Blackjack strategies have been a source of debate amongst pro players for decades, with some swearing their personal strategy is the only one worth using and others delving deep into the mathematics behind blackjack in a bid to beat the dealer. But we’re disregarding the complicated and stripping blackjack strategy back to the basic 3: Pair Splitting, Doubling Down and Hit or Stand.
Written 23rd December 2019
Setting the scene: just you and the dealer sat at the blackjack table, bets are placed and the cards are dealt as you shuffle your chips in anticipation. You check your cards and make your move, leaving the table a winner. How does that sound?
You may know how to play blackjack, but the rules of casino games can be different and knowing how to employ a strategy are two completely different kettle of fish. Often players think that because they know the basic ‘how to’ when it comes to blackjack, they are automatically blackjack black belts. However, this isn’t always the truth. When it comes to gameplay, it’s important to know what your strategic options are and when is the best time to employ them. Arm yourself with the correct knowledge of the game plus a basic strategy and you stand a much higher chance of winning against the online blackjack pros and dealers.
The beauty of a basic strategy is just that, it’s basic. Unlike other guides would have you believe, it doesn’t have to be super difficult to understand and the simplest of techniques can help players tenfold when playing blackjack. In our guide, we’re discarding all of the mathematical equations and breaking blackjack strategy back down to its basics.
These are the 3 strategies we find to be most beneficial to both blackjack beginners and veterans alike. Employ these tactics to enhance your online casino experience and increase your chances of rumbling the dealer.
Strategy 1: Pair Splitting
With pair splitting, players tend to fall into 1 of 2 categories. The first are players who shy away from this tactic and never pair split. The second are players who, when dealt any pair, split needlessly and without reason. We understand that when a pair is dealt, the urge to pair split can be uncontrollable. Don’t fall into that trap.
However, don’t let this put you off this nifty little blackjack trick. Pair splitting is actually designed to give the player an advantage against the dealer - with the consensus of double the hand, double the opportunity the player has to form a winning hand. But learning when and when not to pair split is crucial to making it work in your favour.
If you’re unaware of what we mean by the term ‘pair splitting,’ it’s simply a blackjack technique which allows players who are dealt a pair (eg two 8’s) to split them, playing each card as a separate hand. To do this, you must place a wager on the second hand equal to your original bet and you must play the hand to your right first.
When should you use this tactic? There are certain pairs that it wouldn’t be wise to split. If you are dealt a pair of 10s, do not split. Although it may seem like you have a better chance of winning, there is no need to split a hand totalling 20 to potentially lose with two separate hands. You should also never split on a pair of 5s for similar reasons. If you’re going to split, do it with a pair of 8s or Aces. Having an Ace in your hand already puts you at an advantage - two even more so. Being dealt a pair of 8s already brings your total to 16, suddenly hitting with this amount would be a risky move.
If you’re going to use the pair splitting, make sure you use it wisely and to your advantage - not to that of the dealer. If your hand is high and close to 21, resist the temptation to split.
Strategy 2: Doubling Down
Like the Pair Splitting method, Doubling Down comes with the purpose of increasing your chances of winning or breaking even. It can also be used to increase your potential payout if you were to hit a winning hand. This option becomes available after the cards have been dealt - alongside the choices to ‘Hit’ or ‘Stand.’ Doubling down allows you to double your initial bet value in return for a single draw card. This means you sacrifice your chance to receive multiple draw cards from the dealer. meaning you play this round of the game with a 3 card hand. So when does this strategy become a good one to employ?
When making the decision to double down or not, there a couple of points you should consider; your hand value and the value of the dealers up-card. How far away from the value of 21 is your hand? If it falls into the late teens or hits 20, it’s best to avoid the doubling down option. You should also take into account hard and soft hands. A soft hand is any hand were an Ace acts as an 11 rather than a 1. Should your hand value be a hard 8, 9, 10 or 11, or a soft 13 to 18, then you might want to consider doubling down. With these hands, you’re least likely to go bust when doubling down. If you do decide to double down with a soft hand, the Ace will automatically convert from an 11 into a 1, lowering your chances of busting and upping your chance to hit 21. Learn more about hard and soft hands are in our comprehensive How To Play Blackjack guide.
Strategy 3: Hit or Stand?
The game is mid-hand, the cards have been dealt, perhaps you’ve split your pairs or opted to double down... you still have the most crucial decision left to make; will you hit or stand? This may seem like the most textbook of blackjack strategies but it is one of the most important moves you make when playing. Knowing when to hit and stand is integral when a single card stands between you beating the dealer or going bust.
Bare in mind, the aim of blackjack is for you to hold a hand higher than the dealers but without exceeding the value of 21. Electing to ‘Hit’ means you will be dealt another card, this could go one of two ways; take your hand value closer to 21 or push it over, causing you to bust. Standing, however, means you’re satisfied with your hand value and do not wish to draw any further cards. If you chose to stand, your hand will then be complete for that round.
Going bust on a one card draw is a fear many players have when playing blackjack. The possibilities of this are high when your hand is a hard 12 to 16. However, this is all dependant on the dealers up-car. If the are showing an up-card which holds a value between 2 and 6, it is likely they will have to continue to draw cards which puts them at risk of busting. Should this happen, it’s wise to stand and hope the dealer draws to bust.
However, should the dealer hold an up-card with a value of 7 or over, they are more likely to obtain a hand between 17 and 21. If you hand value is 16 or less, and you are unable to use the pair splitting or doubling down strategies, you odds of winning are higher if you hit and risk going bust until you hit at least a hard 17. Doing this will put you in a stronger position against the house.
Whenever you are making the decision to ‘Hit’ or ‘Stand,’ you should always bare in mind hard and soft totals.
Being dealt an Ace alongside and 8 or 9 means you should stand, regardless of the dealers up-card (unless the dealer has a 6). At this point it would be smart to double down. Whereas 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 6, in this case you should double down.
Most live blackjack games require the dealer to stand at 17 as party of their game rule. You should take a leaf from their book and also stand should your hand be a hard 17, regardless of the dealers up-card. You should also stand with hard hand values from 13 to 16, providing the up-card for the dealer isn’t a 5 or a 6 - in this case you should double down.
Putting Theory Into Action
These strategies are all about making smarter moves to put you in a better position against the house. Getting to grips with the basic strategies is the first step you take towards becoming a more skillful blackjack player - pro status seems a little more attainable once you’re aware of the ins and outs of the game. Better yet, these strategies can be implemented in both land-based, live casinos and virtual table games.
The best part about this popular casino game is that you hold some element of control, in regards to gameplay. Of course you can’t control the cards you are dealt, but you can utilise the strategies you have learned to make informed movements and lean the odds in your favour. There is always a way to play which will optimise your chances of winning when you take time to consider the card in front of you. Try not to make irrational, rushed decisions or be tempted to follow unnecessary risks. Unlike a game of online roulette where players have zero influence on the outcome of the round, blackjack puts a degree of control into the players hands. Time for you to put the theory into play, why not start with one of our live blackjack tables to find your footing and put your new found skills to the test.
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