A comprehensive guide to single-deck blackjack strategy, tips, charts, and optimum plays. Learn how to win at single-deck blackjack with this article!
Blackjack is one of the most popular and widely played casino games and this is largely because of the low house edge that the game promises. Now, blackjack can be played with a single deck of cards as well, apart from the classic multi-deck games.
With the ultimate objective being the same, a blackjack strategy focused on playing with one deck is slightly different and provides more opportunities for the players to win, but also many misplayed hands. Let s explore in detail.
In a single-deck blackjack, the main objective of the player is to get a 21 or as close to it as possible without busting. Most of the rules for single-deck blackjack are the same as they are for multi-deck games and can be summarized as follows:
In both single-deck and multi-deck blackjack, the objective is to get a hand total of 21 without busting. The approach, gameplay, and strategies, however, vary in a single-deck blackjack game.
There are some single-deck blackjack tips that can help players win at the table. To begin with, a player must consider the fact that in a single deck blackjack, every single card has a substantial impact on the distribution of the remaining cards in the deck. This is an advantage for the players and it also highlights the necessity of paying close attention to the cards being dealt and played.
The double down rules are different for a single-deck game and should be considered seriously. So, if you double down after a split, you can choose to be a bit more aggressive by splitting a pair of 3 s if the dealer shows 2 or 3, instead of just 4 through 6.
Similarly, you should surrender very strategically and only when it is the best option. For instance, if you are dealt a pair of 7 s and the dealer has a 10, the odds are absolutely against you so, you can certainly surrender at this point.
The dealer standing on soft 17 is a good opportunity for the player again to increase the odds and beat the dealer with certain plays. A very important 1-deck blackjack strategy is that you should never take insurance or even money because the house edge on insurance in a single-deck blackjack is 5.9%.
Card counting is the legal technique used by blackjack players to identify the instances when the odds can shift in the favor of the player. Single-deck blackjack games are often considered to be favorable for card counting because keeping track of the cards becomes easy when the effect of removing individual cards from the deck is so significant.
That being said, one-deck blackjack games are rarely played in casinos these days. Even if you play a single-deck blackjack online, the cards are auto reshuffled and in that case, card counting ceases to be of much importance.
The strategy for blackjack with a single deck leads to certain optimal plays that can guide the players in taking the right action at the right time. Here are the optimal plays for hitting, doubling, standing, and pairs summed up in lists.
Hitting is the most common optimal play in a single-deck blackjack game much like it is in a game with 6 or 8 decks of cards. Players need to Hit on most pairs except for the pair of 8, 9, 10, and aces and in situations when they must depend on the dealer s hand. A Hit is also a must for the soft hands except for A-8, A-9, and A-10. For the hard hands too, the player needs to Hit for most cards (depending on what the dealer shows) except for 17-21.
Doubling is a preferred optimal play in a 1-deck blackjack and it is done in many situations and hands but usually, after determining the dealer s hand. For instance, when the player gets a 5-5 pair and the dealer shows 2-9, doubling is the right play. Similarly, for most of the soft hands of the player coupled with the dealer showing a 4-6, 3-6, 2-6, and a 6, doubling is a must. The same rule goes for the hard hands except for a hand of 5-7, which calls for a Hit, and 17-21, which calls for a Stand.
As a single deck blackjack strategy, a player must optimally Stand on the hard hand of 17-21 and on the soft hands of A-9 and A-10. If the player gets an A-7 and the dealer shows 3-6, the player must stand on 2, 7 and 8. For the 10-10 pair also, a stand is the best action.
A player s action in a single-deck blackjack game when dealt the following pairs should be:
Blackjack pair splitting is a huge part of a profitable strategy and it is crucial to know when to jump on an opportunity, and when to let it go.
Use this single-deck blackjack strategy chart for hard hands, soft hands, and splits.
If you are uncomfortable reading blackjack charts, make sure you read our blog post on how to properly read and understand a blackjack chart.
Here are the answers to the most common questions about playing blackjack with only one deck of cards.
The main rules of single-deck blackjack include the use of just one deck of cards, the ability of the player to split a hand up to 3 times, the value of aces as 1, and the dealer hits on soft 17. The doubling down options are also varied in single-deck blackjack when compared to multi-deck blackjack games.
Each blackjack variant will generally adapt its rules based on the number of decks used to play. Side bets may also vary substantially depending on how many decks are used.
Single-deck blackjack is still played but in a very few casinos. For instance, presently, only two casinos in Las Vegas offer single-deck blackjack with a 3:2 payout. All the other single-deck blackjack games are played at a payout of 6:5 on a natural.
Single-deck blackjack is rare in casinos because of the very low house edge, which is around 0.15% for these games. Additionally, counting cards with a single deck is very easy for experienced blackjack players.
To win at a single-deck blackjack, a player must follow the basic blackjack strategy. Plus, he should never take insurance or even money because the house edge on the same in 5.9% as the most important strategy.
Card counting is a good strategy for single-deck blackjack because the removal of individual cards has a significant effect on the game. However, in online single-deck blackjack, the cards are auto reshuffled so, counting might not work in the favor of the player.
Yes, single-deck blackjack can be played with just one deck of cards.
Players can count a single-deck of cards in blackjack by first assigning a value to each card. Then,
Single-deck blackjack is often considered to be better than multi-deck games because of the low house edge of 0.15%. Also, certain moves such as doubling down, are more advantageous to the players in a single-deck blackjack.
Some of the online single-deck blackjack casinos include Blackjack Pro by Playtech, Microgaming Blackjack, Vegas Single Deck Blackjack and Rival Gaming Casinos among a few others.
The best single-deck blackjack strategy on a dealer soft 17 is to double if allowed, otherwise Hit, both when the dealer stands or hits on soft 17.
So, a single deck blackjack game can actually be advantageous for the players because of a low house edge and many other factors. However, it is imperative for the player to follow the strategy and also, stay aware of the house rules to make the most of the gameplay.
Common questions for novice players: What is single deck blackjack? Is it better to play single deck blackjack versus multi-deck variations? To use the basic strategy, look up your hand along the left vertical edge and the dealer's up card along the top. In both cases, an A stands for ace. From top to bottom are the hard totals, soft totals, and splittable hands. For specific tips, we present two charts depending on whether the dealer hits or stands on soft 17.
Blackjack Appendix 3A lists exceptions to the single deck, dealer stands on soft 17, basic strategy based on the exact composition of the player's hand.
Blackjack Appendix 3C lists exceptions to the single deck, dealer hits on soft 17, basic strategy based on the exact composition of the player's hand.
Boss Media Appendix 1 has a composition dependent basic strategy for single-deck, dealer stands on soft 17, blackjack.
Casinos that offer single-deck Blackjack games are very aware that it can easily be beaten by a counter who uses a big bet spread, so trying to play the game with a 1-12 spread like I recommend for 6-deck games will likely get you a one-way ticket out of the casino, pronto. Thats not to say youre going to get backed-off if you bet more than 5 chips on a hand, but I think its fair to say making $$$ at a good SD game requires a bigger bag of tricks than needed against a 6-deck game, so altering the play of your hand according to the count is a logical place to start.
If you know how to count cards, you can use the count to tell you how much to bet on each hand, but you can also use the count to help you play each hand more accurately, too. If youve studied my course up to this point, you know one of the key factors in playing a winning game of Blackjack is to leave the table when the True Count drops to -1 or lower, but that tactic isnt very practical at a single-deck game, because only a few rounds of hands are dealt before the shuffle.
Some players prefer to learn just the indices for the most common hands, with the idea that theyll get a hand like A, 4 against a 5 less than 100 times in every 100,000 hands of play, but theyll have a 16 against 10 much more often. In his book, Blackjack Attack, Don Schlesinger devoted a chapter to what he calls The Illustrious 18 that are, in his opinion, the most important Basic Strategy variations. Im not big on reproducing other authors original works, so Ill refer you to the book for a complete listing if you feel youd rather not memorize all of the variations Ive listed here. Another idea worth considering is to not learn the indices below -2, with the rationale that youll likely be betting the minimum in such a count, so any playing mistakes will, in the long run, cost you very little. Or, you might want to learn only the indices where youll be placing extra bets on the table, as in doubles and splits, with the idea that, if Im going to be putting more $$$ on the table, Im sure as hell going to play the hand correctly.
But Im of the opinion that if something about this game can be learned, it should be learned. (Okay, I know Im a fanatic for this stuff, but what can I do?) If single deck games will be where youll spend most of your time, then its probably worth the effort to memorize the 90-odd indices presented here. But if this isnt your primary game, a range of -2 to +6 with some judicious editing will probably suffice. Dont forget that some of these indices are similar to those for a multi-deck game, so you wont be starting from scratch. Learn those numbers you think are important for where and how you play.
Rather than talk you through each hands variation, as I did in the multi-deck section, what Ive done here is produce a Basic Strategy Matrix that shows an index number for each appropriate play. Dont worry if you have a problem understanding it, because Ill explain it all at the bottom.
Basic Strategy Variations Matrix
Single Deck, H17, Da2, no das, no surrender
See the matrix. (Use your back button to get back here.)
(GM Note: The Basic Strategy for this game is available from BlackjackInfo.com: 1D, H17, DA2, NDAS Basic Strategy)
The general rule for understanding the Basic Strategy Variations Matrix is this: If the number in a slot is 0 or a minus, then that play is a Basic Strategy move that you should make as long as the count is higher than the number shown. For example, with A, 6 vs. 2, you will double as long as the count is 0 or higher. If the count is minus, just hit. In the case of 9 vs. 4, youll double as long as the count is -2 or higher (remember that -1 is higher than -2). For a hand of 9,9 vs. Ace, youll stand as long as the count is 0 or less. If the count is higher than 0, you split the 9s.
Its a lot easier to use the matrix if youve memorized the Basic Strategy for this game but if you havent yet done that, you really should learn it before you get into this advanced mode of play. For each player hand and dealers up card combination you will see either a specific action, such as hit, stand, double, etc., or a number. The number is an action point based upon the True Count and it keys the variation. As to what the proper variation is for a situation may get a little confusing, but if you study the hand in question, you can usually figure it out. A good example of this is A, 7 versus a dealers 2. In the matrix, youll see the number 1 in that spot, so do you hit or stand or do something else? Well, something else is the answer, so you should double, just as you do with A,7 vs. 3, 4, 5, and 6. Logic plays a role here, so if a play sounds illogical, its probably the wrong one. Would you really hit A,7 against a 2? Of course, you might stand, but thats already the Basic Strategy play, so doubling is all thats left. Consequently, what this is telling you is that you should double A,7 against a dealers up card of 2 when the True Count is 1 or more. If the True Count is less than 1, use the Basic Strategy play, which is to stand. Against a 3, Basic Strategy says to double A,7. But the index for that is -1, so thats telling you to double A,7 vs. 3 only if the True Count is -1 or higher. If its not, then you should stand.
Lets talk about another variation that may cause some confusion: 8, 8 vs. 10. The notation in that box is [email protected], so if the True Count is 6 or more, you will not split the 8s, but stand instead. Another hand that draws a lot of questions is 7, 7 vs. 10. Yes, Basic Strategy is correct when it says to stand with 7, 7 vs. 10 in a single-deck game, mostly because the dealer either has a good hand, like a 20 or s/he is stiff and were hoping for a dealer bust. Because you already have 2 of the four 7s in the deck in your hand, the odds are greatly reduced that you can beat a dealers 20 by catching another 7, so the mathematics work out that youre better off standing and praying. But its a close call, so if the count is below 0, you should hit. This means that if the running count is -1 or lower, you should hit 7,7 versus a 10, not split. If the count is 0 or higher, stand.
Now, take a look at the Hard Totals section, where I have 2 different types of 16s: a 10,6 and a 9,7. In the 10, 6 row theres a 4 under the dealers 10 and a 0 in the 9,7 row. This is whats called a composition-dependent play and I included it for several good reasons. First of all, 16 vs.10 is a relatively common hand and you can see by the numbers that theres quit a difference between how the two 16s should be played. What the variations matrixs saying is that you should stand with 9,7 at 0 or higher, but stand with 10,6 only when the True Count is 4 or more. This is quite a departure from what we do with a 16 vs. 10 in a multi-deck game, where we stand only when the count is more than 0 (i.e., a running count of 1). Just a side note here: theres a lot of confusion about this play in my multi-deck section, but what I do is stand with 16 vs.10 when the running count is 1 or more, otherwise I hit it. What you do when the count is exactly 0 doesnt really matter because the expected value is the same for either play. The same is true for a hand of 9,7 vs. 10 in a single-deck game.
Anyway, why would we stand with 10,6 vs.10 only when the True Count is at 4 or more? It all has to do with the total number of 10s in a single deck, which is sixteen and you already have one of them in your hand and the dealer is showing one as his up card. Thats two less 10s that can bust you and two less 10s the dealer can have in the hole, so it sways the decision away from standing toward hitting more aggressively. Look, a hand of 16 is never going to be great, regardless of how you play it, so all were really doing is trying to minimize the damage. Hitting 10, 6 vs. 10 until the True Count is 4 or more helps with that process.
In the row for 6,6 youll see a notation under the dealers card of 7 like this: [email protected]0 and that means, split a pair of 6s versus 7, if the count is below 0.
I dont want you to leave without me telling you the most important variation of all, which is the Insurance bet. You hopefully know that proper Basic Strategy tells us to never take insurance (even when you have a natural and the dealers up card is an Ace, in spite of what everybody else tells you), but in a single-deck game, the insurance bet becomes profitable at a True Count of 1.4 or higher.
Once youve chosen the Basic Strategy variations you want to learn, you should make a set of flash cards for them. Exactly how to do that is explained in Lesson 14 of The GameMasters Blackjack School and I cannot over-emphasize their value. Make up a set and carry them with you, or at least study them intently before each playing session if single-deck Blackjack isnt your primary game.
One of the fundamental joys of blackjack aside from its simplicity to play is that it has one of the lowest house edges in the casino, meaning your chance of making a profit in a given session is better than other games. A player following a solid strategy can reduce the edge even further, many experts say to as low as 0.5%.
Best of all, single deck blackjack is the easiest, and potentially most profitable, variant of all. Let’s explore why.
When you play in a casino, or perhaps at one of our live dealer online casino tables, you will see a large number of cards in the shoe, the clear box the dealer takes the cards from when he is dealing. That’s because many games use eight decks of cards at a time.
While it’s true to say using eight decks means you have fewer times to wait while the dealer reshuffles and loads the shoe, it does make it harder to predict what might happen. That’s because blackjack single deck basic strategy is logically easier to follow.
Simple blackjack strategy dictates that it’s more likely the next card will be value ten since all tens, jacks, queens, and kings carry that value. If you are playing with one deck, and perhaps five other people are dealt into the same round, you have 13 of the deck’s cards exposed that’s two face-up initially to all of the players, and one for the dealer.
How many tens or picture cards already in play, and then added to play when players to your right complete their hands, will dramatically increase or decrease the odds of your next card or the dealer’s face-down card being a ten.
All this means you can be a little more aggressive when it comes to how to play single deck blackjack. We don’t mean aggressive as in threatening, that’s the one-way ticket to being ejected from any casino. We mean doubling down or splitting more often, thereby placing more chips in play.
Studying any "cheat sheet" on how to bet will improve your chances of winning. It’s not strictly a cheat sheet since it’s entirely legal to have one of these with you when you play.
If you wish to learn how to play blackjack, look closely at one of these sheets. It’s clear that when the dealer has a poor value face-up card like a three, four, five, or six, you can be more confident in your next move. You can widen your range for doubling down to as low as your starting hand being value 8 because it’s more likely the dealer will bust.
Equally, if you have a weak starting hand like 13 through 16, you can be more confident in standing. And, if you have two of the same cards, you can generally split with a broader number of them, thereby doubling your stake and potential winnings.
While card counting, keeping exact track of which cards are in play, is not illegal, it is frowned upon by casinos. However, merely keeping track of the tens and picture cards in play is just common sense.
Casinos know it is easier for players to do this in single deck blackjack games. They understand, therefore, that players might reduce the casino house edge accordingly. So, it’s no surprise some casinos will tweak the house rules for single-deck games, to give them a little bit more of their edge back.
This "tweak" might be something as apparently insignificant as allowing the dealer to play on with a soft 17 (an ace and a 6). Ordinarily, the dealer must stand on soft 17, but being allowed to play on gives options to improve the final score.
It’s only a small margin improvement for the house. But blackjack edges are a long-term proposition.
Finally, and this applies to all variations of blackjack, never take the insurance when offered, because house insurance, even in single deck blackjack, comes with a house edge of 5.9%.
To conclude, the best single deck blackjack strategy is to keep an eye on the number of tens and picture cards in play and to be more aggressive with your doubling down and splitting strategy. It will mean you can get a more significant return on a hand that you have a higher chance of winning, and that will increase your profit margin.
If you wish to try these single deck blackjack tips for yourself, you can do so at BetAmerica Casino, at the table games with just you and the electronic dealer, or with other players at our live dealer casino tables. Remember to take advantage of the new player welcome bonus.
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