Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games in the world. It’s right up there with giants like poker and roulette, with countless players drawn to it for its simple gameplay and great odds. However, players new to casino games may wonder whether they should go for blackjack as their first option.
The game gives you more control over the outcome than pure games of chance like roulette or slots, so blackjack strategy may sound intimidating. If you’re wondering how to maximize your chances of success, look no further than this guide. Here, we’ll provide an overview of blackjack strategy, answering people’s most common questions when playing.
Blackjack is a card betting game played against the dealer. Players try to make the hand with the highest value possible, but a hand with a value above 21 “busts” and automatically loses. The value of a hand is calculated by the total value of all the cards in it. Cards are valued by their number, and face cards like kings, queens, and jacks are all worth 10. Aces can be valued at either 1 or 11, depending on the player.
At the start of the game, the players and the dealer receive two cards. The player’s cards are face-up, while one of the dealer’s cards is face-down, known as the hole card.
Players in blackjack can control their hand through two actions: “Hitting” and “Standing.” Hitting is requesting another card to add to your hand. You can hit as many times as you want, but you must be careful not to go overboard and bust. All extra cards from hitting are shown face-up.
Standing is finalizing your hand. After standing, you can no longer hit, so you have to be careful when you stand. These two simple actions make up the entirety of the basic blackjack strategy. Some versions of blackjack do offer more complex actions, like doubling down, which means doubling the bet, hitting exactly one more time, and then standing.
There’s also another complex action known as splitting. It can only be done if your first two cards are a pair, meaning they have the same value. If that happens, you can “split” them apart and play two hands, each with one of the paired cards.
When to hit, stand, and double down
The core of blackjack, hitting versus standing, is complicated. It depends on two things: The total value of your hand and the one card the dealer is showing. You can find hand charts in blackjack detailing the exact action you should take in every possible scenario, but here is a simple overview of when to hit and stand.
Stand when your hand is worth anywhere from 17 to 20. Regardless of what the dealer has, your hand is already strong, and hitting puts you at an extreme risk of busting.
For other hands, it’s essential to understand the distinction between “soft” and “hard” hands. They come from the ace’s flexibility as either a one or an eleven. A hard hand has no ace, so its value will never change, like 9-7, a hard 16.
A “soft” 16 would be a hand with an ace, like A-5. It could be worth 16 if you use the ace as an eleven, but you could also use the ace as a one and then hit. Generally, you should be more open to hitting if your hand is soft.
If your hand is worth anywhere from 13 to 16, you should stand if the dealer’s card is from two to six. Hit on anything from seven to ace.
If your hand is worth twelve, stand if the dealer has a four, five, or six. In all other scenarios, hit.
If your hand is worth ten, you should double down if the dealer has anything except a ten or ace. On those hands, you should hit.
If your hand is worth nine, double down if the dealer has a three, four, five, or six. Otherwise, you should hit.
Finally, if your hand is worth eight, you should hit it every time regardless of what the dealer has.
When to split
Splitting in blackjack is an exciting option and often one of the most challenging choices for inexperienced players. We’ll go through every hand and explain what to do with them.
Aces – Always split. Aces are flexible since you can use them as either ones or elevens. This makes them a prime target for splitting since you have a high chance of making 21 in both hands.
Tens and face cards – Never split. Your hand is already valued at 20, which in most cases, is a near-guaranteed win. Splitting will just throw away this fantastic hand.
Nines – Split depending on the dealer. Nines are a tricky hand to split, so it’s recommended only to split when the dealer shows 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, or 9.
Eights – Always split. Starting with an eight is a recipe for success.
Sevens – Split depending on the dealer. If they show seven or less, split.
Sixes – Split depending on the dealer. If they show six or less, split.
Fives – Don’t split, but double down if the dealer shows nine or less.
Fours – Don’t split.
Threes – Split depending on the dealer. If they show four to seven, split.
Twos – Split depending on the dealer. If they show three to seven, split.
What is surrendering?
Finally, if you’ve looked up blackjack strategy, you may have heard of an action known as “surrendering.” This is an action only a few casinos and blackjack rooms offer, so it isn’t widely applicable.
Surrendering means forfeiting your cards, giving up half your bet, and taking the other half back. It’s best used when you have a low chance of winning, such as when the dealer shows an ace or you have a bad hand like 16 against a dealer’s 10.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with whether the form of blackjack you play offers the option to surrender. It’s a fantastic tool to mitigate losses when used well since it gives back half your bet.
Try out some online blackjack!
So, don’t let the many possible scenarios fool you, blackjack strategy doesn’t take a lifetime to learn. You may be overwhelmed initially, but just start slowly and study the game before playing. Try blackjack on some reputable sites to understand why it’s one of the most popular online casino games.
For more in-depth strategy, look at some blackjack charts and tables online, as they’re an easy way to remember what you should do depending on how your cards match up against the dealer’s.