Blackjack is somewhat of a rare commodity in that it is a casino game where a player’s skill, or lack of, can have a significant impact on their results.
Whereas luck and chance tend to have a major bearing on results in the likes of roulette and craps, a player has far more say on whether they win or lose at blackjack.
If a player learns and adheres to what is classified as basic blackjack strategy, the house edge for a casino is considered to be around 0.5% (this may differ slightly based on the number of decks being used, the blackjack payout etc).
This roughly translates into a player losing one more hand than the dealer across a span of 200 hands.
Instead of the house edge, the main advantage that the casino has is that the dealer always plays their hand last. Therefore, the dealer can win a good proportion of hands without even doing anything on account of players busting.
This advantage is substantial and highly profitable for casinos. Players may not have an advantage that is quite so lucrative, but in terms of quantity, there is far more in their favour.
How a player exercises these favourable options will ultimately decide whether a betting session ends in success or failure and here are five areas where they have an edge to exploit:
It is no secret that there is no set blackjack payout across all casinos. Players are advised to keep an eye out for tables paying 3/2 for blackjack, rather than throwing away good money by settling down at a table paying 6/5.
However, either of these odds are better than what a dealer gets. Should a dealer flip a blackjack, they only get paid at 1/1.
With probability suggesting any player will be dealt a blackjack once every 21 hands, if a player was betting £10 a hand and getting paid 3/2 for blackjacks, they would make an extra £25 every 105 hands from being dealt 21 compared to a dealer getting the same hand.
All rules are pre-set and fixed for dealers, making their betting moves robotic and their options non-existent.
If a dealer shows 16 or less, they have to hit for another card even if they are beating a player who has stuck. If they have 17 or more they have to stand even if losing to another player who has stood. Dealers can’t split pairs to improve their prospects either.
Players have much more flexibility with what they can do. If they are tracking cards and believe that a 10 is due, they can stand on any hand if it conceivably increases the likelihood of a dealer busting.
If they have 16 against a dealer showing an unhelpful six, again they can stand in the hope of making the dealer bust. After all, the best way to guarantee a win is to make the dealer bust.
Splits and resplits
It has only just been mentioned that dealers are not permitted to split or even resplit pairs. If dealt two aces, they must play the hand as either two or 12.
A player is able to capitalise on these potentially money-spinning position by splitting their aces into two separate hands, where the hope is to be dealt two blackjacks.
Players are also advised to always split two eights regardless of the upcard a dealer is showing, while a pair of cards worth a value of 10 should always be played as 20 and never split.
Following basic strategy, the decision over whether to split or not hinges on the card the dealer is holding.
When it comes to ranking hands, blackjack obviously comes top. What comes next may cause some debate. Some may say a pair of aces because of the opportunity of turning these into two blackjacks, while others may argue a hand of 11 where they are a 10 away from the best hand.
To find out which of these hands is considered the most profitable, the answer is here.
A hand of 11 is also one where a player is most likely to double down, which is when they opt to double their initial stake, but are only permitted to hit for one more card.
This option allows a player to finish the hand with four times their initial bet and can be especially profitable when a dealer is showing what is considered to be a weak card. Dealers are not able to double their bets when seemingly in a position of strength from the deal.
Not only can a player double their bet when in a strong position following the deal, some casinos allow them to surrender when in a weak position. This means they admit defeat in a hand before it is complete, but only lose half of their original bet.
Surrender is only offered when the dealer is showing an ace or a card with a value of 10.
Early surrender is the most advantageous, but is rarely offered. This allows a player to surrender before the dealer has had the chance to peak at their second card.
More widely offered is late surrender, where a dealer peaks at their second card first. If blackjack is completed, no surrender opportunity is available. If the dealer’s hand doesn’t total 21, then a player is able to surrender.
Ultimately, a player must work out if they are over 50% likely to lose a hand. If they are, surrendering half of their initial stake is a profitable move. Dealers aren’t given this choice when looking like they will lose a hand.