Beating the Dealer at Blackjack: Everything You Need to Know
First up, the good news: you can beat the dealer over any single or few sessions at blackjack. And the bad news? Over the long term, you can’t beat the dealer because the odds really are stacked in the casino’s favor.
The house edge is applied to every game in a casino, from blackjack and roulette to the slots and baccarat. That’s because if one particular game favoured the player, everyone would pile in, and before long, the casino would be out of business. Unlike computer games like Counter-Strike, where you play against other players, in blackjack, everyone plays against the house.
In blackjack, the house edge is around 1.5%, meaning that for every $100 you spend at the table, you are expected, statistically at least, to lose $1.50. But, and it’s a big but, if you apply what is known as the basic blackjack strategy, you can bring that house edge down to just 0.5%.
Now, that still means you are expected to lose, but it also means your chances of beating the dealer over any particular blackjack session is greatly improved. So, what are some of the key golden rules to follow when playing blackjack, one of the world’s most popular table games?
It’s All About the Ten Cards
The largest influence on your blackjack strategy is that all picture cards in the deck are worth ten. With four tens, jacks, queens, and kings at that value, it means 16 cards out of every deck of 52 will be worth ten, while only four cards are worth two through nine, and four aces, which can be one or 11.
This means every next turn of the card is more likely to be a ten than anything else, and you should use this one piece of information to justify your next move above all others. There are two basic scenarios to adopt:
The dealer looks strong
In blackjack, you get two cards, and you get to see one of the dealer’s cards, called the upcard. Now, on the assumption that his downcard is valued at ten, you can judge the strength of his hand. If he looks strong, you need to play more aggressively and take another card to build your total as close to 21 as you can. So, if the dealer has an eight, nine, or ten, you must assume his total is a strong 18, 19, or 20.
The dealer looks weak
Conversely, if the dealer looks weak, perhaps with an upcard of three through six, you must assume his next card is a ten, and he has 13, 14, 15, or 16 and must, therefore, take another card that will often cause him to go bust. In this case, you can stand on just about any two cards or widen the hands with which you are willing to split or double down, thereby getting more money on the table.
Double Down Skillfully
Doubling down allows you to effectively increase your stake – and win more – when you believe you are in a strong position. There is no point in gambling and doubling down just because you have a “hunch.”
While you can always double down on 11, since you have a high chance of making 21 with a third card, you can double down with ten only when the dealer shows nine or fewer. You can also double down with nine, but only if the dealer’s upcard is three through six. If you have two fives, you can double down if the dealer has nine or fewer. There are some soft ace hands with which you can double down – refer to a blackjack chart for these numbers (more about that below).
When you are dealt a pair, you have the option of splitting, repeating your stake, and having the dealer add an extra card to the split cards so that you now play two hands instead of one. A rookie mistake is to split when you have two tens – always stand in this case, as you almost certainly have a winning hand already. It makes little sense to invest twice your stake and then potentially turn one winning hand into two losing ones.
You should split aces and eights at all times, and nines but not if the dealer shows seven, ten, or an ace.
Download a Blackjack Chart
While all this advice might seem a lot to take in for the novice player, there is one easy way to follow the complete blackjack basic strategy. Go online and search for “blackjack chart.” In the images section, you will see a whole selection of these, which will give you the optimum way to play any hand depending on your two starting cards and the value of the dealer’s upcard.
Print one of these charts off, and you can then refer to it easily whether you are playing online or in a live casino.
By adopting this strategy, you will greatly increase your chances of making a profit, and there’s no better feeling than beating the casino at their own game. So long as you never forget that statistically, in the long term, you will always lose, then that’s fine. Casino gaming is supposed to be a form of entertainment after all – so, consider the casino house edge as a minor tax on your fun.