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Blackjack Strategy

Blackjack, a.k.a. “21,” is one of the truly classic casino games. It differs in many ways from other casino games, but one of its significant distinctions is that players rely more on strategies and techniques to win rather than luck. To truly excel at blackjack, players need to understand its strategies and techniques.

If you are new to the casino game or are already a player who wishes to get better at it, this is a comprehensive blackjack strategy guide for you. In this guide, you will learn the basic and advanced strategies and techniques that will help you win nearly all the time. You will get tips on how to play, where to play as a beginner, how to read blackjack charts, how to count cards, and much more.

Why You Should Use a Blackjack Betting Strategy

Be honest; you’ve probably been there; most players have been there. After losing your first hands online, you strove to lay hands on the best blackjack strategy. The good news is that you already have!

Blackjack Terminology

Before going into the strategies, every player needs to understand the terminology of the game, highlighted below:

Blackjack

The most significant potential blackjack hand. It is made up of an ace and a ten-valued card. Blackjack is usually played 3:2 in most casinos. For example, if you stake $10 and get blackjack, you will be paid $15.

Busting

Busting means going above 21. If you bust, you instantly lose.

Hard Hand

When an ace counts as one, a hand is classified as a hard hand. The hand is hard if you have a 10, a 3, and an ace. A hard 17 is a 10 and a 7. This guideline applies, so avoid going beyond 21.

Hitting

Hitting refers to when a player requests an extra card. It can be conveyed verbally or by simply tapping the table. Hit if the dealer has a 7, 8, or 9.

House Edge

The percentage of a casino winning over time in a particular game is called the “house edge.” In blackjack, the house edge over a player who doesn’t know much about the game is about 2%. What’s the meaning of that? Well, to put it simply, you’ll lose $2 for every $100 you bet in blackjack.

Push

When you push, your hand is tied with the dealer, and your initial stake is retained. For example, if you and the dealer both have a hand of 19, you push.

Soft Hand

A soft hand has an ace worth 11 instead of 1. A soft 17 is, for example, an ace and a 6. If you hit a soft 17 and receive a 5, your ace is worth 1, and you have a 12.

Split

If a player is handed two identical cards, he may divide them into two hands by doubling his stake. If you stake $10 and get two 8s, you may divide your hand into two for an additional $10.

Blackjack Charts

Memorizing situations and choices is one approach to playing blackjack optimally. A more straightforward solution exists. Learn to utilize basic blackjack strategy charts that describe all potential movements. The chart will help you remember the approach.

Few players realize fundamental blackjack strategy charts vary by deck count and blackjack table regulations. The blackjack strategy chart includes different guidelines for Soft and Hard hands:

Player’s Soft HandDealer’s Hand (2 to 6)Dealer’s Hand (7 to A)
13 to 15HitHit
16 to 18DoubleHit
19 to 21StandStand
BLACKJACK STRATEGY FOR SOFT HANDS
Player’s Hard HandDealer’s Hand (2 to 6)Dealer’s Hand (7 to A)
4 to 8Hit Hit
9DoubleHit
10 or 11DoubleDouble if > than the dealer
12 to 16StandHit
17 to 21Stand Stand
BLACKJACK STRATEGY FOR HARD HANDS
SplitsDealer’s Hand (2 to 6)Dealer’s Hand (7 to A)
2-2, 3-3, 6-6, 7-7, 9-9YesNo
8-8, A-AYesYes
4-4, 5-5, 10-10NoNo
BLACKJACK STRATEGY FOR SPLIT HANDS

Single-deck rules are the same as multi-deck rules; 52 cards are utilized. Instead of hitting 8 against the dealer’s 5 and 6, players could Double Down with a single deck. It’s easy to recall which cards come out and which remain, making decisions easier.

  • 4-8 Decks

Multi-deck (4-8) games use this chart. The chart description should include whether the dealer hits or stands on soft 17. In the Stand on Soft 17, players are encouraged to surrender if feasible, since the dealer’s chances of defeating them improve.

These are the distinct basic blackjack strategy charts that you need to memorize before going for real money blackjack casinos:

Blackjack Abbreviations & Definitions

There are distinct abbreviations and definitions every blackjack player must be acquainted with. They include:

  • H – Hit.
  • S – Stand.
  • Dh – Double Down If permitted. If not, Hit.
  • Ds – Double Down if allowed. Or Stand.
  • Rh – Surrender if permitted. Or else, Stand.
  • Rs – Surrender if permitted. Or Split.
  • Rp – Surrender if permitted. Or else, Split.
  • SU – Surrender (If not authorized, then hit.)
  • P – Split.
  • Ph – If Hit after Double Down is permitted, split. Or else, Hit.
  • Pd – If Hit after Double Down is authorized, split. If not, Double Down.
  • Ps – Split if Hit after Double Down is permitted. Other than that, Stand.

They seem like elements on the periodic table, yeah? However, memorize these abbreviations from the blackjack strategy charts to understand what means what at any period, or they might spring up as elements of surprise.

Number of Decks

Before playing blackjack, you should investigate the number of decks used since it affects the house’s advantage, even marginally. Below is the amount of decks and house edge in percentages.

Single Deck: 0.17%

Double Deck: 0.46%

Four Decks: 0.60%

Six Decks: 0.64%

Eight Decks: 0.65%

As you can see, the changes in the number of decks used are minor, but you’ll agree that the fewer decks used, the better.

Single-Deck Blackjack

The essential premise and purpose of single-deck blackjack are to go as close to 21 points as possible without busting. Here’s how single-deck blackjack works; you bet, then the dealer deals.

The dealer gets one face-up and one face-down card. You may hit, stand, split, or double down after studying your cards and the dealer’s upcard. Single-deck blackjack provides a house advantage of 0.15%, putting you practically on par with the casino.

Single-deck Blackjack Guidelines

  1. There is only one deck of cards. Every time a game starts, the cards are mixed up.

  2. The dealer takes a hit on a soft 17.

  3. A hand can be split up to three times by the player.

  4. Aces can be split, but only one blackjack strategy card is given to each ace. They can’t be split up again.

  5. It is not blackjack to have a split Ace and a card with a value of 10.

  6. Blackjack pays out 3:2.

  7. Insurance bets that win pay 2: 1.

  8. Other hands that win pay 1:1.

Before you begin playing, choose a single-deck blackjack game with advantageous rules. For example, avoid blackjack games that pay out 6 to 5, and instead play single deck blackjack, which pays 3 to 2.

Card Counting

Card Counting is one of the oldest blackjack strategies in the book. This process involves making intelligent estimates about what’s left in the draw pile if you remember what’s already been played. Check out the following card counting methods:

Ace 5

You bet more money when the count is two or higher. You bet the least possible amount when the count is one or less. As the number goes up, you bet more. Your maximum bet is 8 to 16 times the value of your smallest bet.

Knock Out

In the knock out system, each card worth 10 points is worth 10 points, aces are worth -1, and all cards from 2 to 7 are worth 1. This means that you are counting five high cards and six low cards.

Red 7

Arnold Snyder, one of the most renowned blackjack authors, created an uneven counting technique called the Red 7. Every card from 2 through 6 and all red 7s are counted as +1, while all 10s, face cards, and aces are counted as -1.

Hi-Lo

Hi-Lo is the most common counting method. With the Hi-Lo counting system, you start at zero and take away one for every ace and 10-point card. For every card with a value between 2 and 6, you add 1. You don’t pay attention to the 7, 8, and 9s.

Omega II

Omega II is a multi-level system, making it more complex than others. It has a higher efficiency than other systems; however, its mastery requires time, focus, practice, and patience. Certain cards may have a +/-1 or +/-2 value. In this system, cards 2, 3, and 7 have a value of +1, whereas other low cards, such as 4, 5, and 6, have a value of +2. The 9 is worth -1, whereas the 10 and the face cards King, Queen, and Jack are worth -2. Aces and eights are both counted as 0.

Standing 

To ‘stand’ means to refuse further cards. Also known as staying, sticking, or sitting, it means keeping your hand and not asking for extra cards. You’re convinced your hand will beat the dealer’s. If the total of your cards is 17, 18, 19, or 20, you should always stand. It’s because your hand will likely go over 21 with the next card.

Pair Splitting

Pair Splitting is a maneuver that players have the option of performing when playing. It is useful when players are given two cards with the same value. In this instance, gamblers can split them, make two unique hands, and receive a new card from the dealer for each hand.

Split

  • Aces: If you don’t split your aces, one gets 1 and the other 11. This means you can only reach 21 with a nine. Drawing a 10-valued card requires calculating both aces as ones, giving you 12.
  • Eights: Two eights is a horrible blackjack hand, whether you split or not. Pairing eights restricts your movement. Anything more than a five will bust you. Splitting eights improves your hand. PS: A pair of 2’s, 3’s, and 7’s splits against the dealer’s 2 through 7, or else hit.

Do Not Split

  • Tens: Splitting tens is not a good play since it dismantles a promising hand that you’re unlikely to improve with any split.
  • Fours: When you have fours, you can’t go bust. Only three cards can improve a split pair of fours, five, six, or seven. 19 is a good total.
  • Fives: You should double down unless the dealer has a 9, 10, or ace. Splitting fives can leave you with a weaker hand or improve your probability of busting.

Surrender

This term means throwing in the towel before seeing the dealer’s hand. If you surrender in blackjack, you lose half your bet. Surrendering should be the ultimate go-to option when your hand and the dealer’s card indicate a loss. However, only a few casinos offer ‘surrender.’

Card Shuffling

There are different card shuffling methods, and they all have their peculiar purposes.

  • Hand Shuffling: This is just as it sounds (shuffling with hands). Usually, the dealer won’t shuffle until the game ends or the draw pile is almost gone. But, depending on the house rules, the dealer might shuffle the cards earlier.
  • Automatic Shuffling: This happens in the same way it does when a game ends or when most cards are used. But a machine does it instead of people mixing the cards by hand.
  • Continuous Shuffling: This is a process whereby cards that have been played are promptly replaced atop the stack of cards that are still available for play. A piece of machinery often does this. However, it is not unheard of for a human dealer to be responsible for such.

Misplayed Hands

Here are five of the most common misplayed hands:

  • A Pair of 7s: Most people will split the sevens, but the best strategy is to keep them and act like they are a hard 14. Usually, the dealer will have to get to 16 or more. Then it would be best if you took a hit since you have cards with a value of 7 or lower, which is a big part of the deck.
  • Seven and Ace: Even though most people stand on 18, you should double down. This will give you the best blackjack odds against the house and should help you win more over a more extended period.
  • Hard 12: Blackjack’s basic strategy advises that you take a hit and not double up, but if the dealer just turned a 10, you might want to. But if you have a 13 and the dealer has a 3 or less, consider staying. 
  • Eleven – Double down on this number, especially if the dealer has a 10 card showing. You should double down if the dealer has an ace showing because they don’t have a ten card hidden.
  • A Pair of 9s: If the dealer has a 7 or lower, you should stand. If the dealer has 8 or above, always slip to boost your chances of a push or win.

Doubling Down

This occurs when a player puts an extra wager equal to his last stake and gets just one more card. You can only double down with the first two cards dealt to you.

For example, if you stake $5 and are dealt an 11, you may double your money and obtain one extra card. You can’t hit again, regardless of whether you receive a 2 or a 10.

Summary of the Blackjack Strategies

Here is a quick summary of the blackjack strategies discussed in this guide.

  1. Any time the dealer’s upcard is 9 or below, you should always make a double down bet on 10.
  2. When the dealer’s upcard is a 5 or 6, always play those cards twice as high.
  3. If the dealer has a 9, 10, or ace upcard, always surrender hard 16; if the dealer has a 10, always surrender hard 15.
  4. Always go into a deal with a pair of nines when the dealer’s up card is a seven.
  5. If you’re playing a single-deck game, you should always double down on 8 against the dealer’s upcard of 5 or 6.
  6. If your 16 is multi-card, you should stand on it against a dealer’s 10 upcards.
  7. Avoid the 6:5 blackjack table at all costs.

Financial Tips to Earn More from Blackjack

These proven financial tips will help you earn more from the blackjack game.

  • Choose the most suitable betting strategy for your bankroll.
  • Always fixate your eyes on your bankroll while playing.
  • Choose a 3:2 payment over a 6:5 payoff.
  • Set a winning/losing limit and stick to it.
  • Above all, DO NOT wager on an ‘insurance bet.’ This is because the reward for the insurance bet (2 to 1) is smaller than the chances of the dealer having a blackjack, which makes it a bad bet.

Final Notes

Every player wants to win every time they play blackjack, but we must also understand that this is unrealistic. However, with this advanced blackjack strategy, you are sure to maximize your chances of winning and increase your cashouts.

Essentially, remember always to check the rules and regulations of the type of blackjack you’re playing, as well as any variations at the brick-and-mortar or online casino.

Blackjack Strategy FAQs:

When should I surrender?

If you’re playing at a casino that lets you surrender (also called “late surrender” or “LS”), you can only do so after you’ve been dealt your first two cards. If you’ve already taken a hit card, you won’t be able to give up. This is why the first thing you must think about when you play your hand is whether to give up or not.

What does double down mean in blackjack?

This means doubling your wager on your first two cards before the dealer deals another. You make a matching bet. The dealer gives you one card. After each hand, the dealer resolves all bets. Sevens may be divided and doubled if desired.

Is the insurance wager worth anything?

No. In general, you should avoid placing an insurance bet. Act on a bet or surrender your hand rather than spend additional money that will be lost. The payoff is insufficient to warrant betting on insurance.

Can you count cards while playing at online casinos?

No. Online casino games follow a somewhat different paradigm. There are no more cards that exit the deck. Instead, after each hand, the cards are reshuffled. Counting cards in online casino blackjack is ineffective. Strategy charts, on the other hand, are helpful since they are unaffected by the shuffle.

Does blackjack have the highest house edge compared to other casino games?

Yes. Blackjack has the best victory percentage. Blackjack has a 0.5 – 0.6% house advantage, allowing you to comprehend the game precisely and giving you an excellent opportunity to win in a physical and digital casino.

Can blackjack game strategies vary?

Yes. Blackjack techniques vary in each game. The single-deck and multi-deck blackjack strategies vary somewhat, as the above charts illustrate.

Does counting cards help one win more?

Yes. Over time, it’s been proven theoretically and even practically.

Herbert Hanson
Author Herb has spent years working in the gambling industry, helping to provide gambling entertainment. He started from the land-based casino and then moved to the iGaming industry and joined our team as an author with great knowledge of the Las Vegas casino industry. His unique approach is the key to our content creation strategy. Do you need the latest bonuses and promotions; Herbert Hanson is your man with great knowledge.