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Blackjack is the classic online casino game of thought. Some would say that poker is but poker began as a saloon game and only reached land-based casinos when casino patrons asked for it. Before that, blackjack was the quintessential casino game of skill. Now, blackjack is also a game of luck. So, part of the skill in blackjack is in making your own luck.
Do you remember the moment in Titanic when the personal bodyguard of the rich husband to be said exactly that: “I make my own luck” and he said it as he brandished a pistol in full view of the audience. In blackjack, you make your own luck by following the standard strategy card for every hand possible.
The strategy card is the indispensable tool for getting as close as you possibly can to a 100% return to player rate when you play blackjack at Springbok, the online casino for South Africa.
The basic blackjack strategy card is readily available online. It has odd shapes in different colours. It looks like a kids’ rainy day game where you get a set of oddly shaped figures of differing colours and you try to form images using the shapes.
The shapes are odd because there is deep logic behind every square on the basic strategy card.
The left column in the card is the total of the two cards the player holds. Remember that the player goes first which gives the house a big advantage. Some rules return some but not all of the advantages to the players but, in general, the player’s actions are determined by his or her cards and the dealer’s visible card.
So, the top row of the card is the dealer’s up card. Thus, a player can refer to the card for every possible hand combination of a player’s hand versus the dealer’s up card.
The list of players’ hands begins at 8. There are two reasons why the list begins at 8. First, it is obvious that you’ll hit with 7 or less. Second, because with 8 points some players would consider doubling down. The chart clearly shows that you don’t double down with 8 points. You might get a 10-point card for 18 points but 18 points for the player is not actually a great hand. You stand with 18 points but you’ll lose the hand quite often. So doubling down with 8 points is the equivalent of throwing good money after bad.
Now the strategy gets a bit more complex. With 9 points, you have much better winning chances if you get to 19 points than with 18 points as in the previous paragraph. But you double down only when the dealer shows 3 through six. This is based on statistical analysis from thousands of hands.
Even when the dealer shows a 2, it is better simply to hit rather than to double down. The dealer can beat you in many ways starting with 2 points but the odds quickly change to be in your favour when the dealer has a 3 on up through 6. After 6 points showing for the dealer, the player should merely hit.
These holdings are almost the same for the player. Players should double down with these point totals unless the dealer is showing a ten-point card or an ace in the case of the player having 10 points and only in the case of the dealer showing an ace should the player simply hit with 11 points.
10 and 11 points are like being in Valhalla for blackjack players.
If you play at a land based casino and you hit with 12 points, which is the correct strategy in some cases, the other players at the table will get angry at you for ruining their winning chances. When you play online, you never have to worry about the reactions of other players to your decisions!
When you have 12 points, you stand if the dealer is showing a 4, 5, or 6 and you hit if the dealer has any other card showing. There are simply too many ways for the dealer to win starting with 12 or 13 points. Similarly, if the dealer has 7 through ace, you need to try to improve your hand so the best strategy is to hit.
With these point totals, the best strategy begins to be highly counter-intuitive. Many blackjack players simply can’t bring themselves to hit with these point totals. However, statistical analysis has shown that the player with 13 through 16 points should hit in an attempt to improve their hand if the dealer shows a 7 or higher card.
However, if the player has 17 points he or she should always stand. There are just too many ways to bust when you start drawing with 17 points.
At this point, we need to introduce the idea of surrender. Some casinos offer this valuable tool to players but most don’t. In the above example, it is usually wise to surrender if you can when the dealer shows 7 or better and the player has 15 or 16 points.
The strategy of surrender also depends on whether the dealer hits or stands on soft 17. If the dealer hits on soft 17, players lose slightly more often than if the dealer stands on soft 17. Therefore, in a game where the dealer hits on soft 17, you should surrender with 15 or 17 points if the dealer is showing an ace.
In our next article on blackjack strategy, we’ll deal with cases where the player has an ace. You might think that these cases are easy to figure out but they do have a complexity of their own and a lot of the complexity depends on what the dealer is showing.
Similarly, next time we’ll talk about when to split pairs.
Following the basic blackjack strategy card will get your return to player rate close to 100%. It won’t exceed 100% but by getting very close to that amount, you can expect many blackjack sessions to end up in the winning column. At any rate, blackjack is a game in which good players win or lose a little so the game is truly a casino game of skill that you can play for a long time and simply enjoy.