Blackjack has long been one of the favourite betting games and for good reason. Rather than relying on the pull of a leaver on a slot machine or even in knowing your favourite sports teams and placing money on them, there is a level of skill and self-control in playing Blackjack. Poker is similar but with a different dynamic that’s more about reading your opponents than your own cards but Blackjack is, as the famous song goes, about knowing when to hold them and when to fold them. Luck is involved, sure, but it’s also about skill and strategy. To do this you need to know the rules of Blackjack – and how to manipulate them to your advantage.
The basics of Blackjack are fairly straightforward, both when playing against a real-life dealer or against an AI, which is probably more likely in these lockdown days. It’s even true when playing it for fun and for free with friends or even your kids (you can play with candy just as easily as you can play with real money).
The player is dealt one card and the dealer deals themselves a card but it is face-up so the player can see it. The player then places their bet based on the worth of their own card and against the dealer’s face-down card. The dealer then deals another card to the player who then determines whether to hold, fold or ask for another card. The sum of their cards may not exceed 21 but also must be higher than the dealer’s total when he or she deals themselves card after the player has finished their round. If the player and dealer end up with the same total, it’s considered a “push” and the player gets what they bet back.
These are the basics but there are other things worth considering if you are to start applying blackjack strategies to your game and start maximizing your chances on winning. First, by getting an ace and either a ten or any picture card at the start of your round means you have blackjack and you’ve already won. You also have other options while playing, including the ability to split your hand in two when your first two cards match, which also means the amount of money you bet is now on not one hand but two at once. You then play each separately and can win and/ or lose on both or either.
Another tool at your disposal is to double if you think your first card is particularly good (like an ace) and your opponent won’t be able to beat you. This doubles your bet on the second card and the round ends. The dealer then plays their entire round and if they are able to raise a higher number than you but less than 21, you lose twice your original bet but win twice as much if you win.
One of the most important rules to know, though, is that the dealer can only ever play until they reach a total of 17 but, unless they have a blackjack themselves, have to keep hitting (adding cards) until they reach 17 or more. This is where the skill and strategy truly comes in – and, though each and every hand is different, there are certain tips to help you win that hand.
First, splitting and doubling should be used sparingly. Don’t split of anything less than a picture card and preferably only on aces and this is only if your opponent has a relatively weak card showing. Doubling is even more of a problem and though you should always use it only when you have a strong starting card and the dealer a bad one, it’s always a real gamble and should only be used if you’re absolutely OK with losing your initial bet. Otherwise, do not under any circumstances double.
Most importantly, don’t play simply until you get as close to 21 as possible, make a real judgement call against both your own hand and the dealer’s starting card. If the dealer has a picture card or an ace, its always worth trying to get as close to 20 as possible but stay at around 17 because the dealer will have to go beyond that if they don’t already have a higher start than you. At the same time, if the dealer has a low card, it’s usually smart to stop as soon as possible, even when your total is just 12 because either of you can land up pulling two picture cards and you would rather the dealer draws those than you as that will already push either of you over 21 in total and the dealer has to pull it if their hand is lower than 17.
These are just some tips to help you get ahead in blackjack but the more you play, the more you learn.