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What Are the Top Blackjack Tactics for Players New to the Game?

| November 18, 2017 12:00 am PDT
Blackjack Strategy

Blackjack strategy is confusing when you first start out with the game. After all, how are you supposed to know when to hit, stand, split, or double down based on instincts?

The truth is that you won’t automatically know how to handle all these situations as a beginner. But the good news is that it’s not hard to learn blackjack strategy, even when you’re new to game.

Let’s cover the best blackjack strategy tool for beginners, along with what else you can do to quickly lower the house edge.

Grab a Blackjack Strategy Chart

The fastest way to get up to speed on playing perfect blackjack is to use a strategy chart.

What is a blackjack strategy chart?

These tools are color-coded guides that show you the optimal moves based on your score and the dealer’s upcard.

All you need to do is refer to your chart whenever you don’t know how to handle a specific play. This is far better than trying to memorize a bunch of situations in the beginning.

Blackjack strategy cards are based on computer simulations. Formulated years ago, the simulations played through millions of hands to discover the best decision in every scenario.

The end result is that you have a handy tool showing you how to make correct moves.

How to Use a Blackjack Strategy Chart

Strategy charts feature a grid that shows when you should hit, stand, double down, split, or late surrender (if available). All you need to do is scan the chart and look for your score along with the dealer’s upcard.

Here’s an example:

  • You have 15.
  • The dealer’s upcard is 5.
  • The strategy card shows to stand in this situation.

Let’s look at one more example:

  • You have a pair of 9s.
  • The dealer’s upcard is 8.
  • The chart shows to split in this scenario.

As you can see, it’s easy to use a strategy chart. And the best part is that you’ll eventually memorize a number of situations as you continue playing the game.

Where to Find Strategy Charts

All you need to do is either Google or Bing the term “blackjack strategy chart.” From there, go to the images section of the search engine, and you’ll see a variety of charts.

You can then use these cards on your smartphone, tablet, or PC. You can even print a strategy chart off and take it with you to brick-and-mortar casinos.

Casinos also sell blackjack strategy charts in their gift shops. But few players need to go this route, given the prevalence of smartphones and PCs today.

Master Your Chart Before Playing in Land-Based Casinos

You’re allowed to use strategy cards at land-based blackjack tables. But you don’t want to refer to your chart every hand, because it’ll draw the ire of both the dealer and players.

This is why it’s smart to memorize as much as you can from a strategy card before playing at brick-and-mortar casinos.

The best way to memorize strategy charts is by playing free online blackjack while referring to a card. This puts what you’re learning into practice, rather than just staring at a chart for forever.

If you really want some action, you can also play low-stakes blackjack for a dollar per hand while learning the finer points of your strategy card.

Order of How to Make Blackjack Decisions

Again, you can simply look at blackjack strategy charts to learn the game. But you’ll find it helpful to know the order of how you should make decisions, too.

Here’s the order in which you should consider different blackjack actions:

  • Late SurrenderThis option isn’t available at most casinos. But if late surrender is offered, this the first thing that you need to consider after receiving your first two cards. Surrender is no longer available as soon as you hit for a third card.
  • SplitYou have the option to split hands whenever you receive a pair. Refer to your strategy chart for the best times to split.
  • Double DownYou should consider doubling down when you’re in a really favorable position. Just note that some casinos enforce double-down restrictions ranging from 9 through 11, or 10 through 11.
  • Hit or StandYou must decide whether to hit or stand when none of the above options are a good move. You’ll be performing these actions the majority of the time.

Look for Blackjack Tables with Good Rules

You’ll do well in blackjack as long as you use and memorize a strategy chart. In fact, this alone helps you shave a few percentage points off the house edge.

But another thing that you’ll want to do is learn the different rules and how they change from table to table. Here are the rules and what to look for during your search:

  • Blackjack Payouts – Most blackjack tables either offer 3:2 or 6:5 natural blackjack payouts. A 3:2 payout is the best because it lowers the house edge by 1.40%.
  • Number of Decks – Single-deck blackjack is the best, provided the other rules are good too. Moving up to 8 decks adds another 0.59% to the house edge.
  • Double Down – Doubling down on any total versus only doubling on 9 through 11 lowers the house advantage by 0.25%.
  • Dealer Hits or Stands on Soft 17 – The dealer standing on a soft 17 drops the house edge by 0.20%.
  • Double Down After Splitting – The house edge is lowered by 0.17% when this rule is available.
  • Re-Splitting Aces – The house advantage drops by 0.08% when this option is available.
  • Late Surrender – Being able to surrender hands lowers the casino edge by 0.07%.

Obviously, you don’t want to play at a blackjack table that offers worse rules than the next one. This is why you should put time into figuring out which casinos offer the best blackjack tables.

You can find this information online for both land-based and internet casinos. Here are examples of brick-and-mortar casinos and online gaming providers that offer great blackjack games:

  • Treasure Island in Las Vegas – 0.26% house edge w/ $25 stakes
  • El Cortez in Vegas – 0.304% house edge w/ $5 stakes
  • Microgaming online casinos – 0.31% house edge w/ $2 stakes
  • Arizona Charlie’s Boulder in Vegas – 0.34% house edge w/ $5 stakes
  • Betsoft online casinos – 0.35% house edge w/ $1 stakes
  • Playtech online casinos – 0.35% house edge w/ $2 stakes

Strategy Can Change Based on Rules

Earlier, we covered how you should use a strategy chart to boost your odds of winning. But it’s worth adding that optimal blackjack strategy can change based on the rules.

This is why you’ll find different strategy charts online that have names like Atlantic City blackjack or Vegas downtown blackjack.

These names refer to a specific set of rules. Let’s check out an example by viewing the rules for Atlantic City blackjack:

  • Natural blackjacks pay 3:2.
  • The dealer stands on a soft 17.
  • Double down after splitting allowed.
  • Double down on any total.
  • Split hands up to 3 times (4 total hands).
  • No re-splitting aces.
  • The dealer peeks for a blackjack if their upcard is an ace or 10 value.
  • Late surrender allowed.
  • 8 decks.
Can you use the same strategy chart across all blackjack games

and still play well?

Yes, to a certain degree.

But if you’re going to play any considerable amount of blackjack, it only makes sense to spend time looking for the specific strategy chart that matches your game’s rules.

Get Extra Strategy Help from a Blackjack Trainer

You should be perfectly fine learning basic blackjack strategy from a chart. But another helpful tool for beginners is a blackjack trainer.

These are programs that see you play blackjack hands like normal. However, the difference is that the trainer points out when you make mistakes.

For example, a trainer will show when you should’ve split cards instead of hitting. These programs may also keep score to show you how many correct versus incorrect decisions you’re making.

The idea is that you’ll eventually learn perfect blackjack strategy through trial and error. Of course, it helps a great deal if you’ve learned from a strategy chart first before moving on to a trainer.

How to Use a Blackjack Trainer

If you’ve played online blackjack before, then you’ll have no trouble getting acquainted with a blackjack trainer. These programs offer the same features and options as internet blackjack games.

Just in case you haven’t played online blackjack before, here are step-by-step instructions on how to use a blackjack trainer:

  • Use the options menu to set specific rules.
  • Choose the Deal button.
  • Decide what hand action to take.
  • The trainer will show whether you’ve made a correct or incorrect decision.

Where to Find Blackjack Trainers

You can Google or Bing the term “blackjack trainer” to find a variety of results. All you need to do from here is click one of the available websites and start using a trainer.

You might consider trying several different blackjack trainers, just to see if you find one easier to use than the rest and/or like the interface better.

The Don’ts of Blackjack Strategy

Some aspects of blackjack strategy aren’t covered by a chart or trainer.  These include various things that you should never do when playing the game.

That said, let’s look at some of the biggest don’ts in blackjack.

Don’t Buy Insurance

The dealer offers insurance whenever they have an ace or 10 upcard.

Taking insurance involves betting at least half your original wager on whether or not the dealer will have a natural blackjack. You’ll be paid 2:1 on the insurance wager if you win.

It’s called insurance because we’re led to believe that we’re insuring ourselves in the event of a dealer blackjack. However, the truth is that this is really just a bad side bet in disguise.

The attractive part of insurance is that you win a 2:1 payout. And this covers your losing original bet if the dealer does get a blackjack.

But the problem is that you only have 9:4 odds of winning this wager. Given that your odds are worse than the 2:1 payout, the house has a 6% advantage on insurance.

Don’t ever take insurance if your main blackjack goal is to improve your odds of winning.

Don’t Sit at First or Third Base

A standard land-based blackjack table has seven seats. The first seat to dealer’s left is known as first base, and the last seat to dealer’s right is known as third base.

Beginners should avoid both of these chairs in the beginning, for different reasons.

You want to avoid first base, because you have less time to act on your hand.

Of course, there’s no official time limit in blackjack. But everybody is expected to act in a timely manner.

This doesn’t bode well if you’re learning blackjack and expected to act after only having 5-10 seconds to review your hand.

You should avoid third base, because some players tend to blame this seat for mistakes that lead to dealer wins. Here’s an example:

  • You’re dealt 14.
  • The dealer’s upcard is 5.
  • Common strategy suggests to stand here.
  • You hit and draw an 8 to bust out.
  • The dealer draws a 10 and 6 to get 21.
  • Everybody else loses and gets mad at you.
  • The dealer would’ve busted out, had you not hit.

The reality is that third base doesn’t affect players’ long-term chances of winning. The reason is because third base’s strategy mistakes are just as likely to help the table as they are to hurt everyone.

But the problem is that not everybody knows this. All they see is a beginner making a strategy mistake that costs them in the short run.

I suggest choosing one of the middle seats so that you have a fair amount of time to act, and you won’t be blamed for potential strategy gaffes.

Don’t Fall for the Gambler’s Fallacy

The gambler’s fallacy is the mistaken belief that past outcomes will have an effect on future bets.

The underlying logic behind the gambler’s fallacy is that winning and losing streaks can only last so long. At some point, the other outcome is “due” to win based on past outcomes.

Let’s look an example:

  • The dealer beats you 5 hands in a row.
  • You know that you have roughly a 50/50 chance of winning.
  • You triple your next bet under the assumption that you’re due to win.

It’s logical to assume that you should win the next blackjack hand based on the odds. After all, you have a 46.36% chance of winning a blackjack hand when not accounting for ties.

This makes it seem that the odds will be working in your favor because the dealer has won several times in a row.

But the biggest problem with the gambler’s fallacy is that past outcomes don’t change the odds.You still have the same 46.36% chance of winning on the next hand.

Nothing is wrong with using pattern betting for fun. But don’t bet more than you’re comfortable with just because you think a certain outcome is due based on the gambler’s fallacy.

Conclusion

You can go as in-depth with blackjack strategy as you want. In fact, this game even offers a legitimate advantage play method in card counting.

But what’s nice is that you can also quickly learn
intricate basic strategy through a chart and/or trainer.

The other big thing that you want to do besides using a blackjack strategy chart is look for the best rules. You can really lower the house advantage by using good strategy on a game with favorable rules.

All that’s left after this includes playing in the right state of mind and making the correct decisions over and over again. This allows you to work the house edge under 1% and have a much better chance of winning in blackjack than most other casino games.

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