Blackjack is one of the few games in a casino where the way you play affects the edge the game has. If you play perfectly each time, blackjack then has the lowest house edge of any casino game.
To become a professional blackjack player takes years of work. There are tons of elements to the game that you need to learn and also adapt to the countless blackjack variations that you can now access online.
In this article, we wanted to give you an insight as to the knowledge that you will need to become a professional player. We take a look at the timing of hands, splitting, double down, insurance, shuffling tricks and bankroll management.
Composition Sensitive Hands in Blackjack
When most people think of blackjack strategies they think of hand charts. These charts have been designed so they are easy to understand, follow and implement. They literally tell you what to do in every scenario for your game.
These charts are often referred to as total dependant. This means that the number that is one show is representative of the total for the cars you have. For example, if you have a 6 and 5, you have a total of 11. If you have a 7 and a 4, then you also have an 11. For these hand charts how the number comes about is irrelevant.
Compositions dependent or compositions sensitive takes this to the next level. Instead of looking at hands as total numbers, it also looks at how the numbers are made up. Like the example above, several cards can create the same total in blackjack.
One of the reasons why players do this is to then have a better idea of what cards are left and how the odds would then reflect this.
Compositions sensitive hands are easiest to utilise in games that have fewer decks of cards in play. Ideally, they would have a single deck game. This makes tracking easier and it also makes factoring in a composition that bit more relevant.
Two main rules apply to this, which are the “Rule of 45” and the “Doctor Pepper Rule”.
The Rule of 45 is linked to having a hand that is worth 16, usually made up of a 10 and a 6. If the player is up against a dealer 10 then the chances are that they are going to lose the hand. They need a 4 or a 5 to have any chance here.
For this, the player needs to see if they have any 4’s or 5’s in their hand. They can also look at other hands at the table if this possible. If there are lots already out, then the chances of them grabbing the card they need are reduced.
So, this would mean that, in this example, it would be better to stand given that there are fewer cards that you need to win available. This is something that a traditional hand chart does not include.
The Doctor Pepper Rule has a similar layout, but instead of targeting value 16 hands, it targets value 12 when the dealer has a 4 facing up. In this situation, the odds for stand and hitting are almost identical, with stand being a marginally better play.
How the hand is made up is another key factor here. It can include 10/2, 9/3, 8/4 and 7/5. A 10 is the only bust card, so when you’ve got one in hand, with 10/2, it’s one less in the pack that can bust you.
It’s for this reason why, when you’ve got a 10/2 in the hole against a 4, you should hit. All other combinations, you should stand.
Blackjack – When to Double Down
Double down is one of the key plays in blackjack is one of the only times you can get extra money in the pot when you’re in a favourable position. You need to be aware of table rules about doubling down, but most will allow you to use this as and when you need.
One of the most common times that you will double down is when your cards total 11. This is the best combination hand in the game as there are so many cards that can either get you to 21 or get you somewhere near that will pressure the dealer regardless of their hand.
Next, you want to be targeting soft 16, 17 and 18. These hands are generally based on the dealers up card and if they are low, then you can double down here.
Lots of people look at 16, 17 and 18 as strong hands, therefore they are inclined to stand. However, when dealers have low cards in the hole, they are vulnerable. They will need to take at least one more card, which makes them susceptible to going bust.
Given that our hands here are soft, there aren’t too many hands that really hurt us. Even a soft 18 could turn a 4, which would be the worst outcome and you’d have 12 against a hand a dealer hand could well go broke.
The final time that we want to double down is with a hard 9 or 10 against a low dealer card. This has the same merits as the soft hands above, but with this, there are lots of mid-high cards which make ours very strong. Again, the dealer has a good chance of going broke as well, so we are always in the game here.
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When to Split in Blackjack
There are two scenarios where you want to be splitting every time.
The first one is when you get dealt two Aces. This is quite rare in blackjack, but when you do, you want to split and then try to create two big hands.
An ace is the only way that we can earn blackjack. By splitting, we get not one, but two chances to do this. If we leave them together then we have 12 or 2. Very few hands help all that often here, so splitting is the best route.
The second is when we are dealt with two 8’s. For this, we need to take note of the table rules and to see what the dealer stands on. If they stand on 16, then the best outcome you have is hoping they bust. If their hand plays, then at best you can split.
By splitting you can still make two strong hands. Any 10 or 9 card has the player as a big favourite, with A, 2 and 3 still more than alive to take another card.
When to Hit or Stand in Blackjack
The two most common decisions you will have at a blackjack table is whether to hit or stand. Timing is key, but one of the biggest bits of advice we can give is to make sure that you take into account the dealers up card.
One of the biggest mistakes is that players get too transfixed on what their cards are and how close to 21 they can get. When in reality, the skill of knowing when to hit or stand is all about what the dealer is holding.
There are dozens of charts that you can use to know when to hit and stand. They will allow you to not only see your cards, but also that of the dealers up card. By following these charts you will be playing the game about as optimally as you can.
We do want to add that it’s important to take into account composition sensitive hands as we spoke about earlier the article. This will allow you to take your game to the next level and work on a much more professional basis.
When Should You Surrender in Blackjack?
Surrendering is one of the blackjack moves that many people really hate to use. However, it’s worth noting that if it’s not used at the appropriate times, the casino's house edge will increase.
All of these tips and tricks require timing, and you need to be able to work out when and where is the best time to surrender. Just in case you didn’t know to surrender is forfeit half of your stake in your hand if you’ve little chance of winning.
There are generally two types of surrender: early and late. Early is less common as you get to decide before the dealer checks for blackjack. If you get access to the option, take advantage of it.
You want to be on the lookout for an Ace or a Ten from the dealer. Early surrender should be made with hands that include hard 5 to 7, hard 12 to 17, 3s, 6s, 7s and 8s if the dealer holds an Ace and hard 14 to 16, 7s and 8s if they have a 10.
This may seem like a relatively wide range of hands, but the house edge can be reduced by 0.24% to 0.39% by implementing this properly. Given blackjack only has an overall edge of around 1%, this is huge.
Late surrender is a lot more common and this is when the dealer has checked for blackjack. Surrenders for this are generally only made with hands made up of 14, 15 and 16. The number of decks matters here as well.
Here are several rules to note:
- 14 – single deck surrender to a 10
- 15 – single or double deck surrender to an Ace.
- 16 – single or double deck surrender to dealer Ace and 10.
When to Take Insurance in Blackjack
Insurance is one of few side bets that you can place with blackjack. But, the short answer to the question is never. You should never take insurance.
Well, the numbers are massively in the casino's favour here. You see, insurance will pay out at 2:1 for a successful bet. But the odds of the dealer making blackjack is actually 9:4. This makes it more than 10% more likely than the payout that they offer.
Want to learn about more casino games? We’ve got you covered. Click below for our guides on the most popular tables games you will find at online casinos.
Best Online Blackjack Odds – How to Beat the House
We’ve mentioned a few times already that blackjack is a game that has a small house edge. It’s an incredibly entertaining game and is one of few casino games where your actions can influence if you win or not.
It’s important to note that the house edge only remains small if you play a perfect game. This means using things like a hand chart and the information in this article to make sure your game is spot on.
If you fail to make these correct decisions, then the house edge will rocket up. For those of you who have no consideration to this at all and play by “feel” then blackjack can actually be a game that has the biggest house edge in an online casino, which is why so many casinos run the game.
You can certainly beat the house over short periods and one of the key rules to this is to quit whilst your ahead and lock in those winning sessions. Margins will be razor fine, so the longer you play, the closer they will be.
Another great tip is to search out games and variants that have the lowest house edge. Tiny rule changes can have big implications for the house edge and you always want to find the lowest possible in this case.
Blackjack Side Bets
There are a lot of side bets to choose from with blackjack, but the majority are quite rare. As a general rule of thumb, these should almost always be avoided. Some of them carry a huge house edge with them, offsetting any low edge from the main game.
One of the most popular bets is that of 21+. In this game, you are looking at hands that create a flush, straight, pair and combinations of each from the players two and the dealers one card.
House edge for this bet is a massive 8% in games that are played on four decks. This edge does decrease with the more decks that are in play. This is a common theme with side bets.
If you’re looking to go pro, then these are the bets that you really should be avoiding. You would be far better off nailing a strategy from within the main game then messing around with side bets that are going to offer you little value in the long run.