Long one of the world’s most popular card games blackjack is a game of both skill and chance. Learning blackjack basic strategy can dramatically reduce the house edge and increase your odds of winning one of the most fun and exciting casino games around.
Blackjack has long been one of the most popular casino games in the world. Dating back to France in the early 1700s, today this elegant game of both luck and skill can be found in every major casino, whether land-based or online, in the world. The draw of blackjack lies not only in its simplicity but also in the fact that mathematicians have shown us that it is a game in which you can actually beat the house if you are persistent and diligent enough in applying basic blackjack strategy.
In this article, we’ll provide you with some insights of the basic blackjack strategy you need to know to be able to have a ton of fun, beat the house, and walk away from a winner.
What is the house edge?
First off, let’s talk about the house edge. As you know, all casino games have a house edge that gives the casino an inherent advantage and keeps them in business. It doesn’t matter whether you’re playing in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Macau or at your favorite online casino, the house edge is always there in every game you play. Games like Keno, with a house edge ranging from 25%-29% or Casino War, with a house edge for a tie bet at 18.65%, are some of the worst casino games to play as they have the highest house edge.
Classic and Live Dealer Blackjack, on the other hand, with the dealer standing on a soft 17, has a house edge of just 0.28% when played using blackjack basic strategy. Obviously, that’s a huge difference in your favor as long as you effectively use basic blackjack strategy and one of the things that have helped blackjack keep its place as the world’s most popular casino card game throughout the ages. The key to successful blackjack play, enhancing your fun and your bankroll, is knowing when to stand, hit, split, double down or surrender.
When to hit or stand
While famous card counters like the MIT team, Edward Thorp or Ken Uston popularized the notion that you could get seriously rich playing blackjack properly as long as you were a mathematical whizz kid, you don’t have to be a maths genius to employ blackjack basic strategy and dramatically increase your chances of walking away from the table a winner.
When it comes to basic blackjack strategy, it all starts with knowing when to hit or stand. There are two main types of hands in blackjack, hard and soft. Hard hands refer to the possibility that the player or dealer will go bust (go over 21) on the next hit. A soft hand is one in which the player or dealer has an ace that counts as 11 instead of 1.
The rules regarding when to stand or hit, then, are as follows:
- If the dealer has a 4-6 and you have a hard 12 – always stand
- If the dealer has a 2-6 and you have a hard 13-16 – always stand
- If you have a hard 17 – always stand
- If you have a soft 19 or more – always stand
- If you have a soft 18 – always stand, unless the dealer has a 9, 10 or ace, then hit
- Always hit on a soft 17 or less
- Always hit on a hard 11 or less
When to split in Blackjack
When it comes to basic blackjack strategy, knowing when to split is also an essential skill. In almost all versions of blackjack, you’ll be given the option to split your hand into two separate hands if you’re dealt a pair. You double your bet but are now playing two hands (or possibly more, as some versions of blackjack will give you the option to re-split if you’re dealt another pair) against the dealer. The rules regarding when to split are as follows:
- Always split aces
- Always split 8s
- Always re-split the above if given the chance
- Never split 10s
- Never split 5s
- Never split 4s
- Only split 2s, 3s or 7s if the dealer has a 7 or lower
- Only split 6s if the dealer has 2-6
When to double down in Blackjack
Doubling down in Blackjack is the opportunity to double your initial bet after you have seen your first two cards but limits you to only one additional card after your bet. Statistically speaking, as each deck of cards in blackjack holds 16 cards that equal 10, if the two cards you are dealt first equal 10 or 11, doubling down is your best bet to maximize your possible winnings.
Experts also say that if the dealer is showing a 5 or a 6, also known as “bust cards”, and you hold an ace together with a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6, doubling down is your best bet as you are more likely to be helped than hurt by the remaining cards in the deck.
When to surrender in Blackjack
Certain variations of blackjack will give you the option to surrender. This means, in the event, you’re dealt a terrible hand, you have the option to forfeit the hand and retain half your bet. The logic behind when to surrender and when not to revolves around the particular type of blackjack you are playing. i.e. whether the dealer is required to hit or stand on a soft 17.
If the dealer is required to stand on a soft 17, then it is advisable to surrender if you have 16 and the dealer has a 9, 10 or ace. However, this changes in the event you have a pair of 8s, in which case you should split instead of surrender.
If the dealer is required to hit on a soft 17, then it is advisable to surrender on a 15 or 17 if the dealer is showing an ace or if you have a pair of 8s and the dealer has an ace. If the dealer has anything else, the pair of 8s should be split.
Learning and effectively using blackjack basic strategy will not only dramatically alter the odds and lower the inherent house edge in your favour but allows you as the player to take ever greater control of your game, making the experience of playing one of the world’s most beloved casino card games immensely more fun, thrilling and profitable! Get into your game today and use basic blackjack strategy to turn an otherwise casual and fun game of cards into a truly winning proposition.