Whether you are playing blackjack at an online casino or the brick and mortar variety, you need to know basic strategy to have success. If you stick with blackjack basic strategy, you can lower the house edge to 0.5%. This is the fourth part in a series covering basic strategy based on the up card that the dealer shows.
If the dealer has a 5 as the up card, he has a good chance of having a stiff hand (12-16). In fact, drawing any card that has a value of 7 or better would give him a stiff hand, which is likely to bust. That knowledge influences your decisions when you follow basic strategy.
If you have a hand of 8 or lower, you will always hit no matter what card the dealer has because there is no risk of busting but your hand isn’t particularly good, either. If you have a hand of 9, 10 or 11 versus a dealer 5 up card, you should double down. That is because there are more cards with a value of 10 than any other value. With those hands, you have a good chance of drawing a 19, 20 or 21 with your next card. Combine that with the high probability of the dealer busting and you have good reason to double your bet.
If you have a hard 12-16, you should stand when the dealer shows a 5. That is because you have a stiff hand that is likely to bust and there’s a good chance that the dealer has a stiff hand as well. If you both bust, you lose, so the best play is to stand and hope the dealer busts. You should always stand with a hard 17 or better no matter what card the dealer has because you have a good hand that is more likely to bust than to be improved.
Soft hands are a little different. If you have a soft 13-18, you should double down versus a dealer 5 up card. In this situation you’re not doubling because your hand is good, you’re doubling because the dealer’s hand is bad and you’re protected against busting. If the dealer has a 15, there are only 5 cards (2, 3, 4, 5, 6) will improve his hand, while seven cards (7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K) will cause him to bust. If your hands of 13-18 were hard hands, you wouldn’t double because of the high chance that you can bust yourself. However, because you can’t bust with a soft hand, that risk is taken away. Basically, here you are doubling because of the likelihood of the dealer busting.
If you have a soft 19 or better, though, you should stand because even though you can’t bust, there are more cards that would weaken your hand than improve it. Also, if the dealer doesn’t bust, you still have a good chance of outdrawing him with a 19 or better.
If you have a pair of twos or threes, you should split against a dealer 5 up card. Again, this is not because starting a hand with 2 or 3 is good; it is because the dealer has a good chance of busting so you are taking the opportunity to double your bet while still getting to draw more than one card if you need to (unlike when you double down). With a pair of fours, you should split if you have the option of doubling after splitting. If not, you should hit.
If you have a pair of fives, you should double down. You should never split a pair of fives, no matter what hand the dealer has. Assuming the likelihood of drawing a 10 when you take a hit, splitting fives means you have a good chance of having two hands of 15, which are stiff hands. Doubling your hand of 10, though, gives you a good chance of having a hand of 20, which can only be beaten by a 21.
If you have a pair of sixes through nines, you should split against a dealer 5 up card. For 6, 7 and 8, by splitting you are breaking up a stiff hand. While having a hand of 18 is good, two hands of 19 is better, and you have a chance for that if you split the pair of nines.
You should never split a pair of tens no matter what, since you already have a hand of 20, and you should always split a pair of aces, no matter what. An ace is the most powerful card in blackjack because it gives you a shot at a natural blackjack (ace, 10) and a stiff hand.
Remember that this strategy applies whether you are playing online blackjack or blackjack at a land-based casino.