Blackjack is a classic casino game, but its fast pace and need for intelligent judgment can intimidate some newcomers and gamblers who have been sticking to slot machines and other automated games.
Once you know the basics of the game and the math behind it, though, it’s a very easy game to jump into and enjoy. If you’re trying to get into blackjack, it’s not as complex as it seems. In fact, here are some tips to help you master it. Check our Blackjack Cheat Sheet and increase your winnings.
The Basics of Blackjack
The goal is to get your hand closer to 21 than the dealer, without going over. In many cases, there will be other players at the table, but the only one you’re competing against is the dealer. The first step is to place a bet – essentially, you’re betting the dealer you can get closer to 21 than he or she can without going over. After you place your bet, the dealer will begin the game by dealing two cards to each player, including himself or herself – but one of his or her cards will be face-down so you don’t know the number you have to beat.
With each round, you’ll look at the value of the cards in your hand and decide if you want to add another card to your hand (“hit”), or if you believe you’ve gotten closer to 21 than the dealer and you’re ready to bet on your hand (“stay”). All cards have the same value as the number they show. Face cards (jacks, queens, and kings) are all worth 10, and aces can be worth either 1 or 11.
Blackjack Cheat Sheet
The real challenge is deciding whether to add another card to your hand (which you indicate by telling the dealer to “hit me”). It’s all about probability, and this can vary from casino to casino depending on the number of card decks that are being used. Most casinos use six decks of cards in a standard game.
Figuring out when you should “hit” and when you should “stay” involves complex math, and for anyone who’s not an MIT graduate, it can take some of the fun out of the game. Fortunately, some people have created a handy blackjack cheat sheet to help you figure out whether you should hit or stay based on your existing hand’s total:
- In general, if you have a total of 11 or less, you should always hit.
- If you have a total of 12, you should hit if the dealer shows a 2, a 3, or a card higher than 6, you should stay.
- If you have a total between 13 and 16, and the dealer shows a 7 or higher, you should hit. If, however, the dealer shows a 6 or lower when you have a total of 13to 16, you should stay.
- As soon as your hand reaches 17 or higher, you should always stay.
Remember, this blackjack cheat sheet is an easy guide. There are several factors that can complicate the game. For instance, because an ace can either be an 11 or a 1, it adds a level of complication if either you or the dealer is showing an ace. You can also add some complexity with options like doubling down (doubling your original bet while committing to stay after you receive one more card) or splitting (when your first two cards are two of a kind, you can choose to split them into two different hands).
How to play an ace in Blackjack?
These come into play more often when you have an ace in your hand. So, to break it down and give you some guidance, here’s a cheat sheet you can use if you have an ace:
- If you have two aces, you always want to split them.
- If you have an ace along with a 2 or 3, you should double down if the dealer only shows a 5 or a 6. If the dealer shows anything other than a 5 or a 6, though, it’s best to hit.
- There’s a similar rule if your hand includes an ace along with either a 4 or a 5. If the dealer shows anything between a 4 and a 6, you should double down, but if he or she shows anything else, your best bet is to hit.
- If you have a 6 and an ace and your dealer shows a 3, 4, 5, or 6, doubling down will serve you best. On the other hand, you should hit if the dealer has either a 2 or anything above a 6.
- If your ace is accompanied by a 7, you should double down if the dealer shows anything between a 3 and a 6. If the dealer shows a 2, a 7, or an 8, you should stay, and if he or she shows anything higher than an 8, it’s better to hit.
- If you have an ace along with an 8 or higher, always The dream hand, of course, is an ace and either a face card or a 10.
How to play a pair in Blackjack?
A word of caution: many players (especially beginners) get excited when they’re dealt two of a kind, and they immediately choose to split the pair. However, this isn’t always the best choice. It really depends on what the cards are and what the dealer shows. So, here’s a helpful guide:
- If you have a pair of 2s or 3s and the dealer shows anything between a 4 and a 7, splitting is your best option. If, on the other hand, your dealer shows a 2, a 3, or anything higher than a 7, it’s better to just hit instead.
- If you’re dealt a pair of 4s, you should never split, regardless of what your dealer shows.
- It’s also not a good idea to split a pair of 5s. If the dealer shows a 9 or lower, your best bet is to double down, but if the dealer’s face-up card is a 10 or higher, you should just hit instead.
- If you have a pair of 6s and the dealer shows any card between a 3 and a 6, splitting is the right option. If the dealer has anything else, it’s safer to hit.
- When you have a pair of 7s, you should split if the dealer shows a 7 or lower. If, on the other hand, your dealer shows any card higher than a 7, you’re better off if you hit.
- If you’re dealt a pair of 8s, it’s a simple choice – always split.
- A pair of 9s is a bit complex. You should split them if the dealer shows anything between a 2 and a 6, or if he or she shows an 8 or a 9. However, it’s best to stay if the dealer shows either a 7 or any card that’s a 9 or higher.
- If you’re dealt a pair of any card with a value of 10 (10s, jacks, queens, or kings), you should always stay because you’re already so close to 21 it would be extremely unlikely for the dealer to win.
Blackjack can be a complicated game if you really investigate the many possible ways it can go. The cheat sheet above can be a great way to get you started and help you understand all the subtleties and tricks of the game.