The game of blackjack is a fairly straightforward one. However, there are strategies you can utilize when you play to improve your chances of winning.
Understanding the odds
The most important thing to understand when devising your blackjack strategy is that it is a game of odds. Since you are playing against the cards and do not have to worry about human elements such as people bluffing, it is critical that you understand what the statistics recommend when you play.
There are more tens in the deck (or in the multi-deck shoe) than any other point value. Since kings, queens, jacks and tens are all worth ten points each, there are four times more of them than any other single value. Therefore, you should always assume that any card you cannot see is a ten. So, not only should you assume the next card you are going to draw is likely to be a ten (and be very grateful when it is not if you were drawing on a 12), but also play as if the dealer's down card is a ten.
Imagine that you are showing a fourteen, a fairly bad hand since you are likely to bust if you hit. If the dealer has a ten showing, you assume he has a 20 and won't have to hit and therefore will win. So, despite your chances of busting, you need to hit. However, if the dealer is showing a six, he probably has a sixteen; he will need to hit that and will be likely to bust. In this instance, the best thing you can do is to stand and hope that he is the one to bust.
Doubling down and splitting
There are several opportunities in blackjack where you can increase your bets. Of course, the casino likes it when you put more money on the table. However, if you use these opportunities wisely in your strategy, you can like it too, because you can win more.
Doubling down is when you double your initial bet after seeing your first two cards, but before drawing another card. While you can do this nearly any time, the best time to do it is when you and the dealer both have the right cards showing.
If you are showing an eleven, this is usually a wise double. This is because you are likely to get a ten on your draw. If the dealer is showing a poor card – for example a five or a six – this double is even better since you are more likely to win even if the card you draw is not your anticipated ten.
Splitting can be accomplished when you are dealt two cards of the same value. When you split, you form two hands and place an amount equal to your original bet down to cover your second blackjack hand. Some splits are unwise. For example, a twenty is a good blackjack hand so it is not wise to split the tens in an effort to get two twenties. However, a pair of aces is always a good split since you could end up with two hands of 21 each if you draw 10s.