We might say that each card game in a casino has particular characteristics needed to succeed and win at it. For example, in poker one needs keen skills of observation (to read the numerous ‘tells’, as in tell-tale signs, that other players betray with their faces, twitches and unconscious habits). Blackjack players need, above all, to have patience and internal discipline.
Letting the Dealer Bust
As in many games, sports, or competitions, one of the simplest and most effective ways to win is by not making a mistake and letting your opponent make the fault instead (as with tennis).
In Blackjack you have two opponents: the odds of the decks and game rules taken together, and, your dealer (who actually is more like an extension of the game’s rules only). The time when you will have an edge against the dealer is when her up-card is weak (valued from 2-6). That means that the odds favour you, as long as you don’t bust.
Trust Your Odds
So, when your dealer draws a card of 2-6, it is most likely that when drawing more cards until reaching at least a value of 17 (by the rules) her hand will bust. This means that it does not matter what you have, as long as you yourself do not bust.
If you see this scenario then you must resist the temptation to keep hitting if your hand is relatively low (12-16). If you have a 13, and the dealer has a 2 or 3 showing, stick to your guns and Stand. Then, just sit back and enjoy watching the dealer bust, which will happen more often than not.
NOTE: The exception is when you have a 12 against a dealer’s 2 or 3 — in this case you can Hit once.
According the MIT Basic Strategy chart (which you can find online for free), in the last example above of your 12 vs. dealer’s 2 or 3, statistically you should Hit because the dealer has better odds of a good hand against your chances when hitting the 12.
That is just something to memorise. And yet, if you have an 10 or 11 against anything the dealer has short of a 10 or Ace, you should Double Down. One might think that a Double Down in the example above with the 12 makes sense, and it is very closely related — yet this is a perfect case for having discipline and acting upon Basic Strategy.
So, bottom line, learn the best cases to Double Down and use this winning move only then, not just when you feel lucky. It is very enjoyable to Double Down (like Texas Hold’Em’s going All In) and have it pay off. But do this wisely, since it is not fun to lose after doubling your bet!
The payoff of a successful Split is similar to doubling down, although this probably is the most dramatic move in Blackjack — especially if you’re playing at a table that allows doubling down or splitting after you first Split! Then things really get interesting, and hopefully lucrative.
Bar none, the Split, Split+Double Down and multiple Split scenarios are the gutsiest and most brilliant winning moves in this game. Even if you don’t have a 100% win (all new hands generated), you may at least break even, or lose as a hero.
Better still, only use your Split option according to Basic Strategy to get the full enjoyment of winning this way: always Split your 8s and Aces, and, memorise the other pairs and situations suitable for this move.
As you know, a Natural Blackjack is getting 21 with two cards, which means an Ace + 10. It’s unbeatable. You will win your wager, so let’s hope you happened to have a good bet at for that card draw.
On the other hand, this kind of Blackjack requires zero strategy, as opposed to forming 21 from lesser cards. So there isn’t much to say — just enjoy it when it happens!
Win with Insurance
Of all our winning moves above, this one is a bit of a lark (our little red herring to keep you sharp!). That’s because according to many experts at Blackjack, disciplined players ever take the poor odds of hedging your bet with Insurance against the dealer’s Ace and possible ‘10 in the hole’.
So, don’t be a sucker and never take insurance. That alone is the brilliant move in this case.
The five Blackjack situations described above all hinge upon possessing great patience and the discipline to listen to the voice of strategy, and act upon it.
Blackjack is an interesting game in part because of how individual and intellectual it is (without the competitive dramas of poker). So buck up, and play strong with patience!