Best Blackjack Strategies
Blackjack is the most popular casino game in Canada, whether it is a table on the Las Vegas strip, at Montreal’s best casino, or a game of online blackjack in cyberspace. One of the many reasons people love the game is that there is plenty of skill involved, as well as the inherent luck of the turn of a card. Having an effective blackjack strategy can have a dramatic impact on your success, and reduces the house edge significantly.
Whether you are risking it all at one of our high roller live dealer blackjack tables or you are just playing for fun, you will find the game so much more rewarding when you play strategically. Hundreds of pages have been written on blackjack strategy, and as you get more advanced, the mathematics can become daunting. Here, we will look at some aspects of basic strategy that anyone can master as long as they understand the underlying blackjack rules. We will cover the three most fundamental decisions in a game of blackjack:
- Hitting or standing
- Whether to split a pair
- When to double down
Hit or stand
The basis of the game of blackjack is deciding whether to hit or stand, so this is the most fundamental part of your blackjack strategy. For the dealer, it purely depends on the total score – the dealer hits on 16 or less and stands on 17 or more. As the player, you get to choose, and your decision should be based on both your cards and the dealer’s upcard.
Statisticians have spent hours working out the optimum strategy, meaning you don’t need to have a deep understanding of the theory. In brief, however, basic blackjack strategy assumes the dealer’s downcard is a 10, for the simple reason that 30 percent of the cards in the pack are worth 10, whereas it is about eight percent for each other value.
This assumption leads you to the following blackjack strategy rules:
- Dealer’s upcard is ace, 7,8 9 or 10: player should hit when score is 16 or less.
- Dealer’s upcard is 4,5 or 6: player should hit when score is 12 or less.
- Dealer’s upcard is 2 or 3: player should hit when score is 13 or less.
Players are often surprised that it is sometimes the best strategy to stand on a score as low as 12, but the mathematics bear it out. It certainly puts paid to the misconception that winning at blackjack is only about getting as close as you can to 21.
Before you even think about hitting or standing, however, there are some other matters that need your attention. If you have a pair, you have the option of splitting them and playing each card as a separate hand. Whether it is the right decision to do so is again dependent on your cards and also on the dealer’s upcard.
Here, basic blackjack strategy provides the following recommendations:
- Always split pairs of aces and eights.
- Never split pairs of fours, fives, or tens.
- If you have a pair of twos, threes, sixes, sevens, and nines, split them if the dealer’s upcard is seven or less.
There are many subtle variations on this that you will see in different blackjack guides. For example, some will recommend you to split a pair of fours if the dealer’s upcard is a five or six, and others advise against splitting twos or threes if the dealer has a two. However, there is plenty of time to look into these finer details when you are comfortable with the basic blackjack strategy outlined above.
Working again on the assumption that the card you are dealt is more likely to be a 10 than any other value, it is clear that if you are dealt nine, 10 or 11, you are in a strong position. The statisticians say that this is when you should consider doubling down, and if the cards dealt add up to anything else, you should put the idea out of your mind.
Even if they do add up to one of these three values, though, you still need to consider the dealer’s upcard. Basic blackjack strategy advises as follows:
- Player is dealt 11 – always double down
- Player is dealt 10 – double down if dealer’s upcard is. 4, 5 or 6
- Player is dealt 9 – double down if dealer’s upcard is 4 or 5
As with splitting pairs, it is possible to go into far more complexity and detail when you are comfortable with the basics.
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