Blackjack is one of the most popular, and no doubt most enjoyable, of all casino games. It mixes luck with real skill and it has one of the lowest house advantages of all. Blackjack tables are also among the most exciting, social, if somewhat tense spots on the casino floor.
Here are 5 tips and strategies for when you play blackjack at the casino:
Know How to Play
Blackjack, as most people know, is a fairly simple game to play. Here’s what your average hand looks like.
- The dealer deals each player 2 cards face-down and 2 cards for themselves, one face up and one face down.
- The player looks at their hand and works out what the chances are of beating the dealer based on the available info in front of them, and then bets accordingly.
- The object of the game is to come as close to reaching 21 points overall as possible, without going over it. Picture cards are worth ten, and aces can be worth both one and 11.
- So, for example, if you have a King and a Jack in your hand and the dealer is showing a 2, you can assume that your 20-value cards will definitely trump whatever cards the dealer has to start off with, as the best they could have is a 12, and that because they will need to “hit” (draw another card) until they can beat you, there’s a very high chance that they will go bust – as in overdraw beyond 21. As such, you would “stay” right from the off – that is, won’t draw any more cards.
- On the other hand, if you are dealt a 4 and a 2 and the dealer is showing a picture card, you will want to hit until you get at least 17 points (the dealer always stops at 16) or if you’re feeling lucky until you have at least 20 in total, as the chance of the dealer drawing two picture cards is fairly high.
Play What You Can Afford
As with all gambling games, be sure to set a budget and stick to it. Buy-ins (the amount of money to play a round) are often pretty steep and you can lose a lot of money at the blackjack tables very quickly. Opening bets/ buy-ins can vary wildly from table to table so if you have a small budget, play a $5 table rather than a $50 table.
Know When to Split and/ or Double
Splitting and doubling both end up doubling your bet, but through different methods. Doubling is when you double your bet by hitting one more time. Splitting is when you are dealt two cards of equal value and you can split them into two hands with the second hand repeating your bet. They’re both great ways to win big fast.
It’s crucial, though, to know when to play them. Doubling when you have a 16 in your hand and the dealer is showing a King would be incredibly stupid, but if they have, say, a 3 showing and you have a 7 and two 2s, you should definitely double on the next card.
Similarly, split your cards only when you’re likely to win with both hands – so, if the dealer is showing a picture card and you have two 8s, you would be a fool to split. If the dealer is showing an 8 and you have two Kings, however, splitting can well pay off. And if you have two aces, you should pretty much always split unless the dealer is also showing an ace.
Always Expect a 10-value card to come next… But Don’t Count on It
Because there are so many cards that have a value of 10 in blackjack (four tens plus twelve picture cards) always expect that the next card you draw will be worth a 10. Which is why if you have a 12 in your hand, it’s often a good idea to stay so you don’t go “bust” (exceed 21). At the same time, don’t count on a 10 always coming up when, for example, you have cards in your hand that equal 11 or when you split on two Jacks.
16 out of 52 is a very high percentage rate that you can reasonably expect to draw one when you least need it, but are not common enough to expect one when you most need it.
Tip the Dealer… But Feel Free to Move On
It’s considered proper to tip the dealer after you finish playing at their table (usually at least one coin valued at the table’s buy-in, but if you don’t like the dealer’s attitude or one of the other players, feel free to switch tables. It’s generally not a bad idea to leave the table both when you’re on a winning or losing streak (the former to throw off suspicions, the latter to try your luck elsewhere) but it’s always a good idea if you’re stuck at a table with an irresponsible gambler, one whose being abusive towards the dealer or one who’s had too much free booze. This will improve both your experience and, actually, your chances of winning (bad attitudes can result from bad luck, after all).
Keep these things in mind and you can really thrive, both financially and in terms of entertainment, during a night at the casino. Just remember, responsible gambling is good gambling.