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Blackjack Strategy: The Best Way to Play and Bet

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Blackjack Strategy: The Best Way to Play and Bet

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Whether playing in a brick and mortar casino, or an online casino like Golden Nugget, the strategy will be the same. The main thing to consider is not just your own hand, but also the dealer’s. If the dealer shows a strong card, it will change how aggressive you are. Likewise, if the dealer shows a bad card, you can take less risks in hopes they will bust. Here are some strategies on how to win at blackjack:

When should you hit in blackjack?

The level of risk you take with your hitting needs to get more aggressive when the dealer has a likelihood of a good hand. Consider a few basic rules on when to hit in blackjack:

  • It’s a good idea to hit when your cards add up to 11 or less. It is impossible at this point to bust, so you have nothing to lose when hitting.
  • If the dealer shows a seven or higher, consider getting aggressive. As long as you have anything worse than 17, think about hitting.

When should you stand?

Depending on your willingness to take risks, standing can be one of the hardest parts of blackjack. However, there are some statistically smart moments when you absolutely should stand.

  • If your hand is a hard 17 or higher, it’s a good time to stand. It’s going to be unlikely to get the small card you need if you hit in this circumstance. The odds are best for you if you stand, even if the dealer is showing a face card or ace.
  • Stand when you have a hard 12 or higher and the dealer shows a five or a six. A six is the worst card for a dealer, since the likelihood of them busting is highest. No matter what you have, if it’s over 12, standing is going to be your best chance of coming out ahead.

What is Insurance in Blackjack?

Statistically speaking, you should never buy insurance. The reason is simple. The odds are slightly against you, meaning if you play an infinite number of hands, you will lose more money paying for insurance than you will win back.

What is Doubling Down?

Secondary bets are where a player really increases their payouts and subsequent odds of winning at blackjack. One of these bets is doubling down. You can double down on any initial two cards you receive, by doubling your initial bet. You then get one more card, but only one. If you win the hand, you win twice your original bet.

Wondering when to double down in blackjack? You should consider doubling down whenever you’re in a position where one more card may greatly help you. For instance, if you have two cards equaling 10 or 11, a face card or 10 will bring your total to 20 or 21. Likewise, if the dealer has a bad card showing, like a six, this increases your odds of winning and makes a double down more strategic.

As you’re starting out, consider doubling down whenever you have 11, unless the dealer has an ace, and whenever you have 10, unless the dealer has a 10 or an ace. You could also double down with a nine, when the dealer has a bad starting card, like a six, five, four, or three

What is Splitting?

Splitting is an option whenever your starting two cards are a pair, like two nines or two threes. When you split, you place a second bet the same value as your original, and you turn each card into its own hand. You then play each card as a separate hand, hitting until you want to stay or you bust.

When should you split in blackjack? You may have heard the saying, “Always split aces and eights.” These are good words to live by. Also consider splitting nines, sevens, sixes, threes, and twos, if the dealer is showing between a two or a six.

What is the Basic Strategy in Blackjack?

Blackjack basic strategy is the ideal way of playing every possible hand, based on mathematics. The great thing about it is that it takes the emotion out of your choices. Should you split fours when the dealer’s showing a three? (Nope). Should you double down with a soft fifteen against a five? (Yes). Every choice you make will be based on the numbers, making your chances of winning as high as possible.

How Does Strategy Change with Multi-Deck Games?

More decks turn the odds slightly more in favor of the house. However, these changes are minimal, and for most players a six deck blackjack strategy should be the same as a single deck blackjack strategy. A single deck game, if all else is equal, does have the best odds for a player. However, most of the time, a single deck game will have different payout structures, like 6:5 payouts for a blackjack rather than 3:2. These payout variations hurt the player enough that any advantages of a single deck are wiped out and should be avoided. Based on the odds, there are only a few hands you should play differently with a single deck blackjack strategy.

Hard 11 vs. an ace

With a single deck, you should double down in this situation. If you’re playing multiple decks, just hit here.

Hard nine vs. a two

With a single deck, double down against a two. With multiple decks, hit.

Hard eight against a five or six

With a single deck, double down against a five or six. For a multi deck game, just hit. The exception is with a 4-4. No matter the number of decks, you’ll want to split fours against a five or six.

What's a solved game?

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Blackjack is what we call a solved game. That is, according to the math of it, we know there’s always a clear choice that offers the best mathematical chances of paying off. That brings us to...the chart.

Again, this looks intimidating, but it’s actually a simple way to ensure you can make the best mathematical choice available to you. See the numbers down the left side? Those are possible totals you can have when adding your first two cards. The numbers across the top? The dealer only shows one card to start, so those are the cards the dealer could be showing. Once you’ve added your first two cards and seen the dealer’s up card, if you want to play by the math, find the symbol where the two intersect:

  • H stands for “hit,” or, take another card.
  • S means “stand” or stay with what you have.
  • D means “double down.” That means you’re doubling your bet and agreeing to take just one card, a wager you only want to make when you have a strong mathematical edge.

Ten Simple Blackjack Strategies

Because those charts have a lot of data and can be a little confusing at times, we’re giving you relevant simple rules to always follow. We’ll explain them more-fully in a future article, but to get you started, we’re listing them here. These combine to offer the best blackjack strategy according to the math:

  • RULE #1: ALWAYS DOUBLE DOWN ON 11, UNLESS THE DEALER SHOWS AN ACE.
  • RULE #2: WHEN THE DEALER’S UPCARD IS 2-9, ALWAYS DOUBLE DOWN ON AN INITIAL SCORE OF TEN
  • RULE #3: WHEN THE DEALER’S UPCARD IS A 5 OR 6, ALWAYS DOUBLE DOWN ON A SOFT 13-18
  • RULE #4: ALWAYS SPLIT ACES AND ALWAYS SPLIT EIGHTS
  • RULE #5: NEVER SPLIT A PAIR OF FIVES OR TENS
  • RULE #6: NEVER MAKE THE INSURANCE BET
  • RULE #7: IF THE DEALER HAS A 2 OR 3 UPCARD, ALWAYS HIT ON A HARD 12
  • RULE #8: IF THE DEALER SHOWS 9, 10, OR ACE, ALWAYS HIT A-7
  • RULE #9: WHEN YOU ARE DEALT A PAIR OF 2s OR 3s, HIT AGAINST A DEALER’S 2 OR 3 UPCARD.
  • RULE #10: ALWAYS STAND WITH A PAIR OF 9s WHEN THE DEALER SHOWS 7
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For more specialized situations, here are two more tables:

The “Soft” table is for when you’re dealt an ace. It is only used when you still have the option of treating the ace worth either one or eleven. Once your other cards reach a total of eleven or higher--since making the ace eleven would cause you to bustit’s assumed the ace is worth one. That’s a “hard” hand, for which you can go back up to the first table.

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With the “Pair” table, when you start with two cards of the same value (like two 3s, two 8s, or two jacks), you have the option to split them into two starting hands. The P means “split.” When you choose to, you need to equal the bet on your initial hand. After that decision, you’ll get another card for each hand and you can go back up to the first table. Together, the three tables are sometimes referred to as a blackjack strategy calculator.

How to Increase Your Chances of Winning at Blackjack

In blackjack, you can increase your chance of winning by simply playing the odds and sticking to your game plan. Here are a few ways to tip the scales as close to your favor as possible.

Stick to a strategy

The strategy we’ve laid out will give you the best odds of winning. Basic strategy can seem hard to memorize and overwhelming at first, but there’s good news—whether you’re playing blackjack at a regular casino or online at the Golden Nugget Online Casino, you can have a strategy card printed out for reference.

Minimize alcohol consumption

In person or online, alcohol drops your inhibitions and increases the chance of risky play and betting. Blackjack is great because it actually involves strategy. So increase your odds by avoiding alcohol. This may be easier playing online where you aren’t being offered drinks.

Keep bets consistent

You’ll find different strategies for how to bet on blackjack. The best betting strategy will almost always be to keep your bet value consistent. When you’re having a bad run, don’t think you’re due for a win. Odds don’t care about your streak. Same with winning streaks. Just because you feel hot doesn’t change your odds for the next hand. Progressive betting increases, where you double your bet each time you lose, can get expensive fast. The idea is one win will bring you back to even. However, you need to be willing to lose a large amount if you hit a bad streak. Some people try progressive betting increases only after a win, so they’re only losing money they’ve won. This is a safer blackjack table strategy, but can get expensive when it comes time to split or double down.

Don’t be pressured

Once you have your strategy established, don’t let other players pressure you into making a choice. This sadly happens often. Ignore them and stick with your game. One of the perks of an online casino like Golden Nugget Online Casino is you can avoid these interactions.

Set an amount and stick with it

Decide the amount you’re willing to lose in advance. No matter how your play progresses, stick with this amount. It’s easy to get swept up with emotions when you gamble, making you take chances in the moment. This is why it’s important to determine your limit in advance and stick with it.

Play Blackjack at Golden Nugget Online Casino

With Golden Nugget Online Casino, you can play blackjack whenever and wherever you like. You’ll find a wide variety of themes, such as sports, retro, or your favorite holidays. Start as low as $1 per hand. If you want to take your blackjack a step further, play blackjack variations with side bets.

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