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How to Win at Blackjack – Our Experts’ Tips

Blackjack games have their own strategy charts that will tell you exactly what to do based upon the cards you are dealt and the dealer’s up-card. However, some blackjack strategies apply to almost every variant. Here at Queenplay, we take a look at these and if you keep them in mind, then you should start to see an improvement in your winnings.

When to Always Double Down

One of the most important things you should always do is Double Down on any hard 11. A hard 11 is a hand that either does not have an Ace or has an Ace that is worth 1 (not 11). There is an exception where it may not work best to Double on a hard 11, when you are playing a variant in which the dealer must stand on a soft 17. In this case, you are best off hitting on a hard 11 if the dealer is revealing an Ace.

What to do with Pairs of Aces and 8s?

To drastically increase your chances of winning, you should always split a pair of Aces or 8s. It is obvious to split a pair of Aces (as you have a strong chance of forming at least one hand that is 21) but not all players split a pair of 8s. If the dealer is revealing a 9, 10 or Ace, players may want to play with one hand rather than two. The thought behind this is to lose less by not doubling their bet by splitting 8s.

However, the logic is incorrect. If you split a pair of 8s, you will have a strong chance of hitting at least one hand that is 18. It is a far better option than playing with two 8s and having a hand total of 16. Even though you may be scared to risk losing more from splitting 8s, you will have greater chance of winning by playing with two separate hands than by playing with the one hand that has a total of 16.

If you are playing a multi-deck game in which the dealer hits on a soft 17, or a game in which you cannot Double after a split, you should surrender the hand if the dealer is showing an Ace. However, this is only the case if surrendering is an option, and the dealer is showing an Ace and hits on soft 17.

What to do with a Pair of 5s or 10s?

Players should not split a pair of 5s or 10s as it reduces their chances of winning. A pair of 5s form a total of 10, which can either be hit several times or simply Doubled on. It is the far superior choice than splitting and playing two hands that start with 5.

As for a pair of 10s, there are some players out there that will split them and try to capitalize on two strong hands beginning with 10. However, the two cards form a total of 20, which gives you a far greater chance of winning in all games than by splitting the pair.

When to Double Down on 10

Doubling on a hard 11 is a no brainer, but there are also other scenarios that Doubling would benefit you. If your two initial cards build a hand total of 10, you should look at the dealer’s up-card before you Double Down. If the dealer is showing a 9 or less, you should Double. It is a risky move, but the odds favour you to build up a hand that is stronger than the dealers. If the dealer is showing a 10 or Ace, you should hit, rather than Double.

When to Stand on a Pair of 9s

As we go down this list of basic blackjack strategies, we start to approach the trickier tips that are not plain and obvious to see. In most scenarios, you should split a pair of 9s, especially if the dealer is revealing a 9 or less. However, there are still many instances in which you should opt to stand with a pair of 9s, rather than split them.

If the dealer is showing a 7 or less, you should stand, rather than split. The reason behind this is that there is a good chance that the dealer’s second card will be a 10-value card. If it is, the dealer will stand on 17. Thus, having a total of 18 will beat the dealer’s card total.

What to do with a Hard 12?

One of the ugliest hands to hold for any blackjack player is a hard 12. Most players will choose to stand on that total as they are scared of busting. However, if the dealer is showing a 2 or 3, your best bet is to hit. In doing so, you are taking a massive risk of busting, but at the same time, you may also hit a lower card than 10 and have a strong overall hand. Always hit on a hard 12 if the dealer’s up card is also weak.

Should you Stand or Hit on a Soft 18?

A soft 18 is a hand that has a 7 and an Ace. Most players stand on a soft 18, especially when the dealer’s up-card is a strong card. If the dealer is revealing a 9, 10 or Ace, most players will stand. However, you may have a greater chance of beating the dealer if you hit on it.

By hitting on a soft 18, you could potentially land a small card and hold a soft 19-21. Alternatively, you may draw a 10-value card which will take your hand back to 18. Essentially, you have a better chance of winning by hitting on a soft 18 against a strong dealer up-card.

The exception of this is single-deck games in which the dealer stands on a soft 17. In those games, you are better off standing on A-7 when the dealer is showing an Ace.

How to Play Soft Hands

If you have a soft 11 and the dealer is showing an Ace, Double Down. You should also look to Double Down if you have a soft 19 (an Ace-8) against a dealer’s 6. The last instance you should Double Down is if you have a soft 18 (A-7) when the dealer is showing a 2.

Essentially, you should look to Double Down on blackjack variants that require the dealer to hit on a soft 17 or higher. If you are playing a game in which the dealer stands on a soft 17, you should also do the same. These rules only apply to games in which the dealer hits on any soft 17 or higher. It is also important to note that if a blackjack variant offers the surrender option, the rules of these soft hands change.

Double Down on these Soft Hands

If you are holding a soft 13 to soft 18, you should always Double Down if the dealer’s up-card is a 5 or 6. It is more advantageous to double on a soft 13 (A-2) all the way through to soft 18 (A-7) as the dealer holding a 5 or 6 will more than likely have difficulties playing the hand.

There are some instances where you should also Double Down on weaker up-cards for the dealer. For instance, if you are playing a blackjack variant that only uses two decks, you should double down if the dealer is showing a 4. However, doubling on A-2 to A-7 will always be the best option when the dealer’s up-card is a 5 or 6, regardless of how many decks are being used.

Use the Surrender Option if Available

Many players will try and play out a round of blackjack, regardless of whether their cards are good or not. However, if the Surrender option is available in a game, you should not be shy to use it.

It is recommended to always surrender on a hard 15 or 16 if the dealer is showing a strong card. By surrendering, you forfeit the hand but you receive a portion of your stake back. It is advised to always surrender on a hard 16 if the dealer’s up card is a 9, 10 or Ace. If you have a hard 15, you should always surrender if the dealer is showing a 10. Make sure to consult specific strategy charts based on the number of decks in play.

Be Wary of the Insurance Bet

In almost every blackjack variant, insurance is offered to players if the dealer’s up card is an Ace. It costs half of the player’s initial stake and pays out 2:1 if the dealer has Blackjack. Your best bet is to avoid taking insurance in most situations.

Since the payout for the insurance is less than the odds that the dealer has blackjack, it's generally not a good idea to take insurance, especially if you have a strong hand.

Simple Tips for Great Results

If you are new to blackjack, you may have to refer to the rules before you start using these tips. Once you have understood the basics, you can increase your chances of winning by following the tips that you have just read about.

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