People are always looking for ways to increase their odds in the casino. That’s why there are so many playing strategies out there and for each one, there is someone who knows someone it worked for. This goes for betting strategies and playing strategies. If these strategies are necessary for any game (and they’re usually not), they are definitely not good for blackjack.
The thing is, blackjack already has an accepted strategy that has been shown time and again to be the best way to reduce the house edge. It is the strategy usually referred to as “basic blackjack strategy.” Using this strategy and sticking to it over the long run will reduce the house edge to 0.5%. No other casino game has odds that good. To make matters better, players who can count cards effectively in addition to using basic strategy can actually tip the odds in their favor. For now, though, let’s look at the most popular alternative blackjack strategies and why you should avoid them.
The most common alternative strategy is the “never bust” strategy. This is the ultimate conservative strategy, where the plan is to make sure you never bust, thereby (in theory) increasing your chances of winning. While being conservative is a good idea in many things, it is not when it comes to blackjack. With this strategy, you won’t bust, but you will often have a lower hand total than the dealer.
In the “never bust” strategy, players never hit on a hand of 12 or more. The thinking is that you want to stop on a number where a 10-value card can cause you to bust. The problem is that if you stand on a 12, you’re only going to win if the dealer happens to bust. This conservative strategy of always standing on a 12 or more increases the house edge to approximately 4%.
There is another bad strategy where the player always assumes that the dealer has a 10 in the hole. It seems to make sense, since there are more 10-value cards than cards of any other value. The problem is that, though there are more cards with a value of 10 than with any other value, there are still 9 cards out of 13 that have a value other than 10. That means there is a 69% chance the hole card has a value other than 10. Add to that the fact that if the dealer has an ace up, in most casinos he will peek at his hole card to see if he has a blackjack. If he doesn’t, that means his hole card can’t have a value of 10. This strategy of assuming a 10 in the hole increases the house edge to approximately 10%, way higher than when following basic blackjack strategy.
The other common alternative blackjack strategy is to mimic the dealer. It makes sense, because the dealer usually wins, so it seems like a good idea to do what they do. However, the dealer wins because the rules are set in their favor (i.e. if both of you bust, you lose). Mimicking the dealer means the player would always hit on a 16 or less and stand on a 17 or more. Whether or not they hit a soft 17 depends on the casino rules. In any case, this strategy deprives the player of options that the dealer doesn’t have, such as doubling and splitting. Eliminating those options hurts the player. Playing this strategy increases the house edge to approximately 5.5%.
As you can see by the house edges, basic blackjack strategy (0.5%) has much better odds. Instead of looking for a way to beat the system or an alternative strategy that will beat basic strategy, it is a good idea to memorize basic strategy and use it every time, regardless of any streak you’re on.