For many, blackjack is the archetypal casino game. The roulette wheel has simplicity on its side while poker brings drama and has the Hollywood appeal. But blackjack is a game that is non-threatening for casino newbies but still provides an opportunity for the player to exercise some strategic gameplay. Everyone knows how to play blackjack, you can teach the rules to a five year old in two minutes flat. Nevertheless, there is a difference between knowing how to play and knowing how to win. Approaching a blackjack table for the first time can be a little daunting, but blackjack can be played in an online casino too, and that’s a great way to dust off your skills and practice your strategy. Here are some pro tips that will set you off on the right path.
Know when to split
There is one killer sign that tells a croupier he or she has a novice at the table, and that is an over-enthusiasm when it comes to splitting pairs. For some reason, this seems to be the aspect of basic strategy that presents the biggest challenge to the casual player. Here are the rules, try to remember them, or failing that, use simple strategy cards till you have it off pat.
First, there are some pairs that you should always split and some that you should never split, regardless of what card the dealer has.
- Always split aces and eights.
- Never split fours, fives or tens.
For the other six pairs, ie twos, threes, sixes, sevens and nines, the decision to split depends on the dealer’s upcard. There are a few variations on exactly which to split and when, but here is a simple rule of thumb:
- If the dealer is showing seven or lower, split them.
- If the dealer is showing eight, nine, ten or ace, don’t split them.
Know when to stand
A common misconception about the game of blackjack is that you need to get as close to 21 as you can. Change your mindset, the real objective is to finish closer to 21 than the dealer or to stay in the game when the dealer goes bust. If the dealer is showing four, five or six, you should stand on 13 or more for the best chance of success. If you were approaching the game from the “as near 21 as possible” perspective, standing on 13 would seem like madness.
If the dealer is showing two or three, you should stand on 14 or more, while if the dealer has seven or more, the conventional wisdom of stand on 17 or more applies. Remember, though, that the rules for splitting take priority, so despite adding up to 16, you will always split a pair of eights, whatever the dealer might have.
Know when to double down
If you’ve got the dealer on the ropes, the double down is a great way to press home your advantage. Taking this option when you have a far stronger hand will often pay dividends, and there is a simple strategy to follow here, too. The double down should only be considered if you have been dealt nine, 10 or 11:
- 11 – Always double down.
- 10 – Double down if the dealer has four, five or six
- 9 – Double down when the dealer has four or five.