Blackjack - Hit, Stand, Double Down or Split?
Blackjack is one of the best loved card games in the world. There are many variations, so if you're new to the game see How to Play Blackjack and Pontoon.
Like any casino game, Blackjack is designed to return a profit to the dealer. However, against a reasonable skilled player this profit is very low compared to most casino games - typically less than 1%. Therefore with skill and a little bit of luck, you could come away with more than you started!
These calculations are based on EIGHT FULL DECKS mixed together.
When do I DOUBLE DOWN?
Aha! This is the question that sorts out the champions from the also-rans.
Double Down when...
Suppose you're holding an ACE and a 3, this is called a soft 14. If you hit and get 7, you've got a perfectly valid 21, but if you hit and get 8, then your ACE is worth 1, and your total becomes 12. You're still in the game!
Having an ACE is a very powerful weapon against the dealer providing you know how best to use it.
If the rules allow it, you should also Double Down as suggested by this table. (If you can't Double Down then Hit.)
Of course, these are only suggestions to help you! If everything could be accurately predicted, where's the fun?
HOW LIKELY ARE YOU TO GO BUST?
Suppose you're on 14. Any card 7 or below is good, but the six cards higher than the 7 are bad. Therefore if you hit on 14, you have a slightly better than even chance (7/13 = 54%) of improving your hand, and you are slightly less likely (6/14 = 46%) to go bust. 7 is actually the "middle number" or "median" of the card values.
Whatever your hand, you can work out your chances of going bust by considering how many cards (out of the thirteen different ranks available) are against you. For these calculations, ACE always counts as 1 and we're assuming multiple decks have been shuffled together.
If the dealer's upcard is an ACE, he has a 4/13 (31%) chance of getting a Blackjack. You might be allowed to place an extra insurance bet. This is half your stake, and if the dealer does get Blackjack, it pays 2:1 which will effectively return your whole stake on the hand. However, as the dealer's chance of Blackjack is slightly less than 1/3, over time the casino makes a profit of about 2.5% on insurance bets. Therefore insurance is not generally recommended.
WHAT IS CARD COUNTING?If you're playing with a single deck and you see the dealer's upcard is an ace, you know your own chance of receiving an ace is reduced. That's simple!
However, you will usually be playing a game where up to 8 decks are mixed together. A blank plastic card is inserted near the bottom of the deck. The shuffled cards are then stacked in a "shoe" from which they are drawn one at a time as required and then discarded. When the blank appears, all the the cards are brought back together, shuffled and then dealing starts from the top again.
Keeping track of what has been played from multiple decks requires a great deal more skill, but it can be worth it. If a lot of low cards have come out (A-9) this means that a higher than usual proportion of 10-value cards are left. This offers a slight advantage to the player, so it's time to raise your bets. By contrast, if a lot of 10 cards have come out, it's better to keep bets low or even stop playing.
Experts have developed several methods of card counting to help you beat the dealer - but be discrete. The dealers don't like it!
If you would like to boost your card counting performance you can always find an abundance of resources online that will increase your odds of success.