Blackjack is interesting because it is very focused upon the probabilities of cards in a minimal way, stripped of the deep and wide psychological dimension found in poker or other games. Blackjack actually is a very individualistic challenge.
The player interacts with the dealer, however, this is a straightforward relationship (without psychological intimidation or deceptions such as bluffing). In fact, many amiable dealers even offer valuable advice.
The reason this advice is at all possible has to do with the straightforward rules of Blackjack, which restrain the dealer into a purely functional role. Your dealer (in a casino, or when playing a live online dealer game) even may point out one of the following worst errors you can make, hopefully before you make it!
Please Note: If you want to understand more context for any of these guidelines below, or actually see what we’re talking about then get yourself a reputable Blackjack Basic Strategy Chart (such as the one shared by MIT’s winning Blackjack team).
1. Never Split 5s
When playing Blackjack, one may feel tempted to Double Down or Split their pair for the same reason: it puts twice as much cash on the table to win. Of course, increasing one’s outlay also means possibly losing more. Like every Blackjack decision, it is recommended that you
Split only under precise circumstances.
Always and Never
There are only two hands in Blackjack that you should always split no matter what the dealer has: split your Aces, and, Split your 8s. Otherwise, although just over half the possible pairs can be Split, half of the time (depending upon the dealer’s card) they should be Hit instead — and there are 3 instances when you should Stand on a pair of 9s.
A pair of 5s should never be split under any circumstances. Why? If you think about it, when your dealer gets a 2-6 you can consider it the poorest hand; in those cases you have the best odds that the dealer will bust even if your hand isn’t great.
Therefore, if you split 5s then you end up with not one but two of the poorest hands you could have. Don’t be tempted by the opportunity to Split when you can play your 5s as a 10, with a good chance of humbler success on your single bet.
2. Do Not Stand with a 12 on Dealer 2/3s
Normally you can safely stand if you have 12-16 when the dealer has only 2-6 showing. That is a whole 25 block of hand situations where a blackjack strategy of Standing has the best odds: except just 2 scenarios you should remember.
If the dealer has either a 2 or a 3 against your 12, then you should Hit instead of standing. A 12 for you simply won’t be enough to beat the dealer in the event that the 2/3 does not bust and turns into a decent hand of at least 17.
3. Do Not Split 9s on Dealer 10/Ace
Although your pair of 9s are almost as split-able as 8s, don’t try it if the dealer has the best card up of 10 or Ace. If the dealer turns over a 10 then you will need an Ace to beat it (so those are very slim odds).
Incidentally, you should also remember this: for the same basic reasons you should not split your 9s if the dealer has a 7 since the chances are high that the hand to beat will be tough.
4. Do Not Split 10s
Even though for the opposite reason as above — with a pair of 5s — it may seem like a good bet to split your 10s no matter how good the dealer’s hand looks, have discipline on this one! You’ve got a 20 and chances are high you’ll win, so be content without doubling that win.
5. Do Not Double Down 11 on Dealer Ace
Although the Double Down move is a great thrill in Blackjack, somewhat similar to going all in with Hold’em, especially when you hold a starting hand of 11, there is just one instance when you should Hit instead: against a dealer’s Ace (also 11).
The two best times to Double Down are when you have 10 or 11, and yet all told there are 3 situations to Hit instead (one of which we just told you). The other 2 situations are if you have a 10 against a dealer’s 10/Ace. Makes sense, right?
6. Never Use Insurance
In Blackjack, the dealer will always offer you Insurance when her up card is an Ace, since that is the strongest possible hand against you: a 21 if the dealer’s next card is a 10. Insurance means that you switch strategy and take a 2-to-1 bet that the dealer will win with a Blackjack against you.
Insurance might seem like a good idea for you if your hand isn’t superb. And yet, according to the math whizzes at MIT and other Blackjack hawks, the odds for an Insurance payout are not all that this gambit seems cracked up to be.
So, keep things simpler for yourself when playing against the dealer and just never take Insurance. (You’ll feel a nice sense of resoluteness against the dealer’s one form of temptation or mind-game, besides!)