deposit required
T&Cs apply. New players only. Opt in required. 7 day expiry. 99x wagering requirement. £50 max win and withdrawal for non-depositors. Only bonus stakes contribute towards wagering requirements. All games contribute except all blackjack variants. 18+ BeGambleAware.org
FIRST DEPOSIT OFFER UP TO £200
T&Cs apply. New players only. Deposit £20, £50, £100 or £200 as a single first deposit and wager 40x for a matched cash reward. 7 day expiry. Only cash stakes will qualify. Available on all games except all blackjack variants. 18+ BeGambleAware.org