Blackjack is a derivative of the American group of banking games known as Twenty-One. Other close associates are the European game Vingt-et-Un and the British game Pontoon. Blackjack is the most played casino banking game globally and is played with one or multiple decks of 52 cards. Unlike other gambling card games, Blackjack is played by one or more players against a dealer instead of each other.
History of Blackjack
The immediate forerunner of Blackjack, the English version of Twenty-One, is shrouded in mystery but is generally thought to have originated from Spain. This is because the first reference or record of the game is found in a book by the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes best known for his literary legend Don Quixote. The rules of Twenty-One were framed in Britain in 1800, even though the first mention of the game being officially played was in France in 1768 and Britain in the 1770s and the 1780s. Twenty-One surfaced in the United States in the 1800s and slowly evolved into a pure American variant, renamed Blackjack in 1899.
The origin of the name Blackjack is very interesting though there are various opinions in this regard. It is rumored that in the 1930s, gambling houses stimulated players’ interests by doling out bonuses in the form of a ten-to-one-payout if a player held the ace of spades and a black jack, either of spades or clubs. The hand was called a “Blackjack,” and the name stuck to the game. Incidentally, the ten-to-one bonus was later done away with. This theory has been debunked by various card historians who have come up with their versions at varying times.
The first effort to create an optimized blackjack strategy based on scientific and mathematical inputs was in 1956. Herbert Maisel, Roger Baldwin, James McDermott, and Wilbert Cantey published a paper in the Journal of the American Statistical Association titled The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack. This paper served as a solid foundation to devise strategies to blackjack and beat the game. Ed Thorpe would later improve on Baldwin’s calculations to confirm the basic blackjack strategy in his book “Beat the Dealer” (1963), still considered the ultimate guide to blackjack.
Basic Blackjack Strategy
Following a tried and tested basic plan for blackjack does not ensure that you will come out a winner every time. But doing so maximizes not only your game but also the winning opportunities. As a rookie, these are some of the guidelines you will do well to go for.
- Memorize Your Hand – Remember the precise method to hit, stand, split, and double-down your hand. It will help you reduce the house edge from 1 to 2 percent to at least 0.5 percent. Additionally, follow this guide to betting.
- Stand when the dealer’s hand is 2-6 and yours is 12-16
- Hit when the dealer has 7-Ace, and you have 12-16
- Compulsorily split Aces and 8s
- Double 11 against the dealer’s 2-10
- Hit or Double Aces-6
- Insurance Bet – Apart from when you are card counting, never make the move of playing insurance, which is primarily a new bet with fresh money depending on whether the dealer has a blackjack. Typically, the house has an advantage of almost 6 percent over a player with an insurance bet. You will win your original bet if you have a blackjack, and if the dealer has one when you do, it’s a no-win no-lose position.
- Dealer’s Up Card – Check the dealer’s up card before you make your move, as any action that you take will be based on this. A good card is from 7 through to Ace, and a bad card is 2 to 6).
- Sit Away from the Base Seat – Avoid being on the first base chair, especially if you see that the dealer is rushing through with the deals. If you are further down, the benefit is that you get more time to think about your next action after reviewing your hand and checking the dealer’s up card.
- Begin Small – Take time to acclimatize to the environment. When you or a new dealer arrives at a table, check the situation first by starting small. Evaluate whether the dealer is “hot” or “cold,” as one of these streaks can have a major impact on your game. The casino is open round the clock, so take your time.
- Play Your Game – Blackjack is a game between a player’s one hand and that of the dealer, and hence the decisions of any other player will not impact your game. Even if a player claims to be an expert, ignore and play your game. That should be your best basic strategy for betting.
- Stop at a Losing Streak – Start your game by deciding how much loss you are willing to absorb, never mind the extent of your winnings. Don’t blow substantial amounts going after casinos provided freebies to lure you to continue. Studies show that while 75 percent of players in a casino are winning at some point in time, only 4 percent continue to run until they go home. The maxim to follow is that if you are losing, move on and avoid getting burned.
Once you get these strategies in blackjack going, you can increase your winning chances.
Other Strategies for Blackjack
Apart from the basic blackjack betting strategies, there are a few other established ones too.
- Martingale betting strategy – This strategy is not for beginners but for players with deep pockets who want to win a fortune at blackjack and are not afraid to lose one. Your benchmark in the Martingale strategy should be at least $500, and you need to double your bet every time you lose. So if you are on a losing streak, it can mean a lot of money. The goal of this strategy is very daring, i.e., you need one win to earn back all your losses. It would be best to have the courage and the bankroll to keep on playing until that one win comes along.
- Oscars betting strategy – In this strategy, you need one unit of profit per progression to neutralize losing streaks. Once a unit is won, the whole progression resets and starts again. Hence, if the first bet is won, the next bet remains the same. If the first bet is lost, the next bet is also 1 unit, but the difference is that you are now 1 unit down, and the progression system should begin to enable you to recoup the loss by generating 1 unit of profit. If the second bet wins, the next is doubled, and every subsequent winning hand continues to double in stakes till the winning 1 unit is achieved. The focus here is on the bets made in unit terms and not amount.
However, both are not advisable for beginners needing a test blackjack betting strategy.
Tips for Blackjack Betting
A few tips will help you increase your chances of transforming even an average hand into a possible winning deal.
- Soft Hands – A soft hand is where you hit on a soft 17 and have an Ace and a 6. Always hit on this hand as it is a great opportunity to increase the hand value. Also, hit if the value is less than 17. In such cases, the chances of increasing the value of your hand are high, standing maintains the status quo, and the dealer can exercise the option of either hitting or standing to get a better hand. In case the soft hand is 18, hit and double down if the dealer’s hand has 8, 9, or 10.
- Hard hands – In blackjack betting, if you have a hard hand between 12 and 16 and the dealer has one of the values 2 and 6, the automatic bet and choice stand. It is because the possibility is little that the dealer can beat the bet and win with a hand that has a low value originally. If the hand value is between 12 and 16 and that of the dealer is 7 or higher, go for a hit. The chances of the dealer landing one hand higher than yours are greater with the next cards. Keep your rights reserved when you have a hard 17. The next bet with a hard 17 hand or higher is to stand as it is relatively nearer to 21.
- Splitting a pair – There are several options in the best blackjack approach when you land a pair. Do not split a 10s pair as the total value of 20 is closest to 21. The dealer has to hit a 21 to win the bet, which is quite rare. Do not split a 5s pair as the next best move to go forward is to double down when you play blackjack. By splitting, you will double your chances of landing two hands of a total value of 10 each, which is average, and you cannot go back. Split a hand of two Aces as it exponentially increases your bet to win. The same applies to 6’s pair. Do not split if you see the dealer’s card value of 3 to 6.
There are several other tips that you can use for blackjack betting, and the best blackjack players follow them closely. But in the long run, a lot depends on the factors considered for betting by the players and how well you implement the optimized strategies of blackjack at the table.
Long-Run Output of the Blackjack Betting System
Like craps and roulette, blackjack players play against the house, and the mechanics are such that it is almost impossible to set up a win and gain a house edge in the long run. If you use the perfect betting strategy to set up a win, you have to give up a 1.5% house edge per hand of a bet.
The best way to get around it is through card counting, where you will get about a 2% edge over the house in the long run per hand for a win. This factor again depends on the casinos, which have rights reserved as to how much and how deep they go into the show before shuffling. The deeper it is, the more will be your card counting edge because there will be an increased positive count at the end of the shoe to be shuffled.
Deploying the best blackjack betting strategy will reduce your losses, but this will not extend to a point where you regularly win at the tables and become profitable. Some casinos hand over a small card to their patrons when they enter, detailing play blackjack and how to bet and win. It is not that the casinos want you to have a good betting strategy and win but is rather a good marketing strategy to draw in more players for betting. Even when you use the best betting strategy, the mathematical advantage will always favor the casinos.
What is the best betting strategy for blackjack?
There is no single and best blackjack strategy to follow to place a bet and win. Instead, you can follow any one of several depending on the play. One of the most critical is remembering the exact method to hit, stand, split, and double down to reduce the house edge from 1 to 2 percent to 0.5 percent. Next in blackjack betting is to check the dealer’s up card before placing your bet to win. A good card is from 7 to Ace, and a bad card is 2 to 6. Finally, beginners betting in blackjack should start small as one of the “hot” or “cold” streaks of the dealer can affect your chances of winning.
How do you make a progressive bet in blackjack?
Progressive betting, as a blackjack strategy, is quite simple. You have to keep on doubling the bet every time you lose till you strike a win. The logic here is that even if you pass through a bad betting streak, there will surely be a win sometime. But it can also lead to huge losses in betting.
Can you make money playing blackjack using basic strategy?
Deploying a basic betting blackjack strategy is not a sure way of making money simply because you are playing not with another player but against the house. The mechanism is such that the odds are stacked against a win. However, with the best basic betting strategy, you can ensure that the edge of the house comes down from the typical 1 to 2 percent to 0.5 percent, thereby increasing the chances of a win.
When should you increase your bet in blackjack?
If you are resorting to progressive betting, you have to keep on doubling your bet each time you lose till you win. Even in the worst losing streaks, you will win at least once. But the losses can be quite heavy at times.