Everyone likes a night of casino gaming from time to time – if fact, some people like it so much, the excitement can get a little too much for them. Of all the games that are on offer, blackjack has the distinction of being the most popular, whether you play at a real-world casino or online.

There are various reasons behind its enduring popularity, but a key one is the fact that learning a little bit of strategy can have a genuine impact on your success. That makes it very different to many of the other most popular casino games, such as roulette, where winning or losing really all comes down to chance.

Of course, with any game that involves the turn of a card, there is luck involved in blackjack as well as skill. However, it has been calculated that following some basic strategy rules will reduce the house edge by more than one percent. They relate to three fundamental decisions that you have to make with every hand.

Hit or stand?

This is the basic decision that underlies the game. Remember, this is also the one area in which you have the dealer at an advantage, as she has no choice – she must hit on anything up to 16 or stand on anything higher. Your decision is based on two factors, your cards and the dealer’s upcard. We won’t go into the mathematics here, but there is a simple methodology that drops out when we do so:

If the dealer has seven or better (including ace), hit if you hand adds up to 16 or lower. If the dealer has 4,5 or 6, hit on 12 or lower and if the dealer has 2 or 3, hit on 13 or lower.

Splitting a pair

Again, to split or not to split depends on the dealer’s upcard as well as the specific pair you are holding. The rules are easy to memorize, and you simply have to think of pairs in three categories. Some you always split, some you never split and some you sometimes split as follows:

Always – Aces and 8s

Never – 4s, 5s and 10s

Sometimes – Everything else, which means 2s, 3s, 6s, 7s, 9s. For these, you should only split if the dealer’s upcard is 7 or lower.

Doubling down

This is perhaps the most straightforward one of all. What makes it easy is that you should only even consider going for the double down when you are dealt 11, 10 or 9. If so, there is a different rule for each. When dealt 11, you should always double down. If you’re dealt 10, double down if the dealer is showing 4, 5 or 6, and on 9, do so if the dealer has a 4 or a 5.

Improving on the basics

The other great thing about blackjack is that the above tips are only the basics. Once you have them committed to memory, you can refine them in a dozen ways to improve your win rate still further. Good luck!