Some play Blackjack for the sheer fun of it, while others put time into the game in order to reap cash winnings. After all, one of the reasons it is the most popular casino card games is not only its brilliant simplicity but also its excellent odds or RTP (return to player percentage). Of course, in order to enjoy a low house edge (under 1%) Blackjack players must not make strategy mistakes. Furthermore, as we shall cover now, winning players take command of the game’s most powerful moves.
Decreasing House Edge
As we just said, at the fundamental level, any guide to best practices in Blackjack should assume that a player is mastering Basic Strategy. Although there are more than one descriptions of this collected knowledge of the game’s best probabilities (usually shown as a grid chart listing the dealer’s card with the player’s best responses) its essential principles do not vary.
It is said that by following Basic Strategy perfectly, a savvy player can reduce the house edge to as low as 0.5% without using any other methods. For those who are intent to achieve even better odds, the next line of attack is to use advantage play techniques (see just below). The rest of our following suggestions are based upon correct Basic Strategy techniques.
Anything you do that makes the house’s edge negative, and in turn makes your odds of winning a positive probability figure, is considered advantage play. The most well known form of this is counting cards (not too much approved by the casinos, by the way!). But there are other methods such as deck tracking.
There are a variety of ways to count cards, which is to say to remember which cards have been already used during play in order to predict alterations of upcoming probability. Any improvements to the player’s chances would assume that perfect Basic Strategy is being implemented all the while.
Some counting techniques are simpler to use than others, so that this range produces different amounts of advantage over the house. A player will need to survey many of the available methods to find the right balance of difficulty and benefits.
A Word of Advice
All card counters should realise that casinos ban this technique; some casinos even take strong measures to thwart such players, if not to detect and escort them out individually. At the least, dealers are instructed to reshuffle decks more often or disrupt the concentration of suspected counters.
Aggressive play in Blackjack is very different than in Poker. This is mainly because there is no interaction with other Blackjack players (therefore no psychological competition) and there is a straightforward relation to the dealer. Although it is said commonly that one plays against the dealer in the game, the truth is subtler: comparing one’s cards against the dealer’s hand is the basis of winning or losing a round, but one is not competing against the dealer actually.
To play aggressively in Blackjack is to employ strong strategy against the game’s rules and odds, in combination with smart betting (or, intuitive betting, if you will). It is a relatively low drama game among players with an inward focus. In order to do this successfully a skillful understanding of the following moves is essential.
When a player Doubles Down, it means that one is:
- doubling one’s wager
- hitting the hand once
- standing with the resulting hand
Despite a misconception with novice or unskilled Blackjack players that doubling down can be done anytime one feels lucky, it is best pulled off under certain circumstances. Although there is a chance this move will work at any time, the risk that the attempt will flop is big.
There are 14 situations when a player should either Double Down or Hit, and 4 situations to Double Down or Stand. All of these instances happen when the player shows an Ace plus a 2-7 card against a weak dealer card up of 3-6.
Note, that some Blackjack tables allow a player to Double Down after a Split (see below), which gives the move even greater profitability.
Not like splitting ‘hairs’, the wise player will always Split two 8s or Aces since these cards are the strongest bases for creating two strong hands instead of one. Obviously, this doubles one’s potential winnings. Yet this is a gambit only to be tried with two powerhouse cards.
A novice might split pairs of lesser cards out of blind hope, curiosity to try this move, or hoping for luck, but experienced players know better. For example, according to Basic Strategy one should never Split a pair of 5s — since doing that just begets two weak hands instead of one.
Splitting Rule of Thumb
A smart player can Split all pairs except 4s against a weak dealer hand (2-6 up, and sometimes 7). Pairs generally should be Hit when the dealer has 7-10/Ace showing. In the particular case of a pair of 9s against 7, 10, or Ace, one should Hit rather than Split.
Not much can be said about being dealt a Natural (Ace + 10). Since this is based sheerly on luck, the only influence its recipient can hope to exert is happening to have a healthy bet on the table for that round. Read on.
The Business of Betting
We close briefly with a word about betting strategies, which are a kind of lynchpin for ensuring that our best Blackjack moves pay off. Betting methods on their own, during all play, help to limit losses and prolong a game, too. We advise players to select a bet progression strategy (how one reacts to losses and wins with subsequent wagers) and stick to it, in the same frame of mind as a businessperson making investments. Keep acts based upon the perception of luck to a minimum.
Overall, a winning Blackjack player approaches the game rationally, sensibly, even scientifically or mathematically — take your pick. It is a game that pays off well for those who can play patiently, see the big picture and trust Basic Strategy over the course of many hands.