Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack

Blackjack is by far the world’s most popular casino game. While poker and slot machines have been highly popular for as long as they’ve been around, they don’t hold a candle to blackjack when it comes to being King of the casino games. Part of this is because blackjack is a relatively simple game – most people can count to 21 without too much difficulty; part of this is because blackjack has a famously low house edge, meaning that when it comes to you vs the casino, blackjack is as close as it gets to being even odds. Of course, the house still has to make money, so there will always be a house edge – blackjack just has one of the lowest house edges in the casino industry.

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Fortunately, for all its simplicity, blackjack is one of those games where players can
get very good, very quickly. If you know what you’re doing and you know the difference between splitting 10’s and splitting Aces, blackjack can be a lot of fun. If you’re ready to up your blackjack game, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to Best Deal Casinos Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack.

The basics

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First things first, you need to know the rules. There are a lot of misconceptions about blackjack, so let’s start from scratch and work our way forward. In blackjack you play against the dealer, not your fellow players at the table. In blackjack your aim isn’t to get to 21; your aim is to simply beat the dealer.

Of course, getting to 21 is a great way of doing this, but it’s not the be all and end all of the game – if you have a hard 18 and the dealer has a 2 face up, you’re better off sticking with 18 than risking another card. You don’t have a hand of 21, but you’re more likely to win than if you hit on a hard 18. Once you have these things in mind, you’ll begin picking up the rules and learning the ropes a lot quicker, and the quickest way to do that is with the basic blackjack strategy.

In a game of blackjack you have four options with your initial hand. You can hit (ask for another card), stick (accept your hand and pass play to the next person at the table), split (split a pair of doubles into two separate bets) or double down (double your bet and hope that the next card is the one you’re looking for). There are some rules in place here, like the fact that you can’t split after you’ve hit, and you can only double down on your opening hand. However, assuming that you’re playing with a fresh deck of 52 cards, there is a given ‘best choice’ option for each hand you could be dealt.

This is all outlined in The Basic Blackjack Strategy, making it an indispensable tool for people who are new to the game. Remember that this doesn’t guarantee you a win – you could make the best decision based on what you can see in front of you, and your dealer may simply have an Ace in the hole. While the basic blackjack strategy doesn’t guarantee you a win, it does guarantee you make the best calls giving you the best chances of winning a certain hand.

Study the split

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Splitting is one of the more exciting mechanics in blackjack, allowing you to open a side bet and play the game twice at once. This not only adds a huge amount of depth to the game, but it can help you win a lot of chips if you know what you are doing.

As you may have figured out at this point, blackjack is a game of statistics, and your chances of winning are different depending on whether you choose to split the 5’s or the 8’s. For example, splitting the 4’s is a statistical nightmare. If you have two 4’s, you have a hand total of 8; this means that the highest value card you can get if you hit is an Ace (worth either 1 or 11). Not only does this mean that it is impossible to bust out, but if you get the Ace, you have a hand total of 19, which is incredibly hard to beat. On the other hand, splitting the 4’s and hitting normally gives you far more room for error, and a higher chance of losing as a result. Statistically, you’re far more likely win by hitting than you are by splitting the 4’s. Never split the 4’s, and on the same note, never split the 5’s either.

Likewise, if you get dealt a pair of 10’s, you should just stick. It’s tempting to split the 10’s and hope for an Ace, but statistically, you win more games by being happy with the hard 20 than by taking a big risk and splitting the 10’s.

On the other hand, there are times when splitting can be highly advantageous. For example, splitting 8’s is the best possible call because a 16 is statistically the worst hand in blackjack. Starting twice with an 8 gives you a much higher chance of winning than starting with a 16 and hitting or sticking.

Aces are the other card you should always split – a pair of Aces add up to either 22 or 2; neither of these totals will win you games. On the other hand, two Aces which have been split leave you with 3 different cards in 3 different suits which could get you a blackjack. Assuming that this is a fresh deck and nobody else is playing, that’s a 23% chance of hitting the perfect card. This comes with the added bonus that if you miss on the first Ace, you can try again with your second one in the split, too! When you think about it, those are pretty good odds.

Doubling down

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Doubling down is one of the high risk moves which can really pay off when judged just right. The basic concept here is that once you’ve received your two card hand, you are offered the chance to double your wager on the condition that you can only receive one more card and then stick. So for example if you have a 2 and a 3 and you double down, hitting a 4, you have to stand on a hand total of 9. Obviously that is a terrible call, as the best you can manage there is a soft 16, but there is a time and a place for the tactical double down.

If you have a hand total of 11 and the dealer has anything but an Ace, your best bet is usually doubling down. Similarly, if you have a hand total of 10, you should probably double down if the dealer has anything but an Ace or a 10-value card (10, Jack, Queen or King). This goes a step further with a hand of 9, where you can double down when the dealer shows anything less than a 7, but be aware that the smaller your hand total, the worse your odds are of eventually winning.

Because a double down doubles your wager, this side bet can sometimes work out a little too rich for most people’s blood. There is obviously a huge reward here for you if luck is on your side, but there is a huge risk in doubling down too. If a double down feels far too risky a move, trust your instincts and hit instead.

5 more things to keep in mind

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  • There are a lot of things you can learn when starting out in blackjack. At the end of the day, the more you play, the better you will get, and no amount of studying from a guide will make you a pro if you don’t play the game. However, there is a lot to take in in this guide, and if you’re worried about coming to saturation point with our beginners guide to blackjack, we’ve put together a couple of handy tips and things to just keep in mind as you play. Read on, take a minute to let it all sink in, and then go find a casino offering the best deals for new players looking to try their hand at blackjack. Good luck!
  • Never stick on 16 – that’s the worst hand in the game and you’ll only win if the dealer busts out.
  • Always hit on a soft 17 (an Ace and a 6) – at best you can hit 21; at worst, you’ll wind up with a hard 17. Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained!
  • Know that the dealer will usually stand on a 17 – the exact number can vary so check what’s written on the table when you sit down.
  • Less is more: If you’re using a single 52-card deck, your chances of winning using the basic blackjack strategy are significantly higher than if you were to use an 8-deck shoe (416 cards, shuffled at random).
  • Remember that if you want to get good at blackjack, practice makes perfect!

Please check out our other guides, including guides on Poker, Roulette, Scratch Cards & Sports Betting.

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