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The Best Blackjack Strategies for All Games

If you are a keen Blackjack player then there is no doubt that you have come across Blackjack strategy charts. While these are a truly helpful tool, not many of us will have the time or inclination to sit down and memorise them. Luckily, for enthusiastic amateurs, there are a few basic tips that can be memorised and while they may not produce quite the same results as following optimal strategy, they will still go a long way towards improving your returns. 

Best of all, most of the following tips can be used for all versions of Blackjack, so you don’t need to look up different strategies for each game that you play.  

Almost Always Double Down on Hard 11 

If you have been dealt a hard 11 (i.e. there is no Ace in your hand), then it is almost always better to Double Down, regardless of what the dealer is showing. The only exception to this is in multi-deck games in which the dealer must stand on soft 17. In that instance, it is better that you hit rather than Double Down.  

Always Split Aces and 8s 

If you are dealt a pair of Aces or a pair of 8s, then no matter what the dealer is showing, you should split them. Many players fail to see the logic of this and will not split 8s if the dealer is showing a 9, 10 or Ace. However, it is the best thing to do as starting with two hands, each containing an 8, is better than playing one hand of 16 and hitting. In the long run, splitting 8s will result in a smaller loss than by hitting on hard 16. In the case of Aces, splitting them should result in significant gains for the player. The only exception is if you are playing a multi-deck game in which the dealer must hit on soft 17, or a game with two decks in which the dealer must hit on soft 17 and you cannot Double Down after a split, then you should surrender the pair of 8s if the dealer is showing an Ace.  

Never Split 5s or 10s 

A pair of 5s can also be viewed as a hard 10, and it is always better to hit on a hard 10 than split the 5s into two hands. Furthermore, while splitting 10s will very often lead to winning hands, holding on to a 20 is likely to do so far more often.  

If You Have a Hard 12 and the Dealer Shows 2 or 3, then Hit  

Many players with a Hard 12 will stand as they are worried about going bust. However, if the dealer is showing a 2 or a 3, then in the long run players will lose money whether they hit or stand. However, less money will be lost by hitting, even if it does result in going bust some of the time.  

If You Have A-7 (Soft 18) Hit if the Dealer Shows 9, 10 or A 

Many players are under the false impression that hands worth 18 are likely to win, so they will stand on a soft 18, especially if the dealer is showing a strong card. However, if you have A-7 against a 9, 10 or A, then you are at a disadvantage, no matter whether you stand or hit. However, you have a slightly better chance if you Hit. This is because if you draw a low value card, such as A, 2 or 3, then you will have a natural hand that is higher than 18, which improves your chance of winning. If you draw a 10 card, then the hand remains the same. Therefore, it is always best to hit. (The exception is in a single deck game in which the dealer stands on soft 17, then you should stand.)  

Double Down if You have 10 and the Dealer Shows 9 or Less  

If you are holding a two card 10 and the dealer’s up card is worth 9 or less, then you are in a very strong position. Therefore, you should always double down in this situation, as you have the chance to increase your winnings.  

In a Game When the Dealer Hits on Soft 17, Follow These Rules: 

  • Double Down Hard 11 against a dealer Ace  
  • Double Down Soft 19 (A-8) against a dealer 6 
  • Double Down A-7 against a dealer 2 

If the Dealer Shows 5 or 6, Double Down A-2 Through A-7 

You will always have the chance of winning more if you double down A-2 through A-7, in other words soft 13 up to soft 18, if the dealer is showing a 5 or a 6.  

If the Dealer Shows a 7, Stand if You have a Pair of 9s 

It is common for players to split a pair of 9s if the dealer is showing a 9 or less. However, if the dealer is showing a 7 then it is best to stand as in the long-term, you will win a bit more money than by splitting. There is a fair chance that the dealer’s down card will be an Ace, therefore, if the up card is a 7, then there is a good chance that the dealer has a natural 17. A pair of 9s, which is worth 18, would then beat the dealer’s 17.  

Surrender in the following Circumstances 

  • Hard 16 against a dealer 9, 10 or Ace 
  • Hard 15 against a dealer 10 

Hard 16 and hard 15 are two of the weakest hands in Blackjack, especially when the dealer has a strong up card. Therefore, if surrender is available, then it is always best to take the option and know that in the long run, you will be saving money.  

When Playing with a Single Deck, Double Down on 8 if Dealer Shows 5 or 6 

If you are playing a game of Blackjack that uses more than one deck of cards, then you would never Double Down with a two card 8. However, this is different in a single deck game as the odds make Doubling Down the best possible options. This is also true if you have a pair of 4s, unless you are playing a game that allows doubling after a split, in which case that is the best option.  

If You Have a Pair of 2s or 3s and Dealer Shows 2 or 3 then: 

This situation depends on whether the game you are playing allows you to Double Down on a split hand. If it does, then you should split your pair, if it doesn’t, then you should hit. Splitting is the better option if Double Down is allowed as it gives you the option to bet more money in a favourable situation (such as splitting 2s and then drawing a 9 or 8, giving you an 11 or 10).  

Never Place the Insurance Side Bet 

The insurance side bet sounds like a fantastic thing; after all, it prevents you from losing money if the dealer has Blackjack, a hand that you can never beat and only draw with at best. However, no matter what hand you are dealt, even if it is a very strong hand, such as a 19 or a 20, then you should never place the insurance side bet. The reason is very simple, a winning insurance side bet pays at 2:1, and this is less than the odds that the dealer will be holding Blackjack.  

In many versions of the game, the casino will offer players an even money payout if they are holding Blackjack and the dealer is showing an A. This is essentially the same as making an insurance bet. If a player is holding Blackjack then the even money payout will be tempting, as it is guaranteed money. However, in the long-term players will win more by opting to wait and see what the dealer is holding.  

If You Hold a Multi-Card Hard 16 then Stand Against a Dealer 10 

Blackjack strategy charts take into account the player’s initial two cards and the dealer’s up card. According to the strategy, if the player has a hard 16 and the dealer is showing a 10 value up card, then players should Surrender or Hit. While this is correct, it is not always the best choice if you have a multi-card 16, such as 4-5-7. In this instance, the best option is to stand against a 10 value up card.  

Avoid Games that Pay 6:5 for Blackjack 

The vast majority of Blackjack games will pay players at 3:2 for a winning Blackjack hand. This means that if you were to bet €20, then you would win €30. However, some games offer players payouts of 6:5 for Blackjack (in which a €20 bet would win €24). This increases the house edge by roughly 1.45% in a single deck game. If the 6:5 payout is offered in a multi-deck game, then the house edge is increased by more than 2%. Therefore, always look for the games that are offering the 3:2 payout for Blackjack.  



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