I love to write blog posts that answer blackjack questions, and I especially love it when those questions don’t have the most obvious answers.
“When should you bet in blackjack” is one of those.
You bet in blackjack immediately before the dealer gives you your initial 2 cards, but there’s more to when you bet in blackjack than that. You have multiple bets you can place during the hand, too, including doubling down, insurance, side bets, and splitting. Specific conditions must be met before placing those other bets.
And that’s what this post covers – when should you bet in blackjack, regardless of which kind of bet it is.
When Do You Place a Blackjack Bet – The Basics
When you sit down at a blackjack table, you’ll exchange cash for chips before playing the game. You should remember to always put your money on the table. Don’t try to hand the money to the dealer.
The eye in the sky is watching the dealer – that’s a camera in the ceiling that keeps all the action under surveillance. Dealers can get in trouble for accepting cash handed to them by players.
Once you get your chips, you can get dealt into a hand just by placing your bet into the betting circle. Look for the placard at the table for the betting limits. All real money blackjack tables have a minimum and maximum bet size.
In fact, you should look at the placard before sitting down and buying chips. You don’t want to sit down and buy in for $300 at a table with a $100 minimum bet – not unless you want to try a hit and run on the blackjack table.
Once everyone at the table has placed their bets, the action begins – the dealer starts dealing cards.
But the initial bet on your hand isn’t the only blackjack bet available. Some bets are available when certain game conditions are met.
And some other bets are available at some tables before the hand is dealt, too.
When Should You Place Side Bets at the Blackjack Table?
Many blackjack games offer optional side bets. These bets are generally placed at the same time as the bet on your main hand. The side bet has its own circle at the table, and it’s a separate bet that’s resolved independently of your bet on your blackjack hand.
Most of the time, the resolution of the side bet is entirely based on chance, too. How your main bet plays out has a skill element, but side bets are entirely random.
Also, most side bets have a much higher house edge than the main game. With that in mind, the best answer to the question, when should you place side bets in blackjack is this:
You should never place such bets.
But most people who gamble like to live a little, so…
Here’s an example of a popular side bet available in some blackjack games:
You sit down at a table that offers the “perfect pairs” side bet. The minimum bet at the table is $5 to play in the hand, and the minimum for the side bet is also $5. If you want to place both bets, you must put $5 into each of the appropriate circles on the table.
The side bet in this case pays off when you get a hand consisting of a pair, and the type of pair determines the size of the payout.
A perfect pair is a pair of cards of the same rank and suit. If both of your cards are the queen of hearts, for example, you’d win this bet. It might pay off at 30 to 1. (This hand is possible because most blackjack games are dealt from multiple decks.)
A colored pair is a pair of cards of the same rank and the same color. If you’re dealt the queen of hearts and the queen of diamonds, you get paid off for a colored pair. The payoff might be 12 to 1.
A mixed pair is a pair of cards of the same rank but different colors. An example would be the queen of hearts and the queen of spades. This offers the lowest payout for a pair in this side bet. It might pay off at 5 to 1.
The payouts for these side bets vary from casino to casino and sometimes from table to table.
Also, the perfect pairs side bet pays off independently from the action on your main hand. You get your payoff regardless of whether you bust or not and whether you beat the dealer or not.
This is only one example of some of the side bets available in blackjack.
When Should Place an Insurance Bet in Blackjack?
Insurance is a side bet in blackjack that isn’t available before you get your hand. The ability to place the insurance bet is based on the the dealer’s up card.
If the dealer’s up card is an ace, you have the option to place a bet that the dealer has a card worth 10 in the hole – a blackjack. Insurance pays off at 2 to 1 if you win the bet.
Also, if the dealer has a blackjack, you automatically lose your main bet.
And the casino restricts the size of your insurance bet to half the size of your original bet.
Here’s how it works:
You bet $10, and the dealer deals the cards. It doesn’t matter what cards you’re holding – if the dealer has an ace showing, she’ll ask you if you want to “take insurance.” She’ll sometimes call it “even money.”
You can then opt to bet $5 on insurance. If the dealer has a blackjack, you win $10 on the insurance bet.
But since you lose $10 on your main bet, you break even.
If the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack, you lose your $5 insurance bet, and the rest of your hand plays out normally.
Insurance is a sucker bet unless you’re counting cards, by the way.
The correct answer to “when should I place an insurance bet” is this:
Only when you’re counting cards and the count indicates that it’s a profitable bet to place.
When Should You Double Down?
A double down bet is when you get a hand and decide to take a hit with one card and decline the opportunity to take any additional cards after that. You must place an extra bet the same size as your first bet – essentially doubling the size of your bet.
Basic blackjack strategy tells you when doubling down is the mathematically optimal bet to make.
You should double down on a hard total of 9 if the dealer has a 3, 4, 5, or 6 showing.
You should double down on a hard total of 10 if the dealer has anything besides a 10 or an ace showing.
And you should double down on a hard 11 if the dealer is showing anything besides an ace.
Those are the only hard totals you should ever double down on.
You have more soft totals that are double down hands.
If you have a soft 17 or 18, you should double down if the dealer has a 3, 4, 5, or 6 showing.
If you have a soft 15 or 16, you should double down if the dealer has a 4, 5, or 6 showing.
And, if you have a soft 13 or 14, you should double down if the dealer has a 5 or 6 showing.
When Should You Split a Pair in Blackjack?
Splitting a pair in blackjack is like doubling down, but instead of doubling the size of your bet, you increase your action by starting 2 new hands. You’re only able to split when you have 2 cards of the same rank.
Each hand plays out independently of the other hand.
You should always split aces or 8s.
You should never split 4s, 5s, or 10s.
If you have a pair of 7s, you should split if the dealer has a 7 or lower showing.
If you have a pair of 6s, you should split if the dealer has a 3, 4, 5, or 6 showing.
You should split 3s or 2s if the dealer has a 4, 5, or 6 showing.
When Should You Bet More in Blackjack?
You should bet more in blackjack anytime you want to put more money into action.
But betting more is never a good response to a hot or cold streak. Chasing wins or losses is a fool’s game, because the outcome of this hand doesn’t change the probability of the outcome for the next hand.
You’ll see winning and losing streaks, but they have no predictive value. They’re a phenomenon that’s only visible in retrospect.
The only time it makes mathematical sense to bet more in blackjack is when you’re counting cards and the count is positive.
You can find multiple posts about how to count cards in blackjack elsewhere on this site.
When should you bet in blackjack?
It depends on which bet you’re placing.
But, if you love the game and know basic strategy, any time is a good time to bet in blackjack.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. …