Learning Optimal Blackjack Strategy
Blackjack is one of the more popular games you will find in online and land-based casinos, and if you are serious about winning you need to learn and use every advantage you can. A veteran Blackjack player fares a much better chance at coming out ahead than a novice player – the only difference between them is that the veteran player understands the ins and outs of the game because they have taken the time to study optimal blackjack strategy. To put it simply, without learning Blackjack strategy you are severely handicapping yourself.
Blackjack Strategy can be simplified into four main components: doubling down, insurance, splitting, and surrendering. Knowing when to use each is the key to learning optimal Blackjack strategy.
Doubling Down is available to you once the first two cards are dealt and allows you to double your initial bet and draw one more card, after which you are forced to stand. Since Doubling Down places a bigger bet, you need to be sure to use this properly or your bank roll will rapidly deplete itself. Doubling Down is ideally used when you have either a 9, 10, or 11 and the dealer has a weak upcard and has a good chance of going bust.
Insurance protects you from a dealer's blackjack – it is a side bet equal to half your original bet that is resolved before normal play commences. Once the cards are dealt, if the dealer is holding an Ace as their upcard, you will be offered insurance. If the dealer has a Blackjack, you win the side bet but lose your original bet, breaking even. If the dealer does not have a Blackjack you lose the side bet and play commences as normal. Insurance is generally a bad bet to make as it does not give you any real advantage in the long run.
Novices may split just because they can, but a true veteran player knows when to split and more importantly when not to. Splitting depends on what cards you have and what the dealer's upcard is (similar to Double Down). Proper Blackjack strategy dictates that the best scenarios in which to split are either to split to give yourself a better hand such as with double 8's, and to exploit a dealer's percentage to bust based on their upcard by doubling your initial bet.
Although this is the least common feature you'll find when playing Blackjack, it is important to understand when to use it if when available to you. When the player surrenders, you forfeit half of your bet, but retrieve the second half. If available, surrendering can be very useful when you are dealing with a situation that greatly favors the dealer, such as when the dealer's upcard is a 10 and your hand total is 16 – you stand little chance of beating the dealer so the best option is to cut your losses and surrender the hand.