Blackjack is a game of skill. That means that it will take some practice to become really good at it. Really good players often finish a session winning. There are many ways that players increase their chances of winning. In this article, we will concentrate on a few elements of blackjack to help you become really good at the game.
Always keep in mind that it is much easier and safer to practice at an online casino than at a land based casino. That’s because you can play for free and, when you play at Springbok, the top online casino for South Africa, you don’t have any travel costs.
Rules that Help Players
There are rules that help the casino and there are rules that help players. Some rules that help the casino are: players play first and lose automatically if they bust; sometimes the dealer hits on soft 17; the casino might offer insurance; some blackjack games have casino-friendly rules for doubling down and splitting; in some games blackjack pays only 6-5 instead of 3-2; and ties are a push.
There are, however, many rules that help players. Amongst these are doubling down, splitting, using strategy cards, and surrender. In order to be able to finish a blackjack session in the black, you need to learn how to use these great tactical options to your best advantage.
It is best to play a blackjack variation that allows you to split any pair and to split three times if you get another card of the same value. Some variations restrict splitting to certain pairs and some allow splitting only once per hand. Obviously, if it is good strategy to split a pair, it is good strategy to split again if the same number comes up again.
Always split aces. Two aces are 12 points which is already in the danger zone for busting whilst splitting aces gives you a great shot at blackjack. It is always best to play at a game that allows you to split aces again if another one comes up.
Splitting aces allows you to use the extra payment for a blackjack to your advantage.
Always Split Eights
Two eights are sixteen points. This point total is so bad for players that we will tell you to surrender if the dealer is showing any card from a seven or higher.
Two eights, after you have split the pair, are also not the greatest cards to hold since the most likely outcome is that you’ll have 18 points and 18 points is not so good for players. However, you will win slightly more if you split eights than if you surrender the pair of eights.
Never Split Fours
This follows from the above discussion. If you split fours, you have a weak starting card. You’ll likely end up with a low total or bust. But if you keep the pair, you might get at least 18 points and, whilst 18 points is not a great hand, it is mathematically a lot better than starting with a four, much less handicapping yourself by starting with two fours.
Never Split Tens
This rule also includes the royal cards, of course. The idea here is simple; you have a very good hand and the dealer will have to get 21 points to beat it.
Never Split Fives or Sixes
Two fives give you ten points and splitting them makes no sense at all. In fact, with two fives, you might double down if the dealer is showing any card from a nine or lower.
Two sixes are 12 points which is in the danger zone but splitting them risks getting even deeper in the danger zone.
Splitting Twos, Threes, and Sevens
Now you have to decide how to proceed based on what the dealer’s up card is. If the dealer shows a seven or higher, it’s best to hit these pairs rather than split them. If the dealer is showing a six or less, he might bust and then it’s good strategy to split these pairs.
Some people will split a pair of sevens when the dealer is showing a seven.
When to Split Nines
Two nines is not a great hand but if the dealer is showing 2 through 6 or an eight or nine, it’s better to split the nines. If the dealer shows a seven, you might win with 18 points if the dealer gets 17 points. If the dealer shows a ten-point card or an ace, stand and don’t split.
Learning the finer points of this tactic is also a major aspect of ultimately winning at blackjack. The logic of doubling down is quite intuitive; it is actually a lot more intuitive than when to split pairs.
The idea behind doubling down is that you double your bet and get only one more card. So, the obvious idea is to double down only when you have a very good chance to win the hand with this tactic.
It is obvious that you will never double down with hard point counts from 12 and higher. You will also never double down with low hard point counts. It is also obvious that you would double down with a hard ten or eleven count.
The difficult part of knowing when to double down is when you have a soft point count, that is, when you have an ace and your point count is 18 or less. You won’t double down with a soft 19 or 20 and a soft 21 is blackjack! Many players also won’t double down with soft 18 but mathematically it is better than standing.
Remember that we are talking about whether or not to double down with a soft hand. It now depends on what the dealer is showing. If the dealer is showing a nine or above, don’t double down.
Ironically, it is also not in your favour to double down if the dealer is showing a 2. So, you have to decide what to do with a soft hand and the dealer showing 3-6. If the dealer shows five or six, you should always double down.
If the dealer shows a 3 or a 4, you should add your non-ace card to the dealer’s card. If the total is 9 or higher, double down. Otherwise, just hit.
When you use this option, you sacrifice half of your bet and get to keep the other half. Judicious use of the surrender option can be a major part of ending a session in the black. In general, you surrender when your odds of winning the hand are less than 50%. That’s because when you surrender, you give up 50% of your bet.
It is most common to surrender when you have 14-16 points but not a pair of eights and the dealer has a high point card.
Evening the Odds
If we played straight blackjack only, the odds would greatly favour the house. The tactical advantages we have covered here bring a huge amount of equality to the game. You need to master these strategies in order to win at blackjack.