Blackjack is one of the non-negotiable classic casino games. It’s simple enough to play in the back of a bus on the way to a casino with other games! I learned to play in the fifth grade when my friend and I pretended to be doing maths with counters in the back of the class.
That experience is when I first realized that the house always wins at casino games! Well, truth be told, my friend let me gamble away my lunch money a few times before I realized that the dealer was winning a lot more than I was. We were 9 years old, I’ve (sort of) forgiven him by now.
However, in comparison to a lot of the other games in the casino, Blackjack does have a good reputation as being (sort of) fair for players. In industry-speak, it has a high ‘RTP’ value (a.k.a. Return to Player %). This means that, if a player plays the perfect strategy, on a table that has the ‘optimal’ ruleset being played, for every $100 wagered, the player will have an expected return of $99.50. Compared with slots (75-93%), or Roulette (92-96%) this is high!
But notice when we talk like that, there are a lot of qualifiers. “Optimal” Ruleset. “Perfect” strategy.
Learning exactly when to hit, stand, split and double down your hand is the key to Blackjack strategy. But here’s what you might not be doing: Checking the dealer’s cards.
Though the people around you may shift the odds a little, by taking better cards out of the deck each hand, their impact on the odds on your game is very low.
The dealer, however, is your opponent, representing the casino’s interests. They will have one of their cards visible, and that’s what you need to combine with your hand to determine the correct strategy.
Most of the time, you’ll get between 12-16 with your two cards.
Stand when your hand is 12-16 when the dealer has 2-6.
Hit when your hand is 12-16 when the dealer has 7-Ace
If you get a pair of cards, you can ‘split’. There are a lot of variables when it comes to this, as many different options as there are cards in the deck, but for this simple strategy you just need to remember – Always split Aces and 8s. Turning 2 aces or 2 8s into 2 hands that begin with Ace or 8 gives you a very high chance of beating or busting the dealer.
There are more cards worth ‘10’ in blackjack than any other number, and the aim is to reach ‘21’. Therefore, having 11 as your total is a very strong position, as you’re more likely to get some card worth ‘10’ and hit ‘21’ than anything else.
If you have 11, and the dealer doesn’t have an ace card face up, you should take advantage of this position and double down on 11 versus the dealer’s 2-10
For ‘soft hands’, pay attention to the dealer’s upcard. If they have a lower low card than you, just hit. If it’s higher than yours, which makes them likely to ‘bust’, double down! This rule is known as Hit or double Aces-6.
A lot of casino gift shops will have a little strategy card for you to help memorize these ideas! But for online casinos, consider this your tip sheet.
Basic tips, outside gameplay
Never buy insurance – If the dealer’s upcard is an Ace, you can buy insurance. Insurance pays 2-to-1 if the dealer turns out to have blackjack. This can be tempting for players who are getting burned by the dealer’s slightly better odds at the table. It feels like a respite and a chance to win by siding with the house a little. However, you’ve still got to ante up ½ of your bet again to buy that insurance. It pays 2-to-1, so you get back the total of your bet if the dealer has blackjack. But in that scenario, you lose your initial bet to the dealer’s blackjack, so you just break even!
Sit in the middle – this can seem counter-intuitive, I opened the article by saying that blackjack isn’t like poker, and your fellow players don’t impact your game. However the extra time you can take to check your cards, check the dealer’s up card and remember the correct strategy you’re going to play means sitting anywhere that’s not the first seat is going to be in your favor.
Start slow and set hard limits – feel out the table, feel out the dealer and let yourself enjoy the game for a bit, don’t start throwing big money down immediately, you don’t have to! Also remember to set limits on your play, that way you won’t end up in a loss spiral. We recommend 3 hard limits whether you’re playing online or in a physical casino. Time’s up, i.e. when you’re going to call it a night, no matter the streak you’re on. Lick your wounds, i.e. the level of losses where you can still walk away and recover, and F**k you money, i.e.the level of winnings where you can walk away happy and not risk giving all that money back to the casino!
Setting limits is the best strategy to come out a winner when it comes to online casinos, especially blackjack.
There you have it – our Simple Blackjack Tip Sheet for Crazy Online Casino Success! Good luck at the tables!