When we're talking Blackjack strategy, we’re talking about six basic components of the game. This section, Part 1, deals with the first three: Hitting and Standing, Doubling Down and Splitting.
Hitting and Standing
The most basic place to start is hitting and standing. The most fundamental thing to remember is, because the Dealer always has to take a hit on any hand 16 or lower, you won't win as much money when you're holding less than 17, unless the Dealer busts. So, how should that statement affect your play? Here's a quick rundown.
If your hand is below 17 and the Dealer is showing an Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9 or 8, you need to take a hit. Why? Simple. Whenever the Dealer holds one of these cards, his chances of busting are very slim, so unless you clear 16, your chances of winning are also slim. There are a few different ways to go when we're talking "soft hands," but we'll delve into those in our Tips and Tricks section.
So you may be asking, when should I stand? If your hand is above 12 and the Dealer shows a 4, 5 or 6, your best play is to stand. When the Dealer is showing any of these three cards, his chances of busting are highest. In fact, it's more than 40 percent of the time. Think of how silly you'd feel if you took a hit with 15, caught a 10 and busted, only to see that the Dealer had 14 and would have been forced to take a hit and draw the 10 instead of you. Every time you bust yourself instead of busting the Dealer, you're not winning as much money as you could be winning.
Speaking of money, the best and fastest way to make it when playing Blackjack is by successfully doubling down at every opportunity. Doubling down can make you double your bet or end up costing you double if you do it in a bad spot. The first and most important rule of doubling down: always double down any hand totaling 11. No matter what the Dealer's showing, if you hit a 10 when you've got 11 he won't beat you.
So when else should you double down? When your hand is 10 and the Dealer is showing a 9 or lower, double it up. When your hand is a 9 or you have a "soft" hand (an ace counted as 11) between 13 and 17 against a Dealer's 4, 5 or 6, double it up. That's it though. Those hands give you the best shot at cashing in when you double down. Follow those rules and you'll end up on the winning end of a double.
The final strategy point, and what tends to be everyone's favorite or most hated part of Blackjack, is splitting. Splitting can be highly profitable if you do it with the right cards, or you could end up costing you by splitting a winning hand into a pair of losers.
The first thing to remember when splitting: never split 10's or 5's. Tens refers to any card valued 10, whether it be the actual 10 or any face card. Conversely, always split Aces and eights, no matter what the Dealer is showing. The reason behind splitting Aces should be obvious, but you might be perplexed about eights. A pair of eights equals 16, which is really a middle-of-the-road hand in Blackjack. Like we said before, with 16 your only chance of winning is if the Dealer busts. By splitting into a pair of eights, your chances of hitting two hands higher than 16 are actually quite good.
Other than Aces and eights, your best bet when it comes to splitting is to split 2's and 3's against the Dealer's 4, 5 or 6. When it comes to the rest of the cards in the deck (4, 6, 7, 9), the simplest rule is to only split these cards when the Dealer's hand is showing a card of lesser value. There are variations on this rule however, so you may want to stick with Aces, 8's, 2's and 3's for now.