In the majority of surveys on the subject, blackjack is voted the most popular of all casino games. There are various reasons you might put forward for this – it is fun, the rules are easy to learn, and a hand takes only about a minute to play. But perhaps the most important reason is this is a game where playing well means winning more.
Blackjack basic strategy
When you play roulette, there’s no skill involved in betting on red or black, and likewise, with conventional slot games, it’s all down to luck whether the symbols line up. But when you are online gambling at blackjack for real money, you can reduce the house edge to less than one percent just by following the basic strategy.
There’s no magic involved, basic strategy is just a case of knowing the courses of action that are statistically more likely to win you the hand under given circumstances. As you’ll see, the rules are not at all complicated – at least, they don’t have to be. There are three decisions you need to make during a blackjack hand, and calling it right depends on your cards and the dealer’s upcard.
When to hit or stand
This is the fundamental decision that forms the basis of the game, and it is where you are at an advantage over the dealer, who must hit on 16 or less. For basic strategy, we don’t need to dive into the underlying mathematics, the important thing is to remember the conclusions that drop out:
- If the dealer’s upcard is seven or higher (including ace): Hit on 16 or lower.
- If the dealer’s upcard is four, five, or six: Hit on 12 or lower.
- If the dealer’s upcard is two or three: Hit on 13 or lower.
This might be surprising. Most players would not think of standing on 13, but sometimes that is statistically the best thing to do.
Which pairs to split
Again, this doesn’t only depend on which pair you have, the decision is also influenced by the dealer’s upcard. Just remember there are three categories. Pairs you always split, pairs you never split and pairs you sometimes split.
- Always split aces and eights.
- Never split fours, fives, or 10s.
- Sometimes split the rest – specifically, split them if the dealer’s upcard is seven or below.
When to double down
Now we are on the home straight, as this is the simplest rule of all. You should only even think about doubling down if you are dealt nine, ten, or eleven. If you are dealt anything else, forget it.
- Dealt nine – double down if the dealer’s upcard is four or five.
- Dealt ten – double down if the dealer’s upcard is four, five, or six.
- Dealt eleven – always double down.
Going beyond basic strategy
Take the above strategy tips to the blackjack table, and your win rate will improve, it’s a mathematical certainty. Once those basic strategy tips are second nature, you can build on them with more advanced strategies that will reduce the casino’s edge still further. Good luck!