Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games, due in no small part to the simplicity of its rules and the ease in which players can pick it up. Having said that, while playing blackjack is pretty straightforward, winning is another matter entirely. The best blackjack players play mathematically, knowing the best move to make based on the combination of their hand and the dealer’s card.
Once you’ve read the rules and know how to play blackjack, the easiest way to start is with a betting strategy. Betting strategies are different to playing strategies because they don’t need you to think about the game at all; they simple dictate the size of the bet that you make. They are designed to minimise losses rather than maximise wins, but can be really important for novice players who don’t want to run out of money too soon.
One popular betting strategy is called the Martingale, and you’ve probably heard of it before, if not by name. The idea is that after every losing hand you double your bet, until you win again. This means that every losing streak will eventually work out in a net win, albeit not a big one. For example, if you bet £10 and lose, you then bet £20. If you win you are now £10 up. If you lose, you then bet £40. However, your bets can get quite high before you win, so make sure you have enough money to play it out. Alternatively, you can use the Reverse Martingale, where you double after each victory, which means that you are essentially only playing with the money you’ve already won. This is a strategy which is a favourite with online players as they can easily track their gains/losses. There are a whole host of online options for blackjack players, one of the most popular forms is Multihand Blackjack, it can be found at 888 online casino and enables users to play up to 3 hands at once, if you wish to try it out yourself, go and play at their online blackjack tables or even better yet experience the impressive line of live blackjack rooms with real dealers.
Casinos add a lot of options for side bets to the game, and it’s worth checking what is offered before you start to play. However, managing these side bets can be tricky, and some pay better than others. As a general rule, avoid paying Insurance. It can be tempting to save some money when you think the dealer has a blackjack, but in reality, you’ll lose far more than you’ll save. Also, it’s probably best to play without splitting pairs, as this can get complicated. Although, if you end up with a pair of aces, you’d be crazy to pass up a chance of double blackjack!
Intermediate players should start to look at the differences between hands. There are different ways of making the same total, for example, A-5 and 10-6 both make a total hand value of 16, but you need to play them differently. This is because A-5 is a soft hand, and 10-6 is a hard hand. A soft hand is impossible to bust on and if it contains an A, that A will be counted as 11 rather than one. You can add more cards to a soft hand which might then turn it into a hard hand – for example, A-5-10 would now be a hard 16. It is always safe to hit on a soft hand, although you might not want to; if you were dealt A-9, that gives you a total of 20, which is probably good enough to win on its own. Knowing the difference between soft and hard hands and how to play them will help you refine your strategy.
If you think you’re ready to get into some more advanced strategies, then you’ll probably need to start with a hand chart. These grids tell you what to do, based on your hand and the card that the dealer is showing. They get more complicated as your game develops, but as a basic guide for the probabilities of the game, they’re a great visual aid. However, you won’t be able to whip one out in a casino, so you’d better make sure that you’ve memorised it perfectly before you go. However, while you’re learning you can keep a copy in front of you and play at one of the many online casinos that host blackjack games.
An easy way to remember the basic strategy is to follow an order of options. While most people think there are only two choices in blackjack – hit or stick – these are actually the last of five different options you can play on your turn. The others are surrender, split and double down, and you should consider them in that order. Many casinos don’t offer a surrender option, so always check the rules of the table. Splitting pairs will give you a second hand to play with, but there are combinations like 5s and 10s where you definitely don’t want to do this. Doubling when you’re very likely to win the hand is the best way to bring home big winnings, but it’s a rare site on strategy charts for a reason – it’s only going to work in a couple of cases. Doubling if you have a hard 11 is pretty much a given, while doubling on a hard 10 is also advantageous most of the time.
There’s a good reason why blackjack is counted as a skill game rather than one that relies completely on luck. Although casinos will always have the advantage over players, by learning a good strategy and following it perfectly, you can minimise the house edge and maximise your chances of winning. There are plenty of free online blackjack sites where you can practise without having to risk your hard earned cash, so you’ve no excuse not to give it a go.