BLACKJACK. 21. This is the casino game that most people are familiar with. Sitting down at a blackjack table can be intimidating however, if you feel self-conscious that what you’re hitting and staying on is the correct choice, from the view of the rest of the players at the table. As a beginner, I’d suggest in a live setting that you do not take the last seat on the left, which is known as ‘the anchor seat’. The anchor is the last person to make their decision before the dealer takes their card(s). Being in this position, in the live setting, can make your evening a precarious one as you hope not to set off the anger of a volatile player who assumes you made an incorrect decision and cost the table money. It is funny how they never credit you for saving the table with an “incorrect” decision though, isn’t it? The purpose here isn’t to scare you from the enjoyment of the game, but it is to make you aware that all players are not the same and if you are the type of person who wants to avoid any potential interaction with other players, the anchor is not the seat to take!

The beauty of playing Blackjack online is you don’t have to defend your play to anyone. Play, try whatever you like, and enjoy the ride.

Here’s a few easy to follow standard blackjack strategic tips to make the game easy:

There are two main things to consider when you are dealt your hand, which will consist of 2 face up cards. What do you have and what does that mean in relation to the dealer? The goal of the game is to get as close to 21 as you can without going over that number, also known as ‘busting’. You don’t want to bust.

The dealer in blackjack has a very distinct advantage, and that is position. The dealer acts last. It’s entirely possible he or she could beat everyone at the table without drawing a card.

DEALING: After every player is dealt their two cards, the dealer will look before any more cards come out to see if anyone has 21 and if they do, they’ll play them out right away and remove their cards and congratulate the player.

What if the dealer has 21? The dealer will do a courtesy check to see if they have dealt themselves 21 and automatically won (unless you tied them). Unlike the players who have two face up cards to start, the dealer has one card face up and the other face down. In the event that the face up card is an ace or a face card or a ten, the dealer will peek at their down card to see if it makes 21 and we’re not wasting time playing this hand out. If they do have 21, they’ll turn it over and they win unless any player was fortunate enough to also be dealt 21, in which case they’ll tie. 

If the dealer possibly has 21, they will offer the players who are showing a face up 21 an even money payout to accept and win the hand right there, or the player can decline and chance that the dealer does not have 21 and the player would then win a 3:2 payout. Some casinos are paying out 6:5 now for blackjack…….don’t play at those casinos. They’re being greedy and taking too much edge, and it also feels like a legitimate underpayment for receiving the rare blackjack. You want to enjoy your successes and feel that 3:2 reward on a blackjack.

If it’s established that the dealer does not have 21, then players will act in turn from the dealer’s left to the dealer’s right. Each player will make a choice to: 

1)  STAND with what they have, signified by a hand wave over the cards. A player should stand with anything that is 17 or over for the best chance of winning.

2) HIT and take another card by tapping in front of their cards to ‘hit’. Successive hits can be made to try and get as close to 21 as possible without going over, but again, anything 17 or over you should stop taking cards. (with the exception of an ace & 6 as the ace can be 1 or 11 and there’s no harm in taking another card if you think there’s some low cards out there that would improve your hand, other than if you get a card that leaves you with less than 16 and then you have put yourself in a possible bust scenario. This is a player’s preference situation without a clear correct move. It’s a gamble, and that’s what we’re here for, right?

3) SURRENDER: this is a move that a casual player shouldn’t bother with. It’s giving up on your hand because you don’t like the match up of your cards against the dealers from the get-go. You won’t be able to surrender vs an ace, and for that reason, just play it out. A surrender is a move you can make to give up half your bet and end the hand right there due to an unfavourable match up. But we came to gamble, and unless you’re a professional playing thousands of hands per week, there’s little equity or fun in surrendering. But as a point of the game rules it’s important to point out as you will see it occur on the table.

During the game, always be aware what the situation is at the table with respect to you and the dealer. As a general rule, assume all cards that the dealer will draw for himself will be tens or face cards. This is an easy way to gauge the relative strength of your hand to theirs. You can somewhat assume that the cards you draw will be tens as well as a way to think about the appropriate action to take. 

Let’s look at some example game situations:

If you have 17 and the dealer has a face card, what do you do? 

What you should do is nothing. You are likely to bust as only a 2,3,4 would improve your hand without busting it, and even then the dealer may have a ten as their hole card meaning you are taking a chance at busting before you see what the dealer has and in the this case only a 3 or a 4 would help you against a 20. You are in a losing position, so let the dealer draw and hopefully bust rather than you almost certainly busting before you even have a chance to win.

Note: Most blackjack tables have a stated rule on the table that the dealer must hit a ‘soft 17’, that is a 17 comprised of an ace and a 6, which is why a hard 17 (no ace leeway), is a hand you do not want to take a card on. You stand on hard 17 as there’s little chance to improve and plenty of chance to bust.

If you have 13 (or 14, 15, or 16) and the dealer has a 4 (or a 5 or a 6), what should you do? 

As we went over earlier, you should assume all cards to come are a value of ten. A ten would bust you with 13, and being the working assumption is all cards to come are 10, then the dealer would end up with 23 and bust. Your 13 would be a winner. Best to let them play it out rather than you hitting and busting before they even have to encounter the danger of the draw.

What should you do if you have 10 or 11 as your total? (for example, a pair of 5’s, or a 5&6, or a 7&4, 8&3 etc)

Regardless of what the dealer has in this situation, even if it’s an ace as it’s been confirmed they don’t have 21 already, you are in the driver’s seat! This is why we play the game. This is the second most exciting part of blackjack for the player other than getting blackjack and winning already. In this situation, you definitely HITTING and hoping for a face or an ace. If it’s anything over a 7 you’re standing pat on that, and if you unfavourably draw a 2 to 6, you have to access the situation just like you would if your starting 2 cards added up to between 12 and 16. If the dealer has a 7 or better, you have to hit, but if the dealer has 3-6, you can stay and let them draw and hopefully bust. Remember, you can’t win if you bust first and in this situation you’re even with them, so take the position advantage away and let them draw it out rather than you.

There is another consideration in the event you end up with a 10 or 11 as your first two cards. You can DOUBLE DOWN. What this involves is putting up the amount of your bet again, thereby doubling the stake you are risking in this hand, in exchange for ONE more card. By doubling down you only can take one more card as a rule. If that card is a ten or an ace, you’re really looking good. You’re looking decent with a 7,8, or 9 as well, especially if the dealer isn’t showing a high card already as lower cards are more likely part of a busting combination for them. 

What to do if you have 13 and the dealer has a jack?

You have to hit. As I said earlier, you can assume the cards coming are tens for sake of ease. Yes, you’ll bust if it is a ten, but you’re up against a jack and if he gets a ten then he’s got 20 and that’s tough to beat, but impossible to beat staying on 13. So take a card. And take another if you don’t have at least 17. Don’t stand on 16. That’s bad form, and a little chicken, honestly. You should hit until you have at least 17 when the dealer is showing anything over a 7 as their visible card.

If you have a pair of 8’s, what should you do? 

Splitting is an option in blackjack. Splitting allows you to take two matched cards and split them like an embryo to make twins. You had 88. By declaring you’re splitting them, you will have to put an additional bet out there as you now are playing two hands vs the dealer. This is an exciting part of blackjack, especially if you get the grandaddy split hand of them all, AA. By splitting Aces, you have a chance to get 21 TWICE against the dealer. When you split, you will be dealt another card for each of your original cards and will have two separate hands to play now. Play them out as you would if they were single hands and you now two separate players. 

It is possible that you will be dealt an additional hand that’s able to be split, so be aware of that. Things can get costly in a single hand when it is split two or three times. Typically, you should only split 88 and AA. There are situations where it might make sense to split other hands, but it is a bit greedy. However, if the dealer is showing 13, 14, 15, or 16, these are the times when you may split hands other than AA or 88 as you play the game assuming the cards to draw will be a value of ten.

Should you split tens or face cards if the dealer has a 4,5 or 6? 

No. You could. Some people do. It’s kind of bad form, greedy, and tempting Karma! 

These are all just simple guidelines, but by following this simple group of them you’ll enjoy blackjack and improve your chances of winning.