The Best Online Blackjack Strategy
Blackjack, as a game is one that has a global appeal and not only does it appeal to men, but women and is cross-generational. Part of its appeal and popularity lies with it being a fast based game that does not rely on luck, but it one that requires skill and the ability to apply strategy to how one plays their cards.
While many will play blackjack casually with friends or the odd trip to a casino, many who have keen mathematical understanding and skills are drawn to it as it is a game that can reap substantial profits as a result of strategic play. They do this by card counting and understanding intimately how to follow the game and calculate odds based on the cards that have been dealt and those remaining.
While more experienced players may understand the basics of blackjack, understanding it in greater depth allows you as a player to improve the results of blackjack sessions. It also gives you improved knowledge on how to apply the strategy you have learned and how you play your cards, and ultimately, that leads to a greater feeling of satisfaction and profitability.
The history of blackjack is one that has been disputed for years. Its exact origins have eluded those who have researched the game, and it continues to be a topic that is contested hotly, even today. While there are those that believe it originated in France in the 1700’s, others believe it originated in Rome during the Roman Empire.
There is those that believe that Romans played a game that involved rounds that used blocks of wood with numbers on them. This is believed to have eventually turned into what is known as Blackjack today, and there lies much of the debate. Ultimately, who invented blackjack matters little, as it will have zero impact on how the game is played today, it serves only for bragging rights as it is the world’s most popular table game, even surpassing Texas hold ‘em poker.
What is clear though is that blackjack was not the invention of any one individual, nor was it invented at a specific point in time. What is known is that the original game, in its most basic state has evolved over the centuries to become what it is known today.
Blackjack Game Rules
Blackjack is played using a standard deck of 52 playing cards. However, if playing in a casino, it will be played with multiple decks, usually between four and eight to thwart the attempts of card counters acquiring an edge over the casino.
All cards are shuffled prior to being dealt, and that applies to whether a single deck of multi-deck is in play. If a multi-deck is in play, the cards will be dealt from a show with all cards being placed in the shoe after being shuffled, either by hand or electronically.
The point of blackjack is to achieve 21 or as close to 21 without exceeding 21. Hands that go over 21 are deemed losing hands, those that are 21 or under and beat the hand total of the dealer are deemed winning hands. Hands that result in a tie between the player and dealer are deemed a push with bets returned to the player.
Card values are as follows; those numbers 2-9 are equal to their face value, an ace has a value of 1 or 11, and all ten and face cards have a value of 10.
How to Play Blackjack
Blackjack, in its simplest form, is rather basic, but there are actions that need to be understood to properly play the game. Below we will explain those actions and what is involved when faced with those decisions or actions.
The Shuffle and Cut
Prior to the game beginning, all cards in play will be shuffled. If multiple decks are in use, this will occur once the shoe is empty. After the shuffle, one player will be designated to cut the cards, at which point the dealer will place a plastic card on top of the cards that were cut so ensure not all cards in the deck/show will be used.
Blackjack begins with players placing a bet in the designated area in front of their position at the table. The amount that must be staked will be determined by the table limits that dictate the minimum and maximum amounts that can be staked.
Dealing the Cards
After all seated players have placed their bets, the dealer will deal clockwise one card face up and will also dealer one card face up for the house (dealer). The dealer them will deal all players a second card face up and one to the house face down.
After each player has been dealt two cards, in a clockwise direction, each player will have the opportunity to play their hand. This will involve several options including standing, hitting, doubling down or splitting their hand. If a player decides to hit, the dealer will deal additional cards until the stand or bust, if splitting, each hand will be dealt separately and if doubling down, one additional card will be dealt, and the hand total will count.
Should the first two cards a player is dealt be an ace and ten card it will be considered a natural blackjack as the combined total of the ace and ten card equals 21. Should the dealer also have natural blackjack, the hand will result in a push. Otherwise, the player will be paid 3:2.
After a player has been dealt their cards and it is their turn to act, they will be required to alert the dealer to their intentions. This includes saying “Hit” if they want another card, double down if they wish to double down (this requires an equal bet be made), split if they have two identical cards and wish to play both hands separately (this requires an equal wager be made). If they wish to stand, they can vocalise this or simply wave their hand back and forth above their cards.
All players, when dealt two equal valued cards have the option to split the cards into two hands. When consulting blackjack strategy, certain pairs are not recommended to be split such as two’s, three’s, fours etc. If you elect to split your hand, you will be required to place a bet equal to the initial amount staked prior to the deal.
Each hand is then played separately and will receive one card. In the event one or both of those hands are dealt equal valued cards, the option to split again will be given. The dealer will then dealer cards to each hand based on if the player stands, hits or double downs.
Doubling down is an option a player can choose if the two card total is 8, 9, 10 or 11. Doubling down on hand totals less than those mentions is considered risky and not recommended. If elected to double down, a bet equal to the amount staked initially will be required. At that point, the dealer will deal one additional card, and the hand total will stand.
If the dealers face up card shows an ace, all players seated will be given the option of insurance. Insurance is paid at a rate equal to 50% of the initial staked bet. If insurance is taken and the dealer has blackjack, those taking insurance will receive 50% of their bet back. Insurance is considered poor strategy based on odds and hands dealt over long playing sessions.
After all, players have played their cards, attention will return to the dealer who will then play his/her hand. If the dealers two card total is 17, they are required to stand, however, if it is 16 or less, the dealer will hit. The dealer is not allowed to split hands, nor can they double down as they are not active participants in the betting process.
Blackjack strategy is key to being or becoming a successful blackjack player. As with all forms of strategy, there are different levels; basic, intermediate and advanced. For most players or those that play casually, basic strategy is what is most commonly followed. Those who study the game in more detail will progress to advanced strategy and undertake the practice of card counting, but for most, this level of strategy is often not successful unless they have in-depth mathematical skills and the ability to keep running totals in their heads.
Understanding basic blackjack strategy is a must and should be fully understood before you play for real money. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect, and with a wide assortment of online casinos that offer the ability to play blackjack for free, it gives you all the time you need to perfect basic strategy and learn how to implement them into your game
What is important to understand is that using strategy is just that, a strategy to help improve your results, but it will not have any impact on the house edge. To have an advantage over the house, you will need to learn how to count cards, understand the process and have the ability to keep a running count, but this is no small task and takes a substantial investment in time and energy to learn, even for those who are mathematically gifted.
When starting out, keep a copy of the chart above close at hand. If at a live casino, clearly, you cannot refer to it as it will aggravate others at the table and slow down the game. However, if practising online, or with friends, you can slow down, refer to the chart until memorised and learn the basics in detail before advancing to more in-depth blackjack strategy.
Below you will find basic blackjack strategy. It is ideal to keep this close by when learning it if you are one that struggles to memorise charts or rules of this nature. With practice, these rules will come naturally to you.
Always surrender if your two hand total equals 15 and the dealer shows a 9, 10, or ace.
Always surrender if your two hand total equals 16 and the dealer shows a 9, 10, or ace.
- If dealt two aces, always split your hand.
- If dealt two ten’s, do not split as your hand total is 20 and almost a sure win.
- If you have two nines only split if the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, or 9.
- If you are dealt two eights, always split your hand.
- If dealt two seven’s, do not split as your hand if the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5. 6 or 7.
- If dealt two sixes, do not split as your hand if the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6.
- If dealt two fives, do not split as your hand if the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9.
- If dealt two four’s, do not split as your hand if the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4 or 6.
- If dealt two three’s, do not split as your hand if the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7
- If dealt two twos, do not split as your hand if the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7
A soft total is any hand that include an ace. The reason for this is an ace can be used as 1 or 11. If dealt a soft hand, refer to the following:
- If you are dealt a soft total of 20 always stand. A soft total of 20 would be an ace and a nine.
- If you are dealt a soft total of 19 that includes an ace and eight, double down if the dealer shows 6.
- If you are dealt a soft total of 18 that includes an ace and a 7, double down if the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6.
- If you are dealt a soft total of 17 that includes an ace and 6, double down if the dealer shows a 3, 4, 5 or 6.
- If you are dealt a soft total of 16 that includes an ace and 5, double down if the dealer shows a 4, 5 or 6.
- If you are dealt a soft total of 15 that includes an ace and 54, double down if the dealer shows a 4, 5 or 6.
- If you are dealt a soft total of 14 that includes an ace and 3, double down if the dealer shows a 4, 5 or 6.
- If you are dealt a soft total of 13 that includes an ace and 2, double down if the dealer shows a 4, 5 or 6.
A hard total in blackjack is one that doesn’t include an ace. When playing hard hands, refer to the following:
- If your hand total is 18, 19 or 20, then stand.
- If your hand total is 17 then stand.
- If your hand total is 16 and the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6, stand.
- If your hand total is 15 and the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6, stand.
- If your hand total is 14 and the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6, stand.
- If your hand total is 13 and the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6, stand.
- If your hand total is 12 and the dealer shows a 4, 5 or 6, stand.
- If your hand total is 12 and the dealer shows a 4, 5 or 6, stand.
- If your hand total is 11, double down.
- If your hand total is 10 and the dealer shows a 2, 3, 4, 5 6, 7, 8 or 9, double down
- If your hard total is 9 then double down unless dealer has a 3, 4 or 6.
Remember the Order of Operations in Blackjack Strategy
1) Should I or Can I surrender my Hand?
It is important to know if the casino you are playing at, or the particular version of blackjack you are playing allows you to surrender. If allowed, you may only surrender your hand after the first two cards have been dealt. Therefore, this is the first thing to consider after your cards have been dealt. Remember, surrounding will cost you half the amount you staked, so there is a cost involved, and that too should be factored into your decision as part of your bankroll management.
2) Should I, or Can I split my Hand?
This is the second decision that you should be considering after your cards have been dealt. Not all casinos allow for splitting on any pair, so verify the rules on splitting before sitting at the table. This only comes into play if dealt a higher pair such as 8’s or 9’s. Remember to refer to the chart above on splitting.
3) Should I, or can I Double Down?
This is the third thing you should consider after your cards have been dealt. Doubling down needs to follow basic strategy rules as outlined in the chart above. Depending on the variant you are playing, not all allow doubling down, so check to make sure this is allowed, and if so, then refer to the doubling down chat above.
4) Should I Stand or Should I hit?
This is your fourth thing to consider once your first two cards are dealt. Again, this is where you refer to the charts and use basic blackjack strategy. As hitting depends on what the dealer is showing, it is important, at the beginning to study and refer to the hitting chart. Always stand on 17 or more.
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