Why Learning Advanced Blackjack Strategies will Increase your Edge
Blackjack is the most popular casino table game in the world. The rules are simple, which is why so many people enjoy playing it, but to increase your edge at the tables you’re going to want to learn some advanced blackjack strategies.
The Basic Rules
Just in case anyone isn’t familiar with the rules of blackjack, the aim of the game is to get more points than the dealer without going over 21. You can win in three ways: you can get 21 on your first two cards (that’s a blackjack), you can reach a final score higher than the dealer without exceeding 21 (busting) or the dealer can bust by drawing additional cards until their hand exceeds 21.
The Basic Strategy
Basic strategy is the core game play that many professional blackjack players use; it was created by using a computer simulation of millions of blackjack hands to find the mathematical probability of improving a blackjack hand, or beating the dealer, by playing a certain strategy.
The basic strategy is the first strategy you should learn to improve your game. By learning this strategy you are able to eliminate the 5% advantage that the casino has over a novice player, taking it down to about 0.5%.
This isn’t the easiest strategy to learn. Firstly, there are multiple strategies depending on what game you are playing, namely how many decks are in the shoe. The number of decks you could be faced with in a game of blackjack ranges from one deck to eight, but for each number of decks there is a basic strategy that tells you how you should play based on the probability of the best outcome for you. You need to learn the moves you have to take in each game, depending on the number of decks and the cards that you are dealt. So, it’s really not an easy task and one that takes great skill, determination and perseverance.
One of the best ways to learn basic strategy is to practice; we’d suggest playing online games with a smaller stake before you play with big money. Assuming you already know the basics such as blackjack card values and payouts, it’s time to gain your edge against the house by understanding when to double down, split and surrender.
Doubling down in blackjack can be a very favourable situation for you as the player. What this allows you to do is to double your bet after you receive your first two cards, you’ll then receive one card only on your hand. Casinos will have different rules for when you can double down, the most common rule will allow you to double down either on any first two cards, or on a 9, 10 or 11 valued hand.
Doubling down may seem like a good move to make, as if you’re playing a shoe game with 8 decks then the house edge is -0.55%, doubling after splitting + .13 reduces the house edge to -0.42%, and doubling on 10 and 11 only – .21 increases the house edge to -0.76. However, you need to know when it’s the right time to double down. Doubling down is only an advantage when you have the best opportunity to beat the dealer.
If you’re playing using basic strategy you will know when the most favourable situation arises for you to double down, based on the probability of the best outcome for your game. Dealers will bust more times when cards two through to six are showing. A closer call is to double down with a ten when the dealer has a nine, or an 11 against a dealer’s ten.
This strategy allows you to split your cards in to two hands when you are dealt two of the same card. You are then dealt two new cards for each new hand that you have created. You continue to play each hand normally, so you get two chances to beat the dealer- of course you also get two chances to lose. Knowing when to split your cards can improve you edge; for example a pair of aces should be an automatic split. However, due to the popularity of this split some casinos will not allow it, increasing their edge by 0.06%. This may not seem like a lot but it all adds up in blackjack.
Again, if you are following the basic strategy you will know the best time to split to increase your edge over the house, but keep an eye on the casino rules to make sure that advantage isn’t being taken away from you before you play.
Surrendering in blackjack is not offered in every casino, and it is not often advertised when it is. For this reason many new players don’t know anything about it. What a surrender in blackjack allows you to do is fold your hand and win back half of your bet. For this reason, you should only use the surrender strategy when you have a bad hand.
There are two different types of surrenders in blackjack. An early surrender is when the dealer has an ace or ten card up and you are allowed to surrender before the dealer checks for blackjack. A late surrender is only available when the dealer has checked for blackjack, and does not have it.
As with all these strategies, knowing when to surrender is key to improving your edge and controlling your losses. You only get half of your bet back, and many novice players surrender far too often.
It is a common theory that you should surrender your hand if you are 50% likely to lose; but in fact the hand needs to lose 75% of the time for a surrender to be the right decision. If you know your basic strategy you will know the best time to surrender, and the correct play can reduce the house edge from somewhere between 0.07% and 0.09%. If you’re very lucky to find a game that will offer you an early surrender then the house edge drops by 0.7%
With all of these plays it is imperative that you learn the basic strategy so well that it becomes second nature to you –it is worth it if you are serious about blackjack and increasing your edge over the house.