There’s a well-worn myth about blackjack which sounds so much like a statement of fact that even seasoned players would affirm it: the aim of the game is get as close to the magic “21” value for your hand as you can, without exceeding it. Like all myths, it’s based on a partial truth. But it’s also misleading: your primary objectives when you engage in a game of blackjackare twofold:
- To beat the dealer without exceeding 21, and
- To beat the dealer or have them bust.
To begin at the beginning, it’s essential to avail yourself of a good understanding of the fundamentals of blackjack (for an easy-to-understand overview of American Blackjack, check out this illuminating article; for European Blackjack, the rules are slightly different, as this article explains).
Now let’s get down to business: the importance of the “dealer’s “up card.” To clarify, when you’ve placed your chip or chips in the betting box (you do this before cards are dealt), you’ll get two cards from the dealer, while he or she will deal two cards to themselves.
One of these dealer’s cards will be placed on the table facing up (the “up card”) with the other facing down (the “hole card”). If you see the up card is an Ace, most likely you’ll be offered a “side” (or “insurance”) bet. This pays 2 to 1 if the dealer’s hole card has a value of ten. You’ll be permitted to make a side bet of half your original bet that dealer has made a blackjack.
Novices beware – never take the insurance bet option if you haven’t been counting the cards.You’re far better advised to pay close attention to the dealer’s up card.
If it’s an Ace, keep the following rule in mind: if the dealer’s hole card is 7 or better,the probability that they’ll bust drops precipitously. And that means you’ve got to get your hand’s value up to at least 17 if you’re going to stand a realistic chance of winning. If you’re already at 17 (or even better 21), your best option is to “Stand” (i.e., to decline additional cards); if it’s below 17, especially if it’s comfortably below, the “Hit me” option (an additional card)is probably wiser.
What happens if the dealer’s up card is lower than 7? Simple: any up card between 3 and 6 isn’t worth busting over. It’s the best value range of the lot for the player. The dealer will likely want an additional card and is in higher risk territory (i.e., of busting if the next card has a high value).
But what if the up card is 2? Easy: take more cards until you hit a total of 14, then stand – and keep your fingers crossed that the dealer will bust.
The worst dealer ‘up cards’ from the player’s point of view are the Ace, the “face” cards and those of 9 and 10 in value. After any of these, the dealer is likely to end up with a better result than you.
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