Blackjack is a game of skills and strategies, but in order to win, you must also know your odds. Successful blackjack players are masters at manipulating the odds to their favor. This is done by basing bet sizes and actions on the cards on the table and the cards in the deck. You gain a little edge knowing what cards are already on the table but can get a significant edge when you count card, which is a technique to keep track of what type of cards are left in the deck. Successful card counters can turn the house edge upside down and consistently make a profit playing Blackjack.
At Blackjack, the house edge of the casino depends on the quality of the players. If the players follow the right strategy, the house edge is low. If the players play stupidly, the house edge is high. Basically, casinos have a house edge of around 1.5% on average, facing a variety of Blackjack players, some playing well, some playing poorly.
The house gets this edge as the dealer is the last player to act. By then, players have already ended their turn, and some probably busted. However, by using good basic blackjack strategy, one can turn the Blackjack house edge down to around 0.5%, making it one of the best games to play in a casino. This drastic drop can be achieved by playing the basic strategy perfectly and you can take the Blackjack House Edge even lower by using advantage play such as card counting techniques discussed in this article. Unfortunately, card counting is banned in most casinos, as it manipulates odds to the player’s favor.
But even without counting cards, there are ways for a blackjack player to increase their chances of winnings, and that is by playing basic blackjack strategy. In order to minimize the house edge, you need to be making the most optimal decisions. You should base the decision of whether to hit, double or stand on the strength of your own hand, and the information you have about the dealer’s up card.
It is crucial that you know the probability of busting when you are holding a certain value of hand. For example, if you hold a 19, there is an 85% chance of busting if you draw another card, if you hold a 18, the figure drops to 77%. Knowing these values is important as hell as they tell you when you should hit, and when you should choose to stand, which in Blackjack is the most common decision you will be faced with.
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Blackjack rules Change, and it affects the House Edge
The house edge changes dramatically based on the variation of Blackjack played and so does your odds. If you are playing a ‘dealer hits on soft 17’ game, the odds will increase in favor of the house by 0.22%. Conversely, if you are playing a game that allows you to double down after splitting, this will increase the odds in favor of the players by 0.13%. Every player should know the specific rules of this Blackjack table before sitting down. The Blackjack player also needs to understand that these odds are estimations that will only be more accurate during extended play over the course of your blackjack career. In a single sitting, you can win or lose well above or below the expected values.
Bad Blackjack Play Can Prove to Be Costly
Some of us tend to make bad choices; this is extremely bad when you’re playing Blackjack, as bad choices may end up doubling or tripling the house odds. Casinos rely on players not playing the game in an optimal manner. However, if a player uses the basic strategies and plays it perfectly in a six-deck game, it is possible to reduce the house odd to a mere 0.58%.
Bust Percentages for the Dealer
Although the odds favor the house, dealers are also susceptible to a certain bust percentage, which is what you’re hoping for when your hand isn’t looking very pretty but you want to take your chances. This can be estimated from the value of the up card. The dealer’s up card is either going to be good or bad for the player.
As a player, you obviously don’t want to see the dealer get an Ace or Ten, as that could give them blackjack. You want to see the dealer get dealt low cards, more specifically 2-6. Why you ask? Because they are much more likely to bust (go over 21).
For example, if the dealer’s up card is a 2, he has a bust percentage of 35.30%, although ideally you want the dealer’s up card to be either a 5 or 6, because their bust out percentage in these situations is around 42%, which means that players that apply the basic strategies will have a much higher chance of winning, because they’ve played their hand correctly. On average, the dealer has a bust rate percentage of around 28%. As mentioned above, the lower the dealer’s up card is, the better it is for the player’s chances of winning. Using this logic and taking this one step further, a 7 is more likely to bust out than an Ace or Ten.
Blackjack Lingo and terminology
We will explore the basic strategy below but first, you need to know the terminology or lingo used when speaking about Blackjack. Here are are some key terms to remember:
- Surrender: letting go of your hand before hitting a card or before the dealer reveals his. You get back half of your bet and your hand is over.
- Hit: take another card
- Double down: Double your bet but take only one additional card, regardless of what card that is. You can usually Double down only if your total is 9-10-11.
- Split: when you get two identical value cards, you can split the hand: you double the bet and get two hands, one with each of the split cards and another card or more is added to it
- Hard total vs Soft Total: In Blackjack, the Ace is worth 1 or 11 and therefore a Blackjack hand which contains an Ace has two potential values and is a soft hand. Example: if you have a 6 and an Ace, the hand is worth 7 or 17. The 17 is therefore a soft seventeen: you can hit another card and even if the card is 5 or more, you do not bust. You can hit a soft hand without risk of busting. A Hard 17 is a “real” 17. If you take a card worth 5 or more, you bust.
Blackjack basic strategy
All of these odds and percentages being discussed on this page as they relate to Blackjack might seem a bit complicated at first, but at its core, it’s a simple game to learn, and the decision-making during the game will become second nature to you with experience under your belt and confidence in your play.
Here we will give you the main elements of the basic Blackjack strategy. We advise that you try to follow these as closely as possible and recommend training for low stakes at online casinos before moving up to higher stakes or real casinos. If you master the basic Strategy, you have a much better shot at turning a profit.
The Basic Blackjack Strategy consists in minimizing your losses when you are at a disadvantage against the casino and maximizing your bets when you have an advantage, by doubling down or splitting.
If you split or Double down with the right Blackjack hands, your chances of turning a profit increase dramatically and the casino house edge decreases dramatically.
Here are the core elements to remember if you want to play Blackjack with the right strategy:
When to Surrender (not available on all tables or at all casinos):
- You should surrender your hard 16 against a dealer showing 9 through Ace.
- You should surrender your hard 15 surrenders against a dealer 10.
When to Split:
- You should always split aces.
- But NEVER split tens.
- If you have a pair of 9s, you should split against a dealer 2 through 9, except for 7
- You should always split 8’s
- If you have a pair of 7s, you should split against a dealer 2 through 7, otherwise just hit.
- If you have a pair of 6s you should split against a dealer 2 through 6, otherwise just hit.
- If you have a pair of 5’s, don’t split. You should double against a dealer 2 through 9 otherwise just hit.
- If you have a pair of 4s, split against a dealer 5 and 6 , otherwise just hit.
- If you have a pair of 3s, split against a dealer 2 through 7, otherwise just hit.
- If you have a pair of 2s, split against a dealer 2 through 7, otherwise just hit.
What to do with a Soft total:
- With a soft 20 (A,9) always stand
- With a soft 19 (A,8), you should double if the dealer shows 6, otherwise stand.
- With a soft 18 (A,7) you should double against a dealer 2 through 6, and hit against 9 through Ace. In other cases, just stand.
- With a soft 17 (A,6) you should double against a dealer 3 through 6, otherwise just hit.
- With a soft 16 (A,5) or a soft 15 (A,4) you should double against a dealer showing 4 through 6, otherwise hit.
- With a soft 14 (A,3) or a soft 13 (A,2) you should double against a dealer 5 through 6, otherwise hit.
What to do with hard totals:
- With 17 and up always stands.
- Stand with 16 against a dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
- Stand with 15 against a dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
- Stand with 14 against a dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
- Stand with 13 against a dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
- Stand with 12 against a dealer 4 through 6, otherwise hit.
- With 11, you should always double (even against a 10!)
- With 10, you should double against a dealer 2 through 9 otherwise just hit.
- With 9 you should double against a dealer 3 through 6 otherwise just hit.
- With an 8, always hit.
Blackjack is one of the only Casino games which requires strategy
Blackjack is quite different than other casino games in that the player decisions have a lot of impact on the casino advantage and the profits or losses of players. In a game like Roulette, the decisions are all equal. Regardless of the number you bet on, your odds of winning are the same. This is not the case with Blackjack and every decision matters and can turn a winning session into a losing one.
Our advice is to learn the basic Blackjack strategy or at least the main elements. Whole books have been written about Blackjack but below we will give you the most important strategy elements to have a good chance at Winning at Blackjack.
We also advise that you start by playing for low stakes in an online casino as this will help you gain experience. At online Casinos you can play Blackjack for as little as $1 per hand meaning that you get to play a lot longer with a small investment and that helps with your training. Once you feel confident enough that you have mastered the Blackjack strategy, you can raise the stakes or visit your local casino to play for more money.