Blackjack, alongside poker, is the most popular card casino game. It’s a simple game in which you try your best to defeat the dealer by being closer to 21 without going over (or busting). It’s a mixture of a game of chance and a game of skill. And since you can’t influence nor predict (we’ll talk about this in a bit) what cards you and the dealer will receive, this game maintains the excitement of the unexpected that comes with games based on luck, such as slots, roulette, and craps.
However, those who base their game solely on luck are not experienced blackjack players. Since you’re the one who’s in charge, it comes down to whether you’re making the right choice or you’re making a mistake. Like most card games, there’s math involved, and you can estimate the odds of you having a better hand. This influences (or should, at least) what call you’re supposed to make — whether to stand or hit.
There’s a false story that slot machines were invented so that women had something to do while the boys were off playing table games. Despite men’s insistence that this is a thing in which they excel, the truth is, women dominate blackjack tables. Did you know, for instance, that the first ever professional blackjack player was female? Additionally, Alice Walker, another lady, was the only one to have achieved a back-to-back Double Crown, winning tournaments in both blackjack and 3-card poker. Why wouldn’t you be one of them?
As we’ve said, it’s a skill game, and consequently, it takes time and practice to master it. Let’s go over some of the strategies you can apply to improve your game, starting with choosing the right variant.
What to Play
To start things off, it’s important you choose the right game and location where you’ll conduct your gambling. It doesn’t matter if you’ve gone to Las Vegas, Atlantic City, or are playing blackjack online, some things are universal when it comes to playing a game of blackjack in a smart way.
Generally, when you get a blackjack hand (that’s an Ace combined with a ten-point card — 10, J, Q, K), that’s an automatic win for you, unless the dealer also has one, in which case, it’s a tie, also called a push. Blackjack gets you a 3:2 payout of your original bet, meaning that you’ll get $15 if you’ve invested $10. With this in mind, you should always steer clear of tables which play 6:5 Blackjack (or even worse, 7:6), as this is a rip-off you don’t need to get involved with.
You should also avoid tables which use continuous shuffling machines, as they work faster than the dealer (meaning you’ll have to dip into your bankroll more often), and it also doesn’t allow you to take notice of which cards have gone through the game already.
Another thing to avoid are side bets. Casinos have added side bets as a counter to the low house edge that comes with blackjack. These bets are pure lottery, and as a result, they have greater house advantages (5%+). For example, you can make a 21+3 side bet, which means you’re putting money on your two cards and the dealer’s up card forming a straight, a flush, or a three of a kind. Another instance is perfect pairs, where you bet on receiving a suited pair. As you can see, there’s nothing to suggest that these bets will come true, so you’re taking a shot in the dark. You may win once or twice, but you can’t possibly stay on top in the long run.
Where to Play
You should consider going to online casinos. Besides the obvious advantages of convenience that come with the Internet, there are other ones as well. First of all, you needn’t worry about the casino’s working hours. Whenever you want to play a few rounds, you’ll find that the casino is open and ready for you. Furthermore, you play all the games head-to-head with the dealer, so you don’t have to wait for your turn while other players are contemplating their moves.
When you play online blackjack for real money, feel free to take advantage of the plethora of bonuses on offer. Since there are thousands of gambling websites to choose from, online casinos use promotions to attract players. With this in mind, you can go bonus hunting and find out which casino offers the best deals. Blackjack (when counting towards the bonus’ wagering requirements) is a great game choice, as its low house edge allows you to complete the playthrough more easily.
Lastly, another benefit when playing online is the fact that you can bring your strategy charts with you while playing. This is especially helpful if you’re new to the concept and still need time to memorize what the right decision is with the cards at your disposal. But what are strategy charts, anyway?
Basic Strategy Charts
Blackjack strategy charts are a product of computer software. Someone smart enough created a program which simulated millions of blackjack rounds and came back with the best mathematical decisions you could make, depending on your two cards and the dealer’s up card. This can help you figure out when the odds work in your favor and when that’s not the case, as opposed to just relying on a hunch.
Using strategy charts can significantly increase your odds. Normally, blackjack comes with a house advantage of 1,5%, but if you utilize these charts, you can bring it down to 0,5%, or even 0,4%.
With these charts, you’ll know whether you need to stand, hit, double down, or split. You stand when you’re happy with what you already have (for example, you should always stand when you have two tens, regardless of what the dealer has). Hitting increases your card and point count, but it comes with a risk of going bust. You should take that risk only in certain situations. For example, when you’re holding 12 points and the dealer has an Ace — any other card they have will beat your hand, so you have to risk it.
Doubling down represents doubling your bet and getting one more card from the deck. You should do this only when maths says you have better odds. When your points are 9–11 and the dealer’s holding a four or a six, you should double down.
Lastly, splitting means you take your cards apart and treat them as separate hands. You can do this when you have two cards of the same rank. The general rule is, never split tens or fives, and always split eights and aces.
If you google strategy charts, you’ll find many different ones. They differ based on which game rules you’re following and how you want to play out certain situations. For example, there are different charts regarding your attitude towards Aces, which are called hard and soft 17s.
Both hard and soft 17s are hands which contain an Ace and are worth 17 points. The thing is, you can value an Ace both as a 1 and 11. This changes when you’re about to go bust. So for example, a hand with a six and an Ace is a soft 17 because it regards the ace as 11. Therefore, you can hit without worrying any fear of busting (if you get a ten, the ace will switch to a one, and your hand will still be 17).
On the other hand, a hard 17 is the one which involves an Ace as one point. A hard 17 would be a seven, an ace, and a nine. As you can see, you don’t have the option here to turn an ace into an eleven since it would make you bust.
Different players form different styles based on whether they hit on soft hands or not. When you get a soft 17, you don’t have anything to lose by getting another card, but 17 is high as it is, so some people advise against it. For instance, you can get a five, which will lower your point total to 12.
These basic charts are not enough. Although they do lower the house edge, you still stand to lose in the long run. To consistently beat the house, you need to implement more advanced strategies — something card counters do. Card counting consists of adding and deducting imaginary values to the deck, depending on which cards get used up.
As a result, you’ll be able to work out the odds of receiving a high-value hand. The thing is, this doesn’t mean you can cheat the system and win all the time. You’ll still lose as many rounds as before. However, the trick is in managing your bets. When you feel you’ll lose, put a low bet in, and when the tides turn, act as one of the high-rollers.
Time to Improve
Statistics show that female gamblers tend to be more conservative with their winnings. 72,3% of women state they’d cash out early instead of trying to get a bigger win, compared to 61% when it comes to men. This is a sign we don’t give in to our egos as easily, and it can represent a good way to keep your money.
You should make strategy charts a part of your game (which is easier if you’re playing online), as this will allow you to win more often. And once you master this basic strategy, try to move on to more advanced ones, and you’ll become a pro.
Just be careful to make the right choice whenever possible. Avoid side bets, as they are a waste of money, don’t chase your losses, and create your own style instead of listening to someone else — blackjack is not a team game.