For centuries blackjack has been one of the most popular card games in the world. Believed to be of French origin and to have derived in the early 1700’s, the game is loved not only because of its exciting social aspects, but also because it is one of the few gambling games that strategy and skill can actually lower the house edge, making it one of the most profitable games out there.
If you are new to blackjack, a good way to learn before getting your feet wet is to practice online with autoplay to assist you. This will allow you to learn the basics of the game without losing any real money. Play until you are fully comfortable with the rules and strategy. Practice adjusting your betting patterns depending on the size of your stack relative to when you started and how you’ve been playing. This will become a weapon of your blackjack winning arsenal.
In order to maximize both your fun and your profit, you’re going to have to familiarize yourself with the intricacies of the game and what to do in order to be a winning player. We’ve outlined the things you need to know and learn before you get started.
Be Sure You Know the Rules
You’re not going to get very far if you don’t know the rules to the game. If words like “hit”, “stand”, “split”, and “double-down” make you think you’re learning pilates then you’re definitely in need of some basic Blackjack 101 tutelage.
Begin by getting a firm grip on the rules of the game, the betting options, and learn what’s called “basic strategy” (see chart below). Basic strategy will do the bulk of the heavy lifting for you. If you memorize it and conceptualize the reasoning behind it, you’ll be on your way. The finer parts of the game will come with practice and patience.
Choose the Right Casino
There are a lot of different casinos and there are a lot of different versions of blackjack. You want to pick a casino that has multiple blackjack variations so that you can both find your favourite game and maximize your earnings. Different blackjack games appeal to different personal preferences. You’ll need to try out various types of blackjack to see which of them you like most. You can alter between games to get a feel for what appeals to you depending on your mood. It will depend on what you are seeking at the time. Some games will have large bonus offers while other games could have better odds for certain bets. Be sure also to read the site’s game descriptors to get the details you need.
For fun, consider reading about and joining a site’s blackjack tournament. They are usually offered daily and sometimes multiple times per day. It adds some spice to the game in the sense that you will be competing against other players to get the top spot on the leaderboard and take home a nice pay day.
Play at a Table with a Low Minimum
You shouldn’t be betting all of your hard-earned money on your first hand. Try and find a table where you buy in with no more than 5 percent of your total stash. This lets you enjoy lots of hands without undue pressure and you’ll have more flexibility as well. It goes without saying that you should have a plan in mind for how much you can absolutely spend in an evening of online blackjack as well.
As general rule for all forms of gambling, it is imperative that you pay specific attention to your bankroll before, during, and after a session.
Know the Proper Hit/Stand strategy
Blackjack is a game that can be played “by the book” if you learn and follow a simple set of rules. There is a basic strategy that can be used for all forms of blackjack you may come across. Memorize this basic strategy and trust it. It is the most sound advice one can give for this game. At times you may wish to stray from this strategy and “go with your gut”, but overall that is a losing proposition.
The following chart will show you precisely what you should do in any given circumstance. Learn it until it becomes second nature.
Don’t Buy Insurance
Buying insurance in a hand of blackjack online is a foolish move. Avoid this option. It benefits a sly card-counter only and counting cards is impossible online. For your benefit, pretend this option doesn’t even exist.
Double Down When You Can
If you really feel like you’re in a good position to beat the dealer, you can double down on a bet. Doubling down means you double your bet and you get an extra card. Double down with a 10 against the dealer’s 9 or anything lower. You should double down when you’re holding a soft hand of 13 through 17, or when your ace is counting as an 11.
Vary your Bets
Remember that you should be increasing your bets when you are on a roll and decreasing when the tides turn. Often times players will forget this and find their profitability will stagnate in the long run.
Soft 17 vs. Any Upcard
Many players tend to misplay a soft 17 (having an Ace with a 6) by being too conservative. They reason that if the dealer has a bust card showing (3-6), then their best play is to play the same way they would with a hard 17. The truth is, if the dealer doesn’t have a bust up-card showing then the chances of a player winning with 17 is drastically reduced. Therefore, it is always wise to hit or double down on soft 17 to increase your chances of a winning (improving on the 17 total).
Soft 18 vs. 9, 10 or Ace
Players often stand on soft 18 when the dealer shows 9, 10 or Ace. This will lose you money in the long run. Statistically speaking, 18 will rarely win when the dealer has an upcard of 9, 10 or Ace. While it’s true your chances of busting when you hit on 18 are very high, a soft 18 offers you the chance to improve your standing without risk of busting. You need to take another card here against a dealer’s 9 or better hand. It might feel like your hurting your chances, standing is actually worse for you. Take the next card and hope you improve.
Hard 12 vs. Dealer “Bust” Cards
A dealer showing upcards of 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 has what are referred to as “dealer bust cards” because the likelihood of the dealer busting is greater than if he shows a 7 or better. A general rule to remember is that you should always expect the dealer’s next card will be a ten and make your decision accordingly*. So if the dealer upcard is 2-6, you can assume, with their second card being ten, that they will be in position to bust when they take their next card; hence the name “dealer bust cards”.
Standing on hard 12 vs. a bust card is a judegment call you’ll have to make. It is largely dependant on which bust card the dealer is showing. If the dealer has one of the smaller bust cards (2 or 3) it is advisable to hit on a hard 12. On the other hand, it is still a good idea to stand when the dealer shows an upcard of 4, 5 or 6 (the biggest bust cards) because their likelihood of busting is statistically greater and therefore you don’t need to risk the possibility of busting your 12 with a ten or face card.
Splitting can be tricky. Here are some rules of thumb you should try to conceptualize and remember.
- You should always split a pair of Aces and stand on a pair of 10s.
- Always split 8’s unless the dealer has a bust card showing. Your 16 can only win if the dealer busts.
- Splitting 9’s, while it breaks apart a relatively strong 18, is a necessary move when the dealer shows a 9, 10 or Ace.
Blackjack vs. Ace
There is a myth in blackjack that players are wise to take insurance (meaning you decide to instantly take even money on your 21 rather than a potential payoff of 3:2 if the dealer doesn’t also have blakcjack) on their blackjack when the dealer has an Ace upcard. Don’t follow this myth. Taking insurance is a sucker move that will only hurt your winnings in the long run. It is better statistically (and financially) to let the hand play out and hope to win the full value of 3:2 rather than taking even money.
By taking insurance you give up 13% of the profit that blackjack pays; this cuts your winnings dramatically.
Have Fun and Practice
The game of blackjack can be a lot of fun. Whether you’re playing online or sitting with a group of people at a casino, be sure to absorb all the information you can while you are playing. Learn from your mistakes and be sure to focus on maintaining proper strategy. The more you play the better you will get.
Best of luck!
* – In a regular deck there are 4 times as many cards that are worth a value of 10 compared to any other card but only 30% of the cards in the deck are worth 10, so there is really only a 3:7 chance in any given round that the blackjack dealer actually has a 10 in the hole.