Good and Poor Strategies for Playing Casino Blackjack

The best way to play casino blackjack is to learn basic strategy inside and out. Basic strategy is a mathematically sound formula for maximizing your success in the game of blackjack by knowing when to hit, stand, surrender (where permitted), split or double down. If the player follows this strategy consistently he or she almost neutralizes the house edge completely. Basic strategy is not a “beat the house”, get rich quick scheme, it is simply playing the hand to maximize your odds of success, without having to pursue elaborate strategies like card counting, which can be tricky and can also get you tossed out of the casino if detected.

Before going to a casino a person should memorize the different combinations in basic strategy. While it may at first seem quite difficult, it is not hard to learn. As a basic rule, a player should hit to 17 or higher when a dealer’s up card is seven or higher, and stand if the dealer’s up card is six or lower. This applies to hands of 12 or above as you should always hit a hand that cannot “bust” such as an eleven, ten or less. There are of course exceptions. A player should hit a 12 against a dealer’s 2 or 3, and he or she should double down with a hand of 11, or a hand of ten (except when the dealer has a ten or ace showing). The player should also double down on a 9 if the dealer’s up card is three through six. Where strategy gets more complicated is when the player is dealt a soft hand (a hand with an Ace that can be counted as a 1 or an 11) or a pair which can be split. These are the hands that musty be memorized if a player is to maximize his or her odds of success.

One of the most difficult hands to play correctly is a soft 18 (an Ace and a 7). Players may think it is best to stand on an 18 (as they would with a hard 18), but against a dealer’s up card of 9 through Ace they should take a hit, and if the dealer has a 3 through 6, the player should double down and increase the odds of maximizing his or her winnings on that hand. Players should avoid common mistakes like splitting tens (why throw in a strong hand of 20 for the chance to lose twice as much money with two inferior hands?) or being afraid to hit a 15 or 16 against a dealer’s ten or ace.

Poor Strategies that are Commonly Used

Many bad strategies are employed at the casinos by card players who regard themselves as good players. One poor strategy is to mimic the dealer. Although it intuitively makes sense to copy the house’s strategy of hitting 16 or lower and standing on 17 or higher, it is a losing strategy over time as the dealer has an advantage of going last. If both players bust, it is not a “push” but a win for the dealer. Your bet has already been removed from the table.

Another mistake is to employ the “never go bust” strategy. Refusing to hit a 12 or higher out of fear of going over 21 is a losing strategy that gives a player little chance of winning hands if the dealer has a 7 or higher showing. An equally flawed approach is to always assume the dealer has a ten in the hole. While this may help to see the hypothetical hand you need to beat , if practiced literally it gives the house a 10% edge instead of the less than 1% edge the house has if you follow basic strategy precisely. Only 4/13ths of the cards in play have a value of ten, so if you are playing probabilities, the chances are more likely that the dealer does not have a hidden ten.

Following the same law of probabilities, player’s should not take insurance if offered. Insurance is a sucker’s bet that favors the casino. Also, insurance is simply a side bet that a dealer has blackjack. Many players make the mistake of insuring their “good hands”, oblivious to the fact that the insurance “side bet” has nothing to do with whether their hand is a good hand like a 20 or a poor hand like a 16. Many blackjack players also make the mistake of allowing themselves to be distracted by other player’s poor choices. They may blame other “bad” players for messing up their hands with wrong moves. The game of blackjack is a game of mathematical probabilities and the lousy player next to you is just as likely to help you as harm you with his or her bad judgement play. Basic strategy is not altered or affected in any way by how other people play their hands.

Following basic strategy enables you to neutralize the house edge. It is not a way to beat the house consistently, but it will ensure that you can enjoy good runs and not suffer catastrophic losses most of the time. To maximize odds of winning even more, once you master basic strategy you can begin to learn card counting and other techniques that can enhance your earnings by employing basic strategy.