Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games in history. Along with games like roulette, craps and slot games, it is perhaps the game that is most synonymous with casino gaming in the modern era.
But what if I told you that some people’s slight misunderstanding of the aim of the game when playing at an online or real world casino, could be costing them money?
It may sound far-fetched but there are plenty of examples of players not quite fully grasping the nature of the game, especially as a beginner, which has led to them making poor strategic decisions and which, in the long run, can drain them of their dollars.
So what is this mistake and how easy is it to fix?
Let’s take a closer look and find out.
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Beginning To Play Blackjack
The actual problem that people have when playing blackjack in casinos for cash actually starts when they start playing the game for fun.
When a friend or relative explains the rules of the game, they will often explain that the values of the cards are the face value apart from the Jack, Queen and King, which are all valued at 10, and the Ace, which can be valued at one or eleven.
Then they go on to explain that the aim of the game is ‘to score as close to 21 as you can without going over and going bust’.
Now in a game between family and friends where no cash is at risk, then this is most definitely the case. In order to win these type of games where nothing is risked, then people will inherently take more high-risk decisions to get a score as close to 21 as possible.
However, when you switch from playing for no cash, to playing at a casino, be that in the real world or online, then suddenly there is a big change in emphasis in the game, and it is not solely down to you having money bet on the outcome.
It is this change in emphasis in the game, which often leads to people making poor decisions as a beginner, or even as a relatively experienced blackjack player, but maybe one that has not played for cash very often before.
What Is This Change In Emphasis?
So what has changed between playing blackjack for fun and playing blackjack for money against a dealer? The general rules of the game don’t seem to have changed very much.
But here’s the thing, they have changed enough to make your former approach playing blackjack for no cash, a poor way to approach playing the game for cash.
If we go back to the aim of the game being: ‘to score as close to 21 as you can without going over and going bust’. Then what changes when you play for cash? After all, the closer you get to 21, the more chance you have of winning against the dealer, right?
Well, no. That’s not right actually and here is why.
In a game against other players, with no cash up for grabs, then landing closest to 21 is the way to decide the winner. In a casino, you are not playing against any of the other players at the table. You are only taking on the casino in the shape of the dealer.
That fundamentally changes how you should approach the game. Now your focus should be on beating just one player; the dealer.
Furthermore, you are not in the dark about what the dealer will do with the cards that they are dealt. You can see the house rules on the table usually, which will explain the decisions that a dealer will make if they hit hard or soft 16 or 17, what numbers they will automatically stick on.
That means, you know that the dealer will play to the stated strategy. It may not sound like much, but it actually is a very big deal and understanding this, and how to play the cards you are dealt, makes playing casino Blackjack very different to a friendly non-cash game.
That’s all because the aim in casino blackjack is not to score closest to 21 as possible. Instead, it is to beat the dealer’s hand with any possible score. Even if that means making a decision which runs counter to how you ordinarily understand the game to be played.
Let’s explain this with a clear example.
Scenario – You are playing blackjack against another player. You are dealt a 3 of hearts face up, your opponent is dealt a five of clubs face up. When you check your face down card, it is a ten of spades. Your score is 13, and it is you to play. What do you do next?
Now in a friendly game of blackjack, with no cash on the line, you would ordinarily hit in this position as a score of 13 is some way away from 21 and your opponent with five showing, may already have you beat with 14,15 or 16 if you stick. So, a hit is the obvious call in this type of game.
But, in a game of casino blackjack there are two big differences here. Firstly, money is on the line and secondly, you know that if the dealer has a score of 14, 15 or even 16 in some games, then due to the rules of the game at the table, they will have to hit again.
That means that if you can get the dealer to play, then their chances of going bust, and you winning with ANY score, are considerably greater than you hitting in this position and improving the value of your hand without going bust and then beating the dealer that way.
As such, it is far more prudent for you to stick on 13 when playing casino blackjack, when the dealer holds an upcard of 5 (in fact, it is the same option you should take for a dealer upcard valued between 2 and 6).
This may seem strange initially, but it has been proven to be a far more effective strategy for players to win over the long term. Yes, there will be times that you stick, the dealer hits and eventually beats your hand, but the odds are more in your favor when you stick, than hit in this situation.
The good news is that you don’t have to learn all these different combinations of actions you should take at the blackjack table. There are many basic strategy charts available online that detail what you should do based on the cards you hold and the upcard the dealer holds.
So as you can see, playing blackjack for cash means you do need to change your strategy compared to playing blackjack for fun if you wish to keep the odds as much in your favor as possible. Learning these strategies is key to becoming a solid blackjack player in casinos.
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