A Guide to the Most Important Blackjack Strategies, with Expert Advice from Michael Shackleford

In the next section of our thorough blackjack tutorials, which are designed to help you become a better player, you’ll find an interview with Michael Shackleford, a blackjack guru and industry leader. The knowledge he gives in this section will give you a great idea of how to get started with the game and how to construct a basic blackjack strategy. 

Continue reading to see why it is critical to have a foundational plan that will statistically boost your odds of success in the game you are playing. 

What is the identity of this Michael Shackleford? 

If you prefer blackjack and want to learn about charts that teach you optimal plays, you’ve probably already come across Shackleford’s well-known website. If this describes you, you might have been there before. But how did this blackjack fan get into the game in the first place? Before founding his own website in 1997, the computer programmer with a strong mathematical background began researching casino games as a hobby in the early 1990s. Since then, WizardofOdds.com has worked hard to establish itself as one of the most trustworthy resources for gambling advice on the internet. 

In recent years, Shackleford has also begun to create YouTube videos in which he teaches viewers how to play video games utilizing the most successful tactics. In this area, we have combined some of Shackleford’s most critical points and broad information, as well as some simple and easy-to-understand charts. You are invited to read the entire text or to jump ahead to the section that you are having the most difficulty understanding. It is quite doubtful that you will be able to remember everything, but bear in mind that you can refer to this guide at any time: you will never be stuck in the middle of a blackjack game again. 

Why Do You Need a Strategy When Playing Blackjack? 

You may be wondering why having a strategy for playing blackjack games is so crucial in the first place. After all, random occurrences account for a considerable percentage of it. It is always important to remember that there are limits to how much a player can influence a game of blackjack, yet there are some strategies to play that will statistically increase your odds of winning. Here are a some of the reasons Shackleford believes blackjack strategy is so important: 

Unlike several casino games, Blackjack allows the player to influence the game’s outcome. 

  • Having a plan saves money. 
  • Strategies show a healthy appreciation for mathematics. 
  • If you’re going to play, why not take it seriously and give it your all? 
  • Strategies are rather simple to learn. 
  • Players can improve their talents by building on core knowledge. 
  • Following a strategy can assist players lessen the house edge. 
  • While applying blackjack strategy can never guarantee you a win, it will statistically increase your chances of victory. 

How Do Players Begin Using Blackjack Basic Strategy? 

Shackleford believes that anyone can quickly learn the fundamentals of blackjack, which will assist players understand which cards to play in various situations. The first step is to begin studying basic strategy charts, which demonstrate what the general approach should be in every specific case. These charts show the dealer’s upcard and the players’ hand, and all you have to do is pick the corresponding square to figure out what to do. All of these charts can be accessed on Shackleford’s website, and some of the fundamental ones are included in this article. 

Basic blackjack charts, in the form of a basic strategy card, can be printed out and used for reference during a game. These tables are very simple to remember, and Shackleford recommends starting with the top half of hard hands. This manner, you’ll be able to play 80 percent of the hands before moving on to soft hands and splits. 

You should be aware that different types of blackjack have slightly different techniques. You will need to reference different strategy cards depending on the strain you are playing and the quantity of decks. You should also become acquainted with the basic strategy guidelines at various sites and games. For example, you must understand whether the dealer stands on a soft 17 and whether a double or split is permitted. The dealer may also peek for a blackjack in some games. 

Understand What to Do in Any Situation 

According to Peter Griffin’s research on the cost of errors, recreational blackjack players give the house an extra edge of 1.4 percent just by misplaying. Shackleford believes that players should strive for every 0.01 percent gain possible, which can be accomplished with even the most basic strategy. 

Shackleford gave forth the knowledge that everyone needs to know for different situations in blackjack in our extensive discussion with the Wizard of Odds. Let’s take a closer look at some of the many circumstances. Check out the charts for more reference: they will help you visualize the various plays. 

When Should You Strike? 

“A player should hit when he has a low total and the dealer is showing a high up card,” Shackleford says. So the player is saying, ‘I’m not satisfied with what I have now.’ ‘I’ll take my chances and draw another card.'” 

In real life, imagine being dealt a hand with a total value of 14 and discovering that the dealer’s upcard is a 10. If you stand, your odds of winning are small, as the dealer only needs to achieve a total of 15 to beat you. You have seven cards that can add value to your hand in this scenario, so it’s best to take your chances and see what comes out of the deck. Of course, you don’t have to do this instinctively. The blackjack hit chart will show you exactly when you should ask the dealer for another card. 

When Should You Take a Stand? 

When it comes to standing in blackjack, fundamental strategy charts can help you choose the best course of action. Shackleford cautions, however, that you should constantly keep in mind that the house has an advantage. 

“The player should be more inclined to stand if the dealer has a poor card showing,” adds the expert. Of course, the stronger the player’s hand, the more likely he is to stand. Remember that in blackjack, the dealer has a positional advantage, and if both of you bust, you (the player) lose. So, if the dealer has a low card, such as a 4, 5, or 6, you should be more careful and let the dealer act, hoping he will bust.” 

Although Shackleford advises players to be conservative when the dealer shows a low card, you should still make sure you have a strong enough hand to drive the dealer into a situation where he may go bust. This suggests that you should have a hand value of at least 17. 

What exactly is doubling down, and when should you do it? 

If you believe you have a good chance of winning at blackjack, you can double your bet. You can double down and increase your wager by up to 100% after receiving your first two cards. Following that, you must receive one more card. 

According to Shackleford, “doubling is ideal with a 10 or 11, and especially against a weaker dealer card.” There are times when you’d double with a 9 or a soft total versus a weak dealer card, but most of the time you’d double with a 10 or 11.” 

When Is It Appropriate to Split Pairs? 

Blackjack becomes slightly more challenging when you split pairs of cards. When the dealer holds a weak card and the alternative to splitting is not good, Shackleford argues that players should divide pairs. He uses the example of players having to split two eights against a 10. 

Players dislike doing this because an eight’s chances versus a 10 are slim, so why should they pay extra money to compete? It’s because the hand of 16 is likewise bad, and the player will lose more money by hitting or standing than by splitting. So, while dividing eights may not appear to be the most appealing option, it performs statistically better than keeping them together. 

After separating a pair, re-splitting is usually permitted. In this instance, assuming splitting was correct the first time, the player should continue splitting as long as he is permitted to. However, Shackleford points out that there are some cases where splitting is only marginally better than not separating. Nonetheless, he suggests developing a plan and sticking to it rather than changing it up from game to game. 

When Should You Give Up? 

Surrendering is an option in certain blackjack games but not all. That is why it is usually a good idea to read the rules of the game before starting. Surrendering entails folding your beginning hand and receiving half of your original stake back. The remaining half will be given to the dealer. Although this might not appear to be a good decision, there are some cases where the alternative is far worse. 

“If the player has a total of 16 against a 10, he should surely surrender,” Shackleford adds. Other situations differ depending on whether the dealer is permitted to stand on a soft 17. However, there are some scenarios where you should surrender, such as 16 against a 9, 16 against an Ace, 17 against an Ace, and 15 against a 10.” You don’t stand a chance in these circumstances, but if you can recover half of your bet, you’ve transformed a poor situation into a good one. 

What exactly is insurance money? 

When the dealer holds an ace on the table, you can take insurance. It’s similar to a side bet that the dealer has blackjack, in which case you’d win the side bet but lose your main stake. This is a gamble you should avoid at all costs, according to our expert. 

“Never (get insurance),” advises Shackleford (take insurance). Except if you’re a card counter, never. And that includes even money on a blackjack – say no because it’s the same as taking insurance, which is a bad gamble with a 7.7 percent house advantage.” 

What Else Should You Know? 

Playing blackjack using a strategy can provide you an advantage over a player who does not use a strategy. You should be aware, though, that it is still a game of chance, and there is no sure-fire strategy to win. As the dealer acts after the player has made their decisions, there is always a casino edge in the game. Furthermore, if both the player and the dealer fall bust, the player loses the bet.

According to Shackleford, optimal strategy players who do not count cards can lower the house edge to roughly 0.7 percent. However, this is obviously dependent on the casino’s rules. If blackjack pays 6 to 5, the house edge is roughly 2%. Typical Vegas regulations of 3 to 2 would result in a house edge of roughly 0.7 percent. 

Playing Blackjack in the Best Way 

You can boost your chances of success by learning about basic blackjack techniques and expanding your knowledge, but there is no strategy that ensures you will walk away from the table with a profit. If you want to increase your chances of winning, read expert advise and study basic strategy charts, and don’t forget to employ basic strategy tables when playing. 

Check out Shackleford’s website, Wizard of Odds, for additional information on everything blackjack and other casino games. Then you’ll be ready to play online blackjack right away. 

Did you know that? 

Did you realize that your strategy is unaffected by what the other players at the table do? Basic blackjack strategy is just comparing your hand to the dealer’s and selecting whether to hit or stand on that basis. It makes no difference if someone else has 21 or makes an error.