Blackjack’s roots are in an early form of European gambling that goes back centuries, and has since evolved into one of casinos' most popular table games. It's popularity is due to its simple rules and strategy, which anyone can learn with ease.
However, advanced blackjack strategy requires years of practice to perfect. This blog post discusses advanced blackjack strategies that are sure to intrigue and excite even the most seasoned player.
Basic Strategy Vs. Advanced Strategy
Basic strategy is a set of rules designed to make the game fairer for both players, no matter what cards they draw. An example is using a basic blackjack strategy chart.
Advanced blackjack strategy involves keeping track of the dealer's up card and the number of decks still in play. This helps to predict whether you'll get an edge over the house.
If you're planning on playing casino games that use six decks, then a basic blackjack strategy might be enough for you. Otherwise, consider using an advanced counting system like Hi-Lo to give you an edge.
Let's take a look at some of these strategies.
Use a Strategy Chart
Strategy charts are the best way to learn basic blackjack strategy as they list every possible combination of dealer and player hands. Because casinos only shuffle after every game, the game is predictable when you've played enough.
It would be best to use a basic strategy chart until you feel that you've memorised all possible combinations in a game. Once this happens, players can switch to testing their skills at recalling playing habits or using a table instead of a chart.
Discover Advantage Play
Advantage play is the process of playing a strategy that maximises a player's chance of winning. The goal of advantage play is to determine your chances of getting dealt a good hand and then figuring out how to increase those chances.
Advantage play is best when playing against inexperienced dealers or in low-stakes blackjack games. It only works when it is easier for players to recognise patterns in the game.
Insurance Is Acceptable - But Only At The Right Time
Insurance works well against dealers who tend to have a high percentage of drawing an ace, but this is rare. Do not take insurance when there are only one or two cards between the dealer's card and 10 (e.g., if there is a five showing, then don't take insurance because it doesn't make much difference).
If you're playing online blackjack, take insurance only when two 10s are showing, and you feel that your opponent is good at picking up on patterns.
Composition-sensitive hands are best exploited by playing lots of hands that are hard for the dealer to play well. To exploit cards, increase bets when high-value cards are more likely to appear than their face values suggest they should be (i.e., due to enough low-value cards in the deck).
Decrease bets when low-value cards are more likely to appear than their face values suggest they should be (i.e., due to plenty of high-value cards in the deck).
Practice Card-counting Techniques
All other strategies are useless without being able to count cards, so don't neglect this one. These card-counting strategies include:
The Hi-Lo System
This strategy is best used when you're playing in a single-deck game because the chances of you getting a house edge over the dealer (i.e., when their up card is low) increases with fewer cards still to be dealt.
The Hi-Lo system considers the value of every card played and those still to come, so it can be challenging to learn. But once you've mastered it, then you'll have a much better shot at making some real money with ease.
Wonging is named after Stanford Wong and it is also known as back counting. Wonging is a style of play that requires you to take part only in games at positive counts. It's an effective way to cushion the disadvantage when playing against someone who has more decks, and it allows for some interesting strategies.
To succeed at blackjack, one must know the cards and count them. A card counter does just this by positioning him or herself behind or beside a dealer's table to be able to watch all activities during play.
Once they have a favourable count, Wongers will play as long and far into the game until it becomes unfavourable. Once their advantage goes back to the house, players typically stop playing, then look for another spot with more advantageous odds.
The Zen Card System
The Zen system is a variation of the Hi-Lo strategy. It works by counting cards based on their ranks and suits instead of using the numbering system. As you might imagine, this makes it optimal for card counters who are adept at remembering long sequences of numbers.
The Zen system works on the idea of "combinations." For this system, you're going to want to memorise these numbers. If you can commit them all to memory and quickly recall them, you'll have a powerful tool on your hands to help you win.
Basically, it is a two-level system, with cards worth:
- Plus or minus 1 point
- Plus or minus 2 points
In this system, the
- 8s & 9s: 0 (Do nothing)
- 2s, 3s & 7s: Add 1
- 4s, 5s & 6s: Add 2
- Aces: Subtract 1
- 10s & face cards (K, Q, J): Subtract 2
When you are ready to start counting cards with the Zen Count system, start by setting your value at 0 and then add up each card as it's seen from the above chart.
The Omega II card-counting system is a distinct variation of Hi-Lo. It's far less popular than the Hi-Lo system, so few casinos are ready to deal with casino players who try to use it. You can use some basic strategies to avoid detection by an alert pit manager while practicing this unique card-counting system.
Omega II is a high-low split system that functions as a player's tool to maximise his or her potential for winning. It counts the value of cards by their distance from the dealer's upcard.
When to Split and Double Down
Pair splitting: Split 10s if there's an ace or a 3, split 9s if there's another 9 or 8, split 7s if there's an 8 or 7, and split 6s with any other 6. Don't bother splitting 2s, though, because you're just wasting your time and money.
Likewise, a pair of aces gives you an unfriendly hand value of either 2 or 12, so it's a much better idea to split them and hope that 7s, 8s, 9s, and 10s show up.
If the dealer has a five up and you have two 5s, it's probably best to let them ride because there will be enough high cards on the table to make your odds of winning very good. But if there aren't any 10s, 9s, or 8s showing, go ahead and split those 5s.
Double down: Always double down on 10 or 11 when the dealer's upcard is a 9, 10, or ace.
Double down on soft hands (ace and 4, 5, 6), but not hard ones (2 through 8). The best time to use a double-down strategy is when you have 13-16, the dealer's upcard isn't a 10, and your first card isn't low.
Note: If you're not confident enough in your card counting to play these hands correctly, then always double down on 13-16 against dealers’ upcards of 4-6. Otherwise, stand.
Use Low-card Layouts to Your Advantage
While card counting, you'll want to pay special attention when the dealer shifts to low cards. This means that when the dealer's upcard is a 7 or higher, look for opportunities to lie low and maintain an awareness of how many high cards remain in the shoe so you can stay aware of where it's headed next.
Combine Positive and Negative Progression Betting Systems
This is a technique that's made to maximise your profit during an entire shoe. It starts as a positive progression but then switches to a negative one after determining that it's become unfavourable (e.g., too many high cards or too many low ones).
Once the deck has turned in favour of the dealer, you'll switch to a negative progression. This ensures that your bets don't become too large relative to the size of your bankroll.
Pay Attention to the Odds
Even though the house has an advantage, you can still increase your chances of winning by understanding how much it would take to break even. The "Odds" section at the bottom-right corner of every blackjack table is there for a reason - use it.
Don't be afraid to walk away from the table when you know your cards aren't worth betting on. It's better for your bankroll since it'll prevent you from losing all your money in one unlucky hand.
Know When To Surrender
Knowing when to surrender is useful if you're card counting but not making enough of an impact to make it worth your while. You'll save yourself some bucks by giving up the fight early, and your opponent might not even notice that you were there in the first place.
Advanced blackjack strategy is a tricky science. It takes skill, luck and mathematical prowess to master it. Robust knowledge, persistence, and - most importantly - time spent practicing, are all you need to succeed in this game.
With patience and persistence, you can become an ace of the blackjack table.