A perennial favourite of gamblers, blackjack is a top table game you'll find at every casino, both brick-and-mortar and online. Deceptively simple, and with perhaps the lowest house edge of any game, here are some strategies that might help you finish ahead.
Blackjack is also the name of the best hand, consisting of an ace and a card worth 10. This wins automatically (unless the dealer has one too) and pays out 150% (so if you bet $10, you'd actually win $15, rather than $10).
That can swing both ways, though. If a dealer has an ace face up you can buy insurance in case they have blackjack for 50% of the value of your stake. The insurance pays 200%, so if the dealer has blackjack and you buy insurance you're breaking even. If the dealer does not, you lose the insurance bet.
Should you bet on insurance? No, in a word. Mathematically, you'll average out a loss betting on insurance.
Splitting only happens when you have two identical cards, which become two separate hands, each one automatically receiving another card. This also means you need to place the same stake a second time for the second hand. Aces should always be split. However, aces are special because when you split them you will probably not be able to hit and must instead stand. A pair of 8s should be split as 16 is a weak hand, and the odds are you'll improve by splitting.
Cards worth 10, however, should never be split. The odds are your hands will be worse, and 20 is too good to throw away. Similarly, a pair of 5s is something you should keep as a high card or ace makes it a strong hand, but separately you can easily get lumbered with something like a 15 and 13.
Doubling down means adding one card only to your starting hand and doubling your initial bet. You want to do this when you have a good hand (8 to 11), no potential for going bust and, at the same time, when the dealer has a terrible face up card (a 5 or 6, for example). This means that you can win by getting a good hand yourself, or by the dealer going bust.
Some people come up with seemingly clever strategies to win. One of the oldest is the Martingale system. You play a game. If you win, that's fine. If you lose, you double your stake for the next hand. And if you lose again, you double again (so it's fourfold the original stake). And so on, because in a roughly 50/50 game you're bound to win sooner or later.
No. For a start, this increases your chances of making a small profit, but if you lose you can lose a fortune. Secondly, tables often have upper limits, so you can't just double forever. Superficially, it seems tempting, but sooner or later this approach will be ruinous. Avoid it.
We hope you found this strategies guide useful and interesting. If you play your cards right, blackjack offers the best chance of finishing ahead of any casino game.