Blackjack is a casino table game in which players must place bets, and then have potential to double their money if they win. The objective is to get as close to 21 as you can, often getting bonus money if a player manages to get a 21 off their first two cards dealt. In order to win money at blackjack, players need to know when to bet high and low, and more importantly they should know how to properly hit, double, and stand. This quick guide will show you when you should be hitting your hand and when you shouldn’t.
Hitting is the first option, and the main concept of this guide. This means that you’ll draw a card, putting you closer to 21. If the card you hit goes over 21, it’s considered a bust and you lose the hand automatically. If you hit a 21, you will have a perfect hand and won’t be allowed to hit again as a result because it wouldn’t be in the player’s interest since they’d have a 100 percent chance to bust from there.
Standing is another option, which means that you sit on the cards you have. Players will always sit on a hand that is 17 or above. Players will also never stand on a hand that is 11 or under, as it’s impossible to bust off the first card you hit so you might as well take one more card at least. Standing is only in the player’s best interest if the dealer has a higher chance of busting than the player does.
Doubling down is one of the biggest strategical advantages for players. It means that you are putting twice as much money on the table, with the disadvantage of only being able to hit the hand once and being stuck with whatever you’re dealt with. If you double down and win, you will earn twice the cash of your original bet. However, if you lose you will lose twice as much, so knowing the right time to double down is essential.
Splitting is the other complicated option for players. Knowing when to split can be tricky, and it usually depends on the dealer’s hand more than on your own. Splitting can only be done when you have two of the same cards, such as two 4s or two 9s. You should never split 10s because you already have an almost perfect 20, and you almost always want to split 8s because you don’t want to get stuck on a 16.
Intro to Basic Strategy
It’s common knowledge that the casino will always have some sort of advantage over players at any table game. This is how the casino will profit, and blackjack is no different. Basic strategy is used to help close that gap and push the favor more towards players.
Basic strategy is a set of rules that has developed using statistics to determine a player’s best odds. As a new blackjack player, it’s essential that you learn the rules of basic strategy and implement them as perfectly as possible. The best way to close the casino’s gap over the player is to use basic strategy, which can lower the casino’s advantage to just a small fraction of a percent on certain tables. The rules of the game often influence the exact advantage a player will have.
There are several options that basic strategy may call for you to play, and they are always in your best interest depending on your odds of winning. They are based off statistical advantages and should always be followed. The choices will be between hitting, standing, doubling down, or splitting. Hitting will be called when you have a better chance of winning off drawing a card rather than standing on your current hand, even if you still have the disadvantage of the hand. Standing is the opposite, where you’ll have a higher advantage of the dealer busting. Doubling down will be called when you have a high chance of winning the hand off the first card you draw, often with a 9, 10, or ace. Splitting can be done when you have two of the same card, and will usually be called for when you have a bad hand like two 8s, or you have a good chance of beating the dealer and winning twice as much money.
There are basic strategy charts available for use, or you can use a free web application at www.bjcardcounter.com. The application doesn’t cost anything and tells you your odds of winning if you stand or hit, and even counts cards for you to let you know when you should raise and lower your bets. If you choose to use a chart instead, make sure that you study it and understand it before playing because you will only have a few seconds to make a blackjack decision when playing online, and won’t get much time to look a chart up and down.
When Should I Hit?
You should hit whenever the odds are in your favor of winning the hand by hitting versus winning the hand by standing, even if the odds of you winning the hand overall are slim. You always want to follow general statistics, as you will lose money when you try to trust your gut feeling and make plays away from general basic strategy.
Here is a list of times when you should hit, showing both the player’s cards and the dealer’s cards.
Any player card of 7 or below
Player 8 vs. Any dealer card
Player 9 vs Dealer 2
Player 9 vs Dealer 7
Player 9 vs Dealer 8
Player 9 vs Dealer 9
Player 9 vs Dealer 10
Player 9 vs Dealer 11
Player 11 vs Dealer 11
Player 12 vs Dealer 2
Player 12 vs Dealer 3
Player 12 vs Dealer 7
Player 12 vs Dealer 8
Player 12 vs Dealer 9
Player 12 vs Dealer 10
Player 12 vs Dealer 11
Player 13+ vs Dealer 7+
There are many times when you should double instead, such as when you have an ace versus any dealer card that is 10 or below. That is why some of the options for hitting aren’t listed, as doubling down is a much better idea.
Advanced strategy helps players decide when to hit and stand based off cards that have already been played, going off of basic strategy just slightly in certain situations. This is done through a strategy called “counting cards.” There are many methods to counting cards; most commonly used is the Hi Lo method. This means that you add one to your total count whenever a 10 or ace is played, and subtract one every time a two through six is played. When the count is low, you bet higher. When the count is high, you bet higher. A more accurate version of this count can be done through getting a true count, which takes into consideration the number of decks and amount of remaining cards as well. Briefly mentioned earlier, a true count can be done using software programs like www.bjcardcounter.com.
How does advanced strategy pertain to hitting? Well, sometimes you’ll adjust basic strategy depending on the count. When the count is low, there’s a better chance of a 10 coming out, and so you may not want to hit a number that normally has similar chances for winning based off hitting or standing. An example might be hitting a 12 versus a three. Normally you’d hit, but when the count is low you can expect a ten to come out so you will instead stand and watch as the dealer pulls two 10s and busts.
The opposite is true as well. When the count is high, you have a lower chance of drawing a 10 and may instead choose to hit where you might normally stand. This is done because the odds have been slightly shifted due to the cards that have already been put in play.
It should be noted that card counting does not work against constant shufflers. These are devices that continually shuffle the cards, rather than shuffling at a split or when the deck is complete. They make it impossible to count, and it’s a waste of time to try. You won’t see these at many casinos, but you’ll know one when it pops up at your table.
Hopefully this guide gives you a bit of insight as to when you should be hitting your hands. You may not want to hit that 16 versus the dealer’s 10, but sometimes you have to. You’ll find yourself getting fairly lucky more often than you’ll end up winning by just standing on that rough hand.