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10 blackjack rules of thumb (with reasons for each)

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Simon Young

February 25th, 2021

The most popular casino game is also the one where you stand to lose the least amount of money. Yes, blackjack has a low house edge, and that edge gets lower still if you can follow these 10 basic blackjack rules of thumb.

1. Double Down on 10 or 11, Unless the Dealer Has a 10 or Ace

To make more profit, you must get more money onto the table when you think you have the upper hand. The best way to do this is to double down when you have 10 or 11, given that it’s likely your next card will be valued at 10. However, you should NOT double down if the dealer’s upcard is a 10 or ace because you risk missing out, and HE gets the 10-card.

2. The Dealer is Likely to Bust with six or Lower

Because the next card in blackjack is always more likely to be a 10 (jacks, queens, and kings are all that value), if the dealer shows a six, five, or a four, you must assume his downcard is a 10 and his total is 16, 15, or 14. He will need to draw another card with a high risk of busting. Knowing this, you can afford to stand on any total of 12 upwards. Why risk taking another card when the dealer could bust?

3. Betting Systems Rarely Work

It might bring some added fun to your game, but trying to follow a betting strategy like the Martingale Strategy rarely ends well. If you lose a hand in this system, you double your stake on the next and keep doing so until you win again. Then you start over with your original bet. The problem is it doesn’t take too much of a losing streak to find yourself facing astronomical bets – and your bankroll is wiped out.

4. Always Stand with Hard 17 or More, Hit with Hard 11 or Lower

Extreme gamblers look away now. But we recommend that if you have a hard 17 (so not an ace and a six), you should always stand. The chances of nudging up your score by landing an ace, two, three, or four, are too low to risk it. Plus, if you do stand, the dealer can still bust. And it should go without saying, but there is no point standing on 11 or fewer because you simply can’t bust by taking another card.

5. Stand with Soft 19 or Higher, Hit Soft 17 or Lower

Soft 19 is when you have an ace and an eight. As soft 19 (or higher) is most often likely to be the winning hand, there’s no point in taking another card since it is likely to leave you with an inferior total (for example, you nine could go up to 14 or 15). However, if you have a soft 17 or lower (so an ace and a six), you can take another card – an ace up to five will improve your soft 17 total, or you could hit a combination of cards to improve your lower score or seven.

6. Don’t Take Insurance

It’s tempting to take blackjack insurance when the dealer shows an ace upcard, given that it’s probable his next card will be a 10, giving him an unbeatable blackjack. But the returns you get, pitched against the likelihood of the blackjack hitting, mean the math does not work out. In the long run, taking insurance is a losing bet.

7. Always Split Aces and 8s, but Never 4s, 5s, or 10s

Splitting pairs is another good way to get more money on the table in a favorable spot. But you should only do it in certain situations. Always split aces and eights since you could well end up with two good hands. But don’t split nines or 10s since you already have a made hand that is likely to win (18 and 20). And don’t split 4s and 5s because they make lousy individual cards.

8. For Other Pairs, Split Only if the Dealer Upcard is Lower

You can split the remaining pairs, but only if the dealer’s upcard is lower. For example, split sevens if the dealer’s card is lower. This is because you are most likely to add 10 to each split card, while the dealer is most likely to add 10 to his. In that case, you should win.

9. Side Bets Are Fun, But Not Profitable

Just like taking insurance, we’re sad to say that playing blackjack side bets, like 21+3 or Perfect Pairs, is also not profitable. Yes, you might make a big hand in 21+3 and get a chunky payout, but over the long term, you will slowly bleed cash.

10. Don’t Chase Your Losses

If you are on an unfortunate losing streak, it’s a fallacy to think that if things are going wrong, it’s bound to change for the better soon. Chasing your losses is a reactive instinct to increase your bet, assuming the next hand will win and you will recoup what you have lost. The reality is, you are just as likely to lose the next hand and go deeper in the red. It's far better to walk away and come back another time, refreshed and with a clear head.

Try Blackjack Today

By following our blackjack rules of thumb, you’ll have a much better chance of turning in a profit on your gaming sessions. Why not put it to the test at TwinSpires Casino? Sign up for your account today, claim your welcome bonus, and lower that casino blackjack house edge as far as you can. Good luck!