Poker is the casino game known for bluffing. In fact, the verb ‘to bluff’, and the phrases, ‘stone-cold bluffing’ or ‘calling her bluff’ refer to poker, not to blackjack. If you’re a beginner and learner at the great game of 21 then you may not have caught the fact that, despite the article’s title, it has no bluffing!
We’re taking an unusual tact with this article by exploring this aspect of Blackjack as a way to unfold intermediate understandings of the game’s overall strategy and logic, by using a bit of irony.
We’re putting on the rouse of being the ultimate nube (or idiot) who thinks you can bluff in blackjack. Just for fun! But we could learn something while we’re at it, too.
Basic Way to Bluff in Blackjack
Bluffing refers to games like poker where players’ cards are hidden from open view and there are no community cards. Unknown cards are the very basis of the concept of bluffing. Otherwise, a bluff merely means trying to deceive your opponents about your chances of success.
In Blackjack, that kind of deception is pointless in terms of winning. First of all, you’re playing directly against the dealer and no one else. Secondly, your two first cards and all hits afterward are plainly visible to the dealer as the round progresses.
So, ask yourself: how could you possibly bluff?
Doubling Down and Splitting
Rather than the concept of bluffing it may be interesting to replace it with the act of doubling down or splitting. Those are the only two ways to inject more cash into your bet based on your inkling or feeling that you may have more than it appears.
But, the case of either doubling down or splitting your pair, who are you bluffing? In these situations, it is more like you’re trying to bluff Lady Luck herself, since in an instant you find out whether your hunch of success was a success or not:
- you double your bet and get one more card (doubled down), or
- your pair is split and dealt a card on each side (at which point you may be allowed to double down one or both).
At no point will the dealer increase your bet and there is no pot to win, so, there is no question of bluffing to draw in more cash to win, as with poker.
How Do Dealers Bluff?
Now, since the dealer gets one of two cards face down, it may not seem too crazy to think it would be possible for her to bluff you, right?
However, one very important detail makes it impossible for the dealer to try bluffing players. Ready? A blackjack dealer really doesn’t exercise any strategy in her role: she is required to hit until having a 17-value hand.
The Crux of Blackjack
The dealer is a bit like a robot in blackjack, you see. There are two common misconceptions about playing this game:
- ‘You’re playing against the dealer.’ — No, actually you’re playing against the deck, or the very game of Blackjack, or your own luck!
- ‘You have to get as close to 21 as you can.’ — No, actually you only have to beat the dealer’s attempt to get a 21, but beyond that you’re challenging the game’s rules themselves since they restrict the dealer completely.
When to Bluff in Blackjack
(We hope you’re grinning at our little joke!) Trust us, you will never bluff while playing blackjack, unless you’re playing a little side game in your imagination when you double down or split, or you take insurance when the dealer gets an Ace up.
Actually, that situation when the dealer asks (again, robotically) if you want to buy insurance against her Ace is probably the closest the game of Blackjack gets to a bluff moment (and it’s not even your moment!) Most expert players will advise you to never take insurance since the house’s edge is way too high.
So there you have it. No bluffing in Blackjack/21. Now that we have cleared this issue completely, you are free to ponder and appreciate (and enjoy!) what an elegantly simple casino game this is, and how truthful and transparent it is.
Blackjack is a fascinating combination of skill and discretion with pure probability. You might even say that it is free of psychology and intimidation, other than your own!