Online Blackjack Strategy - Learning The Basic Playing Strategies

Legal Blackjack ScreenshotOne of the quickest ways to begin playing smarter online black jack is to remember one simple truth. And whether you decide to adopt a basic blackjack strategy, go with an advanced bj strategy system, or just play by feel, you should never forget this cornerstone of smart play. When playing black jack, either online or off, the object is not to simply avoid going over 21 as much as possible, the object of the game is to beat the dealer. Naturally not busting is a part of beating the dealer, but you must also pay attention to the dealer's cards and understand their role and what it entails. Blackjack strategy does not vary much between brick and mortar black jack games and legal online blackjack games.

Understanding the Dealer's Role and How it Affects You

Knowing where the house and the dealer have an advantage over you is powerful. But since the dealer's play is forced, and you are allowed to decide your own destiny by hitting, standing, doubling down or splitting, you can actually turn the odds in your favor in some instances. The simplicity of the game should never trick you into thinking you can play without paying attention. Remember, the dealer gets to play last, and collects your money when you bust 21, even if he ends up going bust as well.

When you both go broke, the dealer gets paid. The rules require that the dealer hits, or takes another card with a total hand value of under 17, and he must stand on hands that are 17 or above. This makes it just that much more crucial to pay close attention to the details. What this means is you need to perk up when you see a dealer's up card between 2 and 6. Since in most basic strategy we assume that the dealer has a 10 (or face card) in the hole, which means he is likely looking at a 12 through 16 hand. This being the case, there is a possibility that the dealer may bust with the must-hit rules associated with his game play. We do not assume a 10 in the whole if the dealer's up card is an Ace. While this is not a guaranteed outcome, the odds are a little more in your favor with this scenario and can impact the decisions you make for your own hand. Remember, your objective is not just to get close to 21 without busting; your goal is to beat the dealer.

In addition, the dealer's hand that we are using as an example means that a simple yet effective play is to stand if taking another card means you have the chance at going over 21. This could also provide a good doubling down opportunity if your first two cards add up to 9, 10 or 11. This is because you not only have a good chance at giving the dealer a tough score to beat, but even if you get a relatively low card and at a low total, the odds still somewhat favor that the dealer may bust. You can consider doubling down in this situation to avoid the risk of giving away a free opportunity that adds to the long-term odds of the house.

By first playing the dealer's hand before deciding on your particular course of action, you can limit the number of hard decisions you have to make. The dealer's play is forced, and this slightly compensates for the dealer going last. In every hand three things can happen. You can bust, the dealer can bust, or one of you will win a showdown. Never exceed 21 by taking a needless chance. This is going out of your way to hand money to the house, and when you are playing online blackjack with your hard-earned cash, playing smart is always the best bet in blackjack.

When To Double Down

The term double down applies to the opportunity to double your initial bet and receive one more card in your hand to attempt to obtain the best hand possible. Doubling down can be the key to turning your gaming session into a profitable one. It lowers the house edge and provides a chance for you to make more money. It just takes a little practice and memorization to effectively determine the best opportunities for employing this strategy. Players who are afraid to double down have significantly lower profits at the end of a gaming session. The potential of loosing double your money may feel uncomfortable at first, and it is best if you accept up front that those losses will happen. On the other hand the wins will occur also and they will be twice as profitable.

So the big question then is when do I double down? This question ties back into paying attention to the dealer's hand and whether the odds indicate he/she has a strong or weak hand. Doubling down should really only be considered if the dealer's up card is a 2 – 6. He has the largest probability of being in trouble if his up card is a 5 or 6, followed by a 4, 3, and 2 respectively. The dealer displaying an up card of 7 – 10 does have the possibility of a losing hand, but the probability is significantly reduced. By passing up strong opportunities to double down, you are leaving money on the table and increasing the house edge. Often a player being too timid to double down is an indication that he or she is playing at a table with higher stakes than they are comfortable with and should possibly consider a change. Most online casinos allow double down bets on any hand, while some land based casinos have restrictions on when a player can double down.

When To Split Cards

Splitting a hand occurs when a player receives two of the same value and the player splits those cards into two separate hands. Most online casinos allow you to do this up to three hands per round, unless you are splitting Aces, which cannot be re-split most of the time. Once you split the cards, you have multiple hands that are played independently and can double your winnings. As in the doubling down strategy, the key is to know when to split your cards and when not to. Keep in mind that most casinos online and offline allow you to double down on split card hands, so you are hoping for a double down chance when splitting. Following is a guideline on when to split and when not to.

  1. Aces and 8's should always be split
  2. 5's and 10's should never be split (this includes face cards)
  3. 2's and 3's should always be split if the dealer shows a 4 - 7
  4. 6's should always be split if the dealer shows a 3 - 6
  5. 7's should always be split if the dealer shows a 2 – 7
  6. 9's should always be split if the dealer shows a 2 – 6, 8 or 9 (do not split if the dealer shows a 7)

If the casino at which you are playing allows you to double down after you split your cards, then also consider the following split options.

  1. 2's and 3's should be split if the dealer is showing a 2 or 3
  2. 4's should be split if the dealer is showing a 5 or 6
  3. 6's should be split if the dealer is showing a 2

When to Surrender

There are some casinos, both online and offline that allow players to surrender although this isn't as common as it used to be because it offers advantage players just that, a big advantage. At an online casino, you will know if you have this option if there is a surrender button present on the user interface. At land based casinos, you usually need to ask the dealer if it is allowed as they don't seem to post it on the rules sign. To surrender a player determines that neither a hit or stand is particularly advantageous, and forfeiting is the best option. When you surrender, you are able to reclaim 50% of your bet, so it's not a total loss. There are some specific scenarios in which surrendering is recommended.

  1. Surrender if you have a hand of 16 and the dealer's up card is a 9, 10 or Ace
  2. Surrender if you have a hand of 15 and the dealer's up card is a 10 or Ace
  3. Surrender if you have a hand of 17 and the dealer's up card is an Ace

These are the only combinations which support the odds for surrendering. It's also important to note that most online casinos won't allow any surrendering whatsoever if the dealer has an Ace showing.

Taking Insurance - Is It A Sucker Bet?

When you opt to use the insurance feature in blackjack, you are essentially betting on whether or not the dealer has Blackjack. The only time insurance is offered is if the dealer's up card is an Ace. Should you choose to proceed with the supplemental insurance bet, you would place one half of your initial bet on the table. If the dealer does indeed have blackjack, the player is paid at 2:1 essentially breaking the player even on the hand. If the dealer does not have blackjack, then the player looses the insurance wager or half the original bet and the hand is played out business as usual. If both players have Blackjack, the game is pushed and in most rules the players wins based on the insurance bet, which turns out to be even money. In online blackjack, you will see a yes or no option come up for you to say yes or no to placing the insurance bet. At land based casinos the offer is made verbally by the dealer. Most experts will tell you not to take the insurance bet. Many players refer to it as a sucker bet. If you look at it statistically, there are only 4 cards that make a Blackjack, and 9 cards which do not, making it more probable that the dealer does not have Blackjack. Based on this, if you opt for the insurance bet, you will lose money over time. However, some players do take the insurance option to protect a large bet that could significantly affect their bankroll should they lose. Even money is better than taking a huge loss. Of course, if you are in this situation, you may be wagering more than you are truly comfortable with.

If you enjoy playing blackjack online, then you may want to check out our live dealer blackjack page to learn about this face to face live dealer online blackjack options that really presents a Vegas style gaming experience.

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