Blackjack Strategy: Two Cards or More than Two?

After my post yesterday afternoon I started giving some thought to blackjack strategy in regards to a two card hand versus blackjack strategy for multi card hands. This came to me after discussing how a two card soft 18 is played that same as a three card soft 18. This lead to the aforementioned thinking.

Is there really a difference between a hand that is made up of two cards and a hand that is made up of more cards?

In some cases it does. Naturally a two card blackjack is worth more than a hand with three or more cards that totals to 21. And a pair can only be split in the first two cards; you cannot have a 4/8 and hit for another 8, and then split. Also, you generally can only double down on two cards. Some casinos will allow for doubling on three cards but it is not a common house rule; and online casinos only offer double downs on two cards.

But in most cases it does not matter if you have a hand total made up of two cards or a hand made up of more than two cards. Take a look.

Let’s say you have a hand made up of a 6/8. That is a hard 14. If the dealer has a 7 or higher you would stand according to basic strategy.

Now let’s say you have a hand that is made up of a 5/3, which is a total of 8. Again, the dealer is showing a 7 or higher, and you hit according to common sense and basic strategy. You receive a 6 for a total of 14. As you do not have an Ace this is still a hard 14 and it would be played like you would a two card hard 14—in this example it means that you would still hit.

See how this works? There is nothing on the basic strategy chart that says that the hard hands can only be made up of two cards. Often enough with smaller starting hands you have to hit before your hand at least once before it comes time to decide to hit or stand again.

The point is that to get the most out of your blackjack strategy you need to actually be familiar with your strategy. Basic strategy is easy to use if you play on auto pilot. But auto pilot is not the best way to play blackjack if you want to turn a profit.

Blackjack Myths Special

In honor of today being Friday the 13th, I am going to talk about blackjack myths today.

First I am going to start with the most basic and most common blackjack myth: the objective of blackjack is to get a hand total of 21. It does not matter whether we are talking about online blackjack or blackjack in a brick and mortar casino, players (novices for sure) of both types seem to think that this is the objective.

However, they would be slightly mistaken. And when it comes to casino games it does not do to be mistaken in what their objectives are.

To set us on the right track, the true objective of blackjack is to beat the dealer without getting a hand total that goes over 21.

The reason you want to know the true objective of blackjack is that it can have an impact on your blackjack strategy. If you operate under the idea that all you have to do is get 21 and that the dealer’s hand is of no concern, you will probably hit a lot more and see no purpose to double down or split pairs.

Now if you were playing with the goal of beating the dealer you would be taking his cards and his playing choices into mind. Let’s compare!

If you had a hard 14 and the dealer had a 6 and were only trying to play to 21 you would probably hit. But since you are really trying to beat the dealer you would stand and give the dealer a chance at busting himself. If he busts himself then you win.

You see the difference between the two objectives, yes? Good. It is important to pay with correct blackjack objective in mind as it can have an impact on your blackjack strategy.

Happy Friday the 13th! Good luck when playing today!

Blackjack Strategy for Splitting 9s—Part III

Yesterday I discussed splitting a pair of 9s and how your blackjack strategy should go. Despite the hand total on a pair of 9s being 18, this is still a pair that you will want to split. When faced with a dealer’s up card of 2 through 6 or an 8 was covered yesterday. In those cases you split because the dealer can beat your 18 with three of the five hand totals he could hit to.

See that last line? The reason behind why you are splitting a pair of 9s against those dealer up cards? That is one of the points behind blackjack strategy. It is all well and fine to memorize and then automatically turn out the best play. But understanding why you are making that play is key to mastering your blackjack strategy, and allowing for further blackjack strategy finesses, such as card counting.

Now when you are facing a dealer’s up card of 9 I could simply tell you that you split your pair of 9s there too and be done with it. But since you are interested in mastering your blackjack strategy I am going to tell you why you are splitting those 9s.

Yes, you split a pair of 9s against a dealer’s 9 to improve your standing in that round, but it is just a little harder since the dealer has a 9 too. And there are a few cards that can help you, depending on house rules of course.

If you are dealt a 10 or Ace on one of your split 9s you just bettered your original hand to have a 19 or 20. So you can increase your chances of winning there. And you have a five out of thirteen shot of being dealt one of those cards.

You also have a one in thirteen chance of being dealt a 2, which would give you a hand total of 11. And you of course know that with an 11 your next move in blackjack strategy is to double down.

Finally if you are dealt another 9 you can split again if the house rules allow you to do so. And if they do not you are no worse off than you were when you started. So being dealt a 9 is another one out of thirteen.

So off all the cards that improve your hand or cause your hand total to break even there are seven out of thirteen chances. That leaves six cards that could potentially worsen your hand. But notice that by splitting you have a slight edge in doing so: seven cards can improve your hand while 6 will worsen it.

Now you can see why you need to split a pair of 9s when facing down a dealer’s 9—you have a slight edge in improving your hand. And either improving your hand or minimalizing your losses is desired end result of blackjack strategy.

Blackjack Strategy for Splitting 9s—Part II

This morning I began talking about blackjack strategy for when you are dealt a pair of 9s. As you might recall I left off by saying that when holding a pair of 9s when the dealer is showing a 2 through 6 or an 8, the best play to make is to split.

While an 18 is a strong there are three hands that the dealer can hit to with one of those up cards and still beat the player. Three out of the five possible hands I should say. And the last time I checked, that was more than 50%, which puts the player at the disadvantage. So that leaves splitting those 9s.

If you are playing in a game of blackjack that allows for doubling after splitting then you gain a little on your blackjack odds: a 0.15% to your odds in fact. And here is why:

Once you split you have two hands that are starting at 9, which is a nice strong card to start with. Let’s say that your next card is a 2, which gives you an 11. You can double down on that 11 and further increase your chances of turning a profit.

Or if you are playing in a game that allows for resplitting and are dealt another 9 you can split again. Sure you have three hands open at that point, but they all have strong starting points. And resplitting adds another 0.08% to your blackjack odds.

What else can you do with that 9? Well, if you are dealt an Ace, it gives you a hand total of 20. And that is a good hand to stand on. A 10 or a face card will also put you in a nice spot with a hard 19.

Now I have not talked about blackjack strategy when you are holding a pair of 9s and the dealer is also holding a 9. The reasoning there for your blackjack strategy is a little bit different. Whereas splitting against a dealer’s 2 through 6 or an 8 works to help improve your chances of a net gain, splitting against a dealer’s 9 is meant more to reduce your net losses. But I will talk more about that one tomorrow morning.

Blackjack Strategy for Splitting 9s

Every now and then we are dealt what can seem like a strong hand, but in reality it is deceptively strong. I say deceptively strong because while in ordinary blackjack strategy, meaning ordinary hard hands, their hand totals would be fine. But what if they are not ordinary hard hands?

Okay, enough with the mystique. I am talking about those rascally hands that either have Aces or are made up of a pair. In particular I am talking about a certain pair: a pair of 9s.

I know when I have discussed pair splitting blackjack strategy that I have said to pay attention to what the hand total is and to not only focus on the joyous fact that you are holding a pair. In the case of a pair of 9s the hand total is 18. If you were playing this hand out like you would an ordinary hard hand you know that you would stand on an 18. But this is not an ordinary hard 18.

This is a pair of 9s, and because it is not ordinary you want to play it out in the most advantageous way. This means that if the dealer has a 2 through 6 or an 8 that you want to split that pair of 9s.

Let’s compare shall we?

If you were to stand on a pair of 9s against those dealer up cards you would yield a profit over a large number of rounds. In other words you would need to play a lot of rounds and be dealt a lot of pairs of 9s in order to make that 18 profit. This is because of there are only five totals the dealer can hit to that would not bust him, and three of those five beat your 18. The odds on standing on a pair of 9s against a 2 through 6 or an 8 are not with you.

So what strategy options do you have left? You can hit, which is very not smart in terms of blackjack strategy, or you can split. And splitting is the way to go.

Check back this afternoon for the whys in splitting a pair of 9s. After all, your blackjack strategy is not just about knowing what play to make, but about knowing why you are making it.

Blackjack Strategy: Playing to 21

When new players think of blackjack, they think the objective of the game is to get their hand total up to 21. To play to 21 in other words. However this is a bit of a misconception. Sure, 21 is the magic number in blackjack but it is not the objective.

The true objective of blackjack—any blackjack game, be it blackjack online or black in a brick and mortar casino—is to beat the dealer without getting a hand total that goes over 21.

The difference between playing to 21 and beating the dealer is a little bit different. If you were playing to 21 there would be no need for a dealer’s hand. There would then be no dealer up cards, and blackjack would not be the dealer versus player game that we know it to be. If playing to 21 were the sole objective and we did not have a dealer we would be playing against other players, and then we would descend into poker. And if I wanted to play poker I would go play poker and not blackjack.

But this is blackjack and we have a dealer and we play to beat that dealer.

This means that your blackjack strategy is based on getting the best odds. The best odds in the long run mean that you will win more from the house. That means paying attention to the game and making the play that brings you the best blackjack odds. Sometimes that means doubling down or splitting pairs, or maybe not splitting pairs, or maybe standing here and there.

The whole point of a blackjack strategy is to know how to make the best play and take the most advantage of the current hand in your attempt to beat the dealer.

The best tool for this blackjack strategy is a basic strategy chart. This is why new blackjack players are first pointed in the direction of basic strategy once they learn the basic playing rules of the game.

Paying attention to your blackjack strategy and why you make a certain play using basic strategy helps to teach new players the whys of the game, and why blackjack’s objective is not playing to 21.

Blackjack Strategy: Pair Splitting on 8s

We began discussing this morning the pairs that the smart blackjack player will always split, starting with Aces. But there is one more pair that it is in a player’s blackjack strategy to always split: a pair of 8s.

Thankfully a pair of 8s does not require a lot of description. It is two cards with an 8 on each card. There. That is a pair of 8s.

I have noticed that blackjack players who are novices tend to swing from one side to the far other side. In terms of pair splitting strategy this means that they will start out by splitting every pair because it is a pair and it can be split.

So when they learn that pairs of 5s and 10s should never, ever be split they take that to heart and apply it to all pairs, becoming unwilling to split a thing.

Thankfully they will soon learn that Aces and 8s are two pairs that need to be split.

So on to a pair of 8s. First, do the math. Adding up 8 and 8 gives you a hard 16, which is the worst stiff hand that you could be dealt in the whole game. It is too high to hit effectively—although I know you are playing by basic strategy and hitting it against a dealer’s 7 through Ace. But it is always just a little too low when standing.

It is an underdog hand that just never seems to come out on top as often as you want it to. Your only real hope of winning with a hard 16 is that the dealer will bust. And onlinecasinosuite is agreeable with this.

So let me ask you this: knowing how awful a hard 16 is to play with and that you have better chances of losing with it, why would you not split a pair of 8s as a pair of 8s unsplit is a hard 16.

While starting a hand with an 8 is not the strongest ground you can stand on, you stand a better fighting chance with an 8 than you do with a hard 16.

So work it into your blackjack strategy that while not splitting is good, some splitting is necessary. And splitting a pair of 8s should definitely be in your blackjack strategy as a pair to split.

Blackjack Strategy: Pair Splitting on Aces

Yesterday I talked about blackjack strategy in regards to pair that you do not split when you are dealt them. And it does not matter whether you are playing online blackjack or blackjack in a brick and mortar casino, you still do not split those two pairs.

So today I thought we would talk about pairs that you always, always, always split. First up is a pair of Aces.

Logically you have to split a pair of Aces. Do the math and it just seems smart to do so. An Ace is worth 11 or 1, with 11 being the first value given; if that 11 does not work in the hand it is then reduced to 1. So a pair of Aces first adds up to 22, which is a bust. So naturally one of the Aces is reduced to 1, giving the player a hand total of 12. Nasty hard 12.

You can see why any smart blackjack player would split that pair of Aces.

Once split you have two hands that are starting at 11. Not only that you have half of what you need to make 21. If you are playing blackjack in a brick and mortar casino and also happen to be a card counter, and the deck is running with high cards, that would be a good time to split those Aces since your chances of being dealt the cards for a hard 19, 20 or 21 are increased.

Even if you are not a card counter or are even playing blackjack online, it is good blackjack strategy to split a pair of Aces. Doing so takes your hand from a weak position to a stronger one.

Blackjack Strategy: Pair Splitting on 10s

This morning I talked about a pair that, according to good blackjack strategy is never ever split: a pair of 5s. But there is one more pair that is never eve split either: a pair of 10s.

A pair of 10s could be literally two 10 cards. Or it could be two face cards, not necessarily the same two face cards, meaning a pair could be a Queen and a Jack. Or a pair of 10s could be a 10 card and a face card. The whole point to the pair is that the two cards have the same value.

There are two mistakes that happen when a blackjack player uses some misguided blackjack strategy and splits a pair of 10s. Either he is ill-informed or he is just all caught up in being dealt a pair and cannot resist splitting it.

Mistake number one is that the split is made with the idea that the player can then double down on each of those 10s. First off, not all blackjack games allow for doubling after splitting. This rule is typically found at blackjack tables in casinos and not found at all in online blackjack.

The problem with this strategy, aside from the instances in which doubling after splitting is not allowed, is that the player is giving up a strong hand for something weaker. True, starting a hand with 10 is not too bad of a building block. But it is weaker when compared to an unsplit pair of 10s.

The other mistake that the player forgets about doubling after splitting, and is intent on trying to build two strong hands. But, again, the player is giving up strong blackjack ground for weaker ground.

The reason why you do not split a pair of 10s is right in front of the player’s face: 10 plus 10 equals 20. And in blackjack the only hands that the dealer could beat you with is if he winds up with a natural blackjack or hits to 21.

A hard 20 is one of the strongest hands in blackjack. It is good blackjack strategy to hang on to that hard 20 and stand. It is simply wasteful to throw away that strength just for the sake of splitting a pair.

Blackjack Strategy: Pair Splitting

Like any game of skill, blackjack requires strategy. Any good game of skill worth the trip to an online gambling site requires good strategy. The most commonly used strategy tool in both online blackjack and blackjack played in a brick and mortar casino is basic strategy.

Basic strategy comes in the form of a chart with player hands running down the left hand side and all of the dealer up cards running across the top. When using basic strategy you find your hand and run it across the line until it intersects with the line of the card the dealer is showing. The play at the intersection is the best statistical play for you to make.

But if you look at a basic strategy chart you notice that it is somewhat divided into three sections based on the player’s hand. These sections would be the hard hands, the soft hands and the pairs. This is because each of these types of hands are played differently. Soft hands are played differently because of the Aces in them, and pairs are, well, pairs.

We are going to look specifically at one pair today: the pair of 5s.

One of the most common pair playing mistakes made is splitting a pair simply because it is a pair. It is the thing to do with a pair, right?

Not exactly. In some cases splitting is the right thing to do. But not always. In the case of a pair of 5s in a game of blackjack you do not split them. With all but two dealer up cards you double down. The only time you do not double down is when you are facing a dealer’s 10 or Ace.

So why the double down? Adding 5 and 5 together gives you 10. And if you compare the hard 10 line of a basic strategy chart to the pair of 5s line you will see that they are identical.

Do you know what happens when you double down? You are taking 1.6% off of the dealer’s edge. Simply because you have the upper hand and stand to make quite a tidy sum off of him if you win with a double down. And starting with a 10, be it a hard 10 or a pair of 5s, is a good place to start when doubling down in blackjack. Ten is halfway to 21.

It is important to not only follow your strategy when playing blackjack, it is important to understand why you are making the plays you are making. Such is the case with the strategy behind not splitting a pair of 5s.