The Essentials of Blackjack

November 29, 2019


On this page we summarize the things every player needs to learn about blackjack. Read this page if you are already familiar with the basics of blackjack and are familiar with things like splitting and doubling down.

Dealers busting cards
The concept of dealers busting cards is one of the most essential things to know about while you play. The majority of your decisions will be influenced by the dealer's up-card, or displayed card. If the dealer is showing a 4, 5, or 6, they are known as busting cards. Essentially, if the dealer has this as their up-card, it's not a bad idea to assume they have a card with a value of 10 as their hole card. If we take that assumption one step further, we realize the dealer is likely holding either a 14, 15, or 16. Since we know the dealer must draw cards until they reach seventeen, we know they would have to hit a 14, 15, or 16. Since we can presume (not with perfect confidence by any means) that the dealer will also draw a 10-value card, the totals of 14, 15, or 16 are likely to cause the dealer to bust.

4, 5, and 6 as dealer up-cards are thus commonly called 'dealer busting cards', and offer an added opportunity in the game. If the dealer shows busting cards, you may be more inclined to double down or split where you wouldn't normally.

Splitting a pair
When you are dealt a pair of like cards in blackjack, you have the option to split them. What is your best move? The rule of thumb is, always split Aces and 8s.

For example, you are dealt two 8's on your initial cards. If you split those (a good idea) you will be playing two separate hands, each starting with an 8. Can you see why splitting two 8's is a good idea? Probability dictates that you should get two eighteens out of the deal, instead of a paltry 16 which you originally had in your hand. You can also gauge your decision to split by looking at the dealer's cards and seeing if they are bust cards. This goes both ways though, as some times it is best to stand on a low total if the dealer is showing busting cards.

Doubling down
Doubling down is the act of increasing your bet mid-hand when you see a good opportunity. The primary 'good opportunity' available at the blackjack table is the dealer showing busting cards. This concept was explained earlier and becomes very important in the case of doubling down. The majority of casinos allow you to double down on 9, 10, or 11. Always double down on these totals if the dealer has busting cards showing. Otherwise, double down at your own discretion. It is best to always double down on an 11 as it gives you a great chance at a good hand, but never double down on 11 when the dealer is showing an Ace, because if you achieve a 21 and the dealer does also, the dealer always wins.


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