Blackjack is a game that, if you want to play the best you possibly can, demands a lot of skill and knowledge. The simple concept of trying to get as close to 21 as possible is easy enough to grasp, and most can jump right in and start playing. But really playing the game to maximise winnings enters a whole new level.
Being that blackjack is played with cards, and there are a finite amount of cards in a deck, it is possible to work out exactly which decision should be made at which moment to maximise the chances of winning. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that the chances of winning can only be maximised, and nothing more. That is to say, there is no way to guarantee that you will win every hand.
Why? Very simply because blackjack is an imperfect information game. The dealer always has a face down card, and this card could be any of those in the deck. Hence, the best possible strategy must be taken without perfect information on the various factors in the game. But let’s look at a specific hand in blackjack for a better idea of how blackjack can be played to maximise winnings. The soft 18.
Soft 18 Versus Hard 18
A soft 18 is a total of 18 created with an ace, the ace being counted as 1 and not 11. This means that the 1 can still transform into an 11 if it is required to do so, such as when a card is added and the total exceeds 21. A hard 18 is, therefore, an 18 created with the ace being counted as 11, and not 1. So what are the options when a soft 18 is dealt at the start of a round of blackjack? You can;
- Double Down
Many would probably assume that 18 is a great hand, and stand. But this is not a wise assumption to make. The fact is that the ultimate best course of action really comes down to a number of factors. Let’s have a look at them;
- Which face up card is shown in the dealer’s hand?
- How many decks of cards are being used?
- Is the dealer obliged to stand or hit on a soft 17?
Yes, it can start getting a little complicated. Let’s assume that the game being played is an online blackjack multi-deck game, and that the dealer must stand on a hand of soft 17. Keep in mind that if these factors changed, so too would the best course of action to be taken.
Dealer Has a 3,4,5 or 6 Showing
If the dealer has a 3, 4, 5, or 6 showing, the best course of action is to double down. For those unfamiliar with blackjack slang, that means double your original bet.
Dealer Has 2, 7 or 8 Showing
If the dealer has a 2, 7 or 8 showing the best course of action is to stand at a soft 18.
Dealer Has 9,10 or Ace Showing
If the dealer has a 9, 10 or ace showing the best course of action is to hit and go beyond soft 18.
At this point in time you might be asking yourself why, exactly, these are the best courses of action? The simple answer is; you will win more and lose less if you take these actions. If you were hoping for a more detailed explanation than this, the truth is that there is not enough room in this blog to explain the various statistics involved. Someone, however, has taken the time to work out every card the dealer could receive, and the statistical chances of how a soft 18 will stand up to those cards. So, take the actions mentioned above for the best chance at winning.
If you are the kind of person who was completely unsatisfied with the paragraph above, and is even now wondering how these statistics are worked out; don’t fret. There are strategy guides for blackjack out there, full of every detail you might desire, and best of all they are completely free. It is, in fact, highly recommended that if you are serious about being a blackjack pro, you get a strategy guide ASAP. You don’t even have to memorise it and understand every course of action, but it sure helps to have one nearby to help guide your decisions.
If you are determined to understand every action and reach some sort of blackjack guru master level, you have a long road ahead of you. Blackjack is a complicated, deep game at its core, and the amount of statistics you will be absorbing might just make your head explode. When you do reach guru level, however, the world of blackjack certainly will be your oyster. Drop us a line and let us know how it goes.