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Intermediate Blackjack Strategy

If you got here from our blackjack for beginners page, then read on for a slightly more advanced look at blackjack strategy. Although there is an expert blackjack strategy guide, at the minute you are on the intermediate blackjack strategy page.

The Basics of Strategy

The most important thing to realize about your blackjack strategy is that the dealer has one inherent advantage and you have another. The dealer’s advantage is that if you both hold blackjack, he is the winner. While insurance supposedly cancels out this advantage, insurance is a sucker’s bet. If you go to a blackjack table knowing nothing else, know that insurance is a bad bet. Unless you are a card counter and you know that the odds are significantly in the dealer’s favor, do not take insurance.

On the other hand, the dealer must stand and hit on certain cards no matter what, and the dealer cannot split or double. As a result, you need to know when to double and split. There are a lot of rules, and often there is simply too much to remember. Some rules will get you much closer to optimal play than others, so we’ll focus on those rules, and leave those that refine play more carefully to the experts.

When to Split

Always split aces and always split eights. Never split fours, fives, or tens. It’s more complicated when you get to twos, threes, sixes, sevens, and nines. Twos and threes should be split when the dealer is showing four-seven. Sixes should be split when the dealer is showing three-six. Sevens should be split when the dealer is showing two-seven. The most complex is nine. Nines should be split if the dealer is showing two-six or eight-nine. If the dealer is showing a seven, do not split nines. If that’s too complicated for you, then just remember to always split aces and eights and never split fours, fives, or tens. For the rest, play it by feel. Chances are, you’ll get it right enough of the time that it isn’t worth trying to memorize all the complicated rules. Read our article on when to split hands in blackjack for more detail on this area.

When to Double

Basically, you should always double for a hard nine, ten, or eleven unless the dealer is showing an ace. The rules for doubling on soft numbers – that is numbers where you have an ace are more complicated, so we’ll leave them to the more complicated levels of blackjack strategy. For 5-5, you should double. Remember that you were told not to split fives, ever. This area is discussed in more detail in this excellent strategy article. Read more on when to double in blackjack.

When to Hit

Always hit for seven or less, soft or hard. For a hard eight, hit, but for a soft eight, you should stand. You’ll want to hit for 12-16 if the dealer holds 6 or more. Otherwise, you should stand.

Insurance

Remember that you were told above never to buy insurance. Insurance is a sucker’s bet. Never buy insurance. It’s the easiest thing to remember. The only time I’d recommend buying insurance is if you’re at a full table and everyone’s cards are showing and you haven’t seen a face card in several hands and no one’s showing a face card and the dealer has an ace. Then, the chance of the dealer holding blackjack are probably high enough to justify the insurance bet. Otherwise, don’t do it. Good luck!