Blackjack Strategy – How to Play your Cards Right
If you have ever played blackjack, you will no doubt be aware that some decisions are not particularly easy to make. Of course, hitting with 11 points is a no brainer, but what should you do with a pair of nines? Stick with 18, or would splitting the hand be a better choice? How does the dealer’s hand impact this decision? It’s clear from this example that you need a strategy where you can always make the best decision to optimise your winnings.
Use Strategy Tables to Increase your Success
What you need is a table where all possible combinations of your own cards, and those of the dealer are listed to show you the best action to take, to maximise your chances of winning. The mathematics behind these charts is well known and has been in existence for many years. The following table is for blackjack games played with 4 or more decks, and is divided into 3 parts. These are for hard hands (without an ace), soft hands (with an ace) and pairs. It is very simple to use this table. Simply find the hand you have, then go to the column with the dealer’s card to find the best move for a successful result.
Many of the decisions are not surprising – they are the logical choice to make. The most interesting scenarios are those with pairs. As you can see, the actions change depending not only on the type of pair you have, but also on the card the dealer has. It could be argued that with a pair of 10’s, and a relatively poor dealer card, it would be most beneficial to split, thus providing the possibility to win twice. However, the best action would be to stand. This is because split hands will often lead to hands of less than 20 points, and more chance therefore of losing.
Dealer Hits on Soft 17
There are many variants of blackjack which feature different rules. One of these is that the dealer must draw another card if they have a soft 17. This impacts the best action to take for certain combinations. For this reason, another table is needed which shows the best decision to make where this rule is in place.
As you can see, there are not many differences between this chart and the first one. Yet, it is worth paying attention to these subtle differences when playing. This way you can squeeze every last percentage you can to maximise your winnings.
The Simplified Version for Both Rules
The advantages of using these strategy tables are clear. If you play online blackjack, you can open the tables and ensure that you make the optimal decision with every hand. Of course, there is no time limit to take your turn when playing online, so you can take your time, check the charts and make the best choices to increase your chances of winning. Yet if you play in a land based casino, it is not as easy. Many casinos will not allow you to bring such strategy guides to the game with you, so you have to memorise an awful lots of details in order to play optimally. For this reason, there is another table available with a simplified strategy. It is much simpler to memorise the rules of this table, compared to the other two detailed guides.
At first glance, you can see that this simplified version is much easier to memorise. There are of course some differences between this shorter table and the detailed versions, but they are minimal. By using this shorter strategy table from memory when playing in a real casino, you may not always make the optimal move. However, chances are that when you play in a brick and mortar casino, you will be in the company of friends and looking to have some fun. Therefore, it is not vital to squeeze the few extra hundredths of percent chance of winning from each game. If your aim is to play blackjack seriously with the maximum chance of winning, then you should opt for online casinos, such as Betway. This way you can use the detailed tables and take your time to ensure you are making the best decisions.
More Tips for Blackjack Players
These tables provide useful strategies for blackjack players to maximise their profits. Yet they are not the only options out there. There are various other approaches to the game which aim to improve player success. Here, I will show you what other options you should consider, or have in mind when you play.
The strategy tables shown above give you the best chances of winning, but still the house has a small edge. By using the card counting method, you can overcome this house edge and increase your profits further. This method is not a completely new strategy; it is in fact an extension of the optimal moves using the strategy tables. You can learn more about how card counting works in our dedicated article.
Double your Bets when Losing
The idea behind this method is like the Martingale strategy used in roulette. This approach means doubling your bet when you lose a game. So if you bet £5 and lost, your next bet would be £10. You continue to double your bet when you lose, until you win a game. At which point, you would return to your original bet amount of £5. By using this system, when you win a game, all your losses are won back, plus a small profit. With blackjack, the profit is even higher than in roulette.
There are certain limitations on using this system for blackjack, just as there are for roulette. You can only double your bet so many times before you reach the maximum betting limit. What’s more, in blackjack, it is not unheard of to have a losing streak that can last for 10 games in a row. This would mean betting very big sums of money using this system. Yet overall, it is quite an easy strategy to apply, and you could give it a try to see if it works for you.
Adapting to a Game with Several Players
There are some tips that suggest the cards held by other players also impact the decisions you should make. The idea behind this is that the decisions made by you, and other players at the table can ultimately impact the cards that that dealer can draw for their hand. Of course, if you are playing using card counting, then the other players’ cards are important. The proportion of high and low cards on the table affects the probability of which remaining cards the dealer can draw. However, this will not affect the decisions you should make, and therefore, the actions listed in the strategy tables should still be used to ensure the optimal move.
In some variants, the dealer’s second card is not drawn until all players have completed their turn. In such cases, you may be criticised for your decisions, as it ultimately affects the card the dealer draws. If you stand, rather than hit, then the dealer’s hand would be different. Of course, you cannot predict which card comes next and so this “tip” should be ignored. You should base your decisions on the optimal action for the cards you have and the dealer’s card which is visible.
Insurance and Side Bets
One very credible tip is to avoid making side bets and insurance bets against dealer blackjack. This is because the expected payout for these type of bets is significantly lower than the normal game. Whereas blackjack has an expected RTP (return to player) of around 99% or more, side bets tend to vary from around just 95 – 97%. Therefore, if you are looking for the optimal strategy to maximise your profits, side bets and insurance should always be avoided. They are not favourable for the player, and although you may win in some cases, in the long run, you will lose your money faster.