Single Deck Blackjack Basics
As with virtually every version of Blackjack, the aim of the game to build a hand of cards with a value as close to 21 as possible but without going over 21, which is called going bust. As long as your hand is closer to 21 than the dealer’s is, then you will win.
It is easy to calculate your hand value. Aces can count as 1 or 11 (if a hand contains an Ace it is considered ‘Soft’, without an Ace it is considered ‘Hard’), the face cards (Jack, Queen and King) are all worth 10, and the number cards 2 to 10 are worth their face values. This means that 21 can be formed with just two cards, an Ace and a 10 card. That hand is called Blackjack and it is the best possible hand.
To start a round you place your bet and you will then receive two face-up cards. Occasionally you will find games that allow you to play multiple hands simultaneously, and this just means that you need to place a bet on each hand position. At the same time as your cards are dealt, the dealer will receive a face-up card and one facedown.
In some versions of the game, if the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace then you can take out insurance against the dealer having Blackjack. This costs half of your initial bet and if the dealer does have Blackjack then you are paid at 2:1 for the insurance bet.
Next, it is time to play your hand and you have three main options. You can Hit, which draws another card to the hand, you can Double Down, which means that your bet is doubled and you will receive just one more card to that hand, or you can simply Stand, which means that your hand remains as it is.
If your first two cards have the same value then you may be given the option to Split them into two separate hands. Depending on the version of the game that you are playing, you may or may not be able to double down after a split and most often, if you split aces you will receive just one more card to each of them.
There are a few other rule variants you need to be aware of. For instance, some games will allow you to surrender your hand after the first two cards have been dealt. This gives you the option of receiving half of your bet back if you think you have a weak hand.
After you have played, it is the turn of the dealer. The rules governing how a dealer plays can also vary slightly. In some games, they will have to hit on soft 17 and in others, they will have to stand. However, essentially the dealer draws more cards to the hand until it is worth at least 17.
If your hand is stronger than the dealer’s is then you win.
Basic Single Deck Blackjack Strategy
A great advantage of Single Deck Blackjack is that it is far easier to keep track of what cards are left in the deck and may be dealt. By using statistics, it is possible to develop an optimal play strategy. This strategy is displayed in charts that show you what you should do in every scenario, based upon what you two cards you were initially dealt and the dealer’s face-up cards.
However, rather than trying to memorise the entire strategy chart, there are a few simple rules that you can remember. These rules assume that the dealer will hit on soft 17, that you cannot double after a split, and that you cannot surrender hands.
If you are dealt a hard hand, then you should do the following:
- 5-7: Hit
- 8: Double if the dealer has 5 or 6, otherwise hit
- 9: Double if the dealer has 2-6, otherwise hit
- 10: Double if the dealer has 2-9, otherwise hit
- 11: Double
- 12: Stand if the dealer has 4-6, otherwise hit
- 13: Stand if the dealer has 2-6, otherwise hit
- 14: Stand if the dealer has 2-6, otherwise hit
- 15: Stand if the dealer has 2-6, hit on 7-ace
- 16: Stand if the dealer has 2-6, hit on 7-ace
- 17-21: Stand
If you are dealt a soft hand, then you should do the following:
- A-2: Double if the dealer has 4-6, otherwise hit
- A-3: Double if the dealer has 4-6, otherwise hit
- A-4: Double if the dealer has 4-6, otherwise hit
- A-5: Double if the dealer has 4-6, otherwise hit
- A-6: Double if the dealer has 2-6, otherwise hit
- A-7: Double if the dealer has 3-6, stand on 2,7, & 8, hit on 9, 10 & ace
- A-8: Double if the dealer has 6, otherwise stand
- A-9: Always stand
- A-10: Always stand
If you are dealt pairs, then you should do the following:
- 2-2: Split if the dealer has 3-7, otherwise hit
- 3-3: Split if the dealer has 4-7, otherwise hit
- 4-4: Split if the dealer has 4-6, otherwise hit
- 5-5: Double if the dealer has 2-9, hit on 10 & ace
- 6-6: Split if the dealer has 2-7, otherwise hit
- 7-7: Split if the dealer has 2-7, stand on 10, hit on 8, 9 & ace
- 8-8: Always split
- 9-9: Split if the dealer has 2-6 and 8-9, otherwise stand
- 10-10: Always stand
- Ace-Ace: Always split
These moves work for the specific rules explained above. However, they will need to be adjusted to fit the house rules of the game that you are playing. You need to pay attention to the rules governing the dealer play (do they stand on a soft 17) and you need to be aware of the rules governing double down, splitting and surrender.
The above rules are very easy to follow, but here are a few examples.
You are dealt a 7 and a 5 and the has a 7. You have a hard 12, so according to the first set of rules you would hit, if the dealer had anything lower than a 7 then you would stand.
You are dealt an Ace and a 4 and the dealer has a 5. You have a soft 5/15 so according to the second set of rules, you should double.
You are dealt two 4s and the dealer has a 4. The third set of rules dictates that you should split them into two hands. You will then receive another card to each hand and can start the process again.
You can keep these three simple sets of rules to hand as you play and very soon you are sure to have them memorized.
Single Deck Blackjack Betting System
Just as important as strategy is bankroll management. If you can manage your bankroll properly, it will allow you to play for longer and you will always be in control of your budget. One way of doing this is to use a betting system. There are a number of different betting systems and most of them are very simple. Generally, betting systems will fall into one of two categories, positive progressions, in which you increase your bet after a win, and negative progressions, in which you increase your bet after a loss.
However, these two categories can actually be combined and one of the most popular systems, the Oscar Betting System, does just that. The aim of the system is to win a single unit of profit from your series of bet. A unit is your basic bet per hand; it doesn’t matter how big or small it is, as soon as you have made exactly one unit profit, then the system starts again.
For example, if you take your unit bet to be €1 and then lose your first hand, you would then place the same bet on the next hand. If you then win, you will have recovered your losses but you will not have made a unit profit, which is the entire point of the system. This means that in the next round you increase your bet by a unit, so now you are betting €2. If you then win then you will have achieved the goal of one unit profit and you then start the system again.
The key to success is to not place bets that will result in more than one unit of profit. For instance, if you have lost 6 units but then win a bet of 4, then you still need to win 3 more units 2 to recover your losses and 1 more for the profit. In this situation, you do not need to increase your bet once again to 5 units, as this would result in too large a profit. Instead, you can actually decrease your bet to 3 units, as this has the potential to win the exact amount you need.
This may sound a little complicated but you will get used to it very quickly. Hopefully it will then allow you to enjoy many hours of fun playing Single Deck Blackjack.