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How to Win Blackjack & 21 - Strategy Guide

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Playing Blackjack can be a fun and frustrating experience in equal measure. It’s renowned for being one of the casino games with the best chances of paying out. But at the same time, you also know you won’t be winning every hand. Getting the right balance to maximize your strategy is not easy. If you want to find out how to win at blackjack then we are going to help you. With our special help guide, you can improve your chances of winning. This article takes in some of the more technical aspects of the game. Some of these strategies may seem slightly counter-intuitive as they aren’t all “winning” tactics. However, they are designed to ensure you maximize your profit over a significant period of playing. This occasionally means you have to learn when to cut your losses.

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Blackjack Basic Strategy

So, Blackjack has one of the lowest house edges of any casino game with it being around the 1% mark. This is only relevant if you know what you are doing though. Blackjack basic strategy charts are one of the best ways for players to keep track of the game and the decisions that need to be made. Match your hand with your opponents and it will present you with a series of options that include plays you should and shouldn’t make. These basic strategy charts are useful for newcomers and experienced players alike.

Players will often play a hand one way and then change how they play it a few games later. Why would they do that? The cards have not magically changed in value. In terms of the basic blackjack strategy, every hand has a correct way of playing it in a given situation. If you come across that situation 1,000 times, you need to play it the same way 1,000 times. Mathematicians and analysts have already done the hard work by finding the most profitable outcome for each hand. It doesn’t give you a win every time, but it does mean that you have the best chance to make a profit in the long run.

Blackjack is certainly a game of opinions and different experts will advise different things. One of the most contentious topics is blackjack insurance and when you should take it, or if you ever should. So let’s take a closer look at that as well as some other well-known side bets.

Blackjack Insurance

So, what is insurance in blackjack? it is an important term that you should get up to speed with and essentially, it is a side bet that is offered to a player if the dealer’s upcard is an ace. You take insurance against the dealer having blackjack. It pays out at 2/1 and the maximum bet you can place is usually half of your initial bet total. 

So, when do you take insurance? Of course, it can depend on your situation and how much money you have to play with, but many experts suggest that you should never take insurance. Only four of the thirteen cards will give the dealer blackjack, so 30.8%. If the payout is only 2:1 then it is a losing bet in the long run.

That being said, for advanced players, there may be occasions when the insurance bet is useful. This only comes into play when the card counting technique is being used. The player can then judge the probability of the dealer hitting a blackjack.

The Art of Doubling Down in Blackjack

Another term that you will need to familiarize yourself with is ‘doubling down‘. So, a quick reminder, what is doubling down in blackjack? Well, essentially you are doubling your bet in the middle of a hand, and then only allowing yourself to receive one more card. It can be a risky move to take on. If you are dealt a low hand then you cannot take up the option of another hit and you have lost double the amount of chips. So, when should you use the double-down bet?

  • Double down on a hard 9 when the dealer shows a low card between 2 and 6.
  • Double down on a hard 11. You will always win more money if you double down on a hard eleven no matter the upcard of the dealer, compared to if you hit.
  • Double down on a 10 if the dealer’s card is 9 or below. If your two-card value is ten, you are always the favorite compared to a dealer whose upcard is 9 or below.
  • Double down on a soft 16-18 and when the dealer shows a low card from 2 and 6.
  • If you are playing a single-deck blackjack game, double down on an 8 against a dealer’s 5 or 6. In a double or multi-deck game, you would never double down on a two-card 8. Yet, when playing with a single deck, the odds of blackjack happening shift to make doubling down in this case scenario the better option.

The Importance of Soft 17 in Blackjack

Soft 17 is a term you will hear frequently when playing Blackjack. All the “soft” aspect means is that the hand contains an ace and this ensures that the hand will not go bust by taking an additional card. Different online casinos have different rules regarding soft 17. Ideally, you want to find one that requires the dealer to stand when they receive a soft 17 as this increases the odds for the player. Never stand on your soft 17. Whatever card you take next, your hand cannot go bust and so you should always either hit or double.

Other Blackjack Tips

So, we have touched on some of the most common strategies, but in blackjack, there are always playing levels that you can uncover as you dig deeper. We are going to have a look at some of the more particular strategies that you should look to employ while playing this classic tactical casino game.

Splitting a pair of aces and 8s is always to be encouraged

No matter what the dealer’s upcard is, you should always split when being dealt a pair of 8s and a pair of aces. Traditionally, a lot of players never split a pair of 8s if the dealer shows a 9, 10, or an ace. The logic they try to use is that they become the underdog. However, the logic is flawed as you are much less of an underdog playing two hands starting with 8 than you are by playing one hand of 16 and choosing to hit. 

Put simply, you will lose less money over a significant period if you split 8s against a 9, 10, or Ace than if you hit on a hard 16. Splitting on aces results in significant gains for the player as your options are so much wider. So, you should always split when being dealt with a pair of 8s or aces.

You should not consider splitting a pair of 10s or 5s

On the opposite end of things, when you are dealt a pair of 10s or 5s you should never split. A pair of 5s is also a hard ten and it is more beneficial to take a one (or more) card hit off a hard ten than by splitting the 5s. Splitting a pair of 10s can often be a winning play, but you stand an even greater chance of winning by sticking on your 20.

Always aim to hit a hard 12 on the dealer’s 2 or 3 upcard

Hitting on a 12 often feels very wrong and puts so many players off. They fear that there are too many options that could cause them to go bust. The reality is that over a significant period of time you will always stand to lose money against a dealer with a 2 or 3 upcard. But, you will lose less by hitting on a hard 12, even if it results in you going bust on some occasions. So while it might not be a winning tactic, it is more of a long-term profit-saving tactic.

Always aim to hit on ace-7 when the dealer’s upcard are either 9, 10, or ace

Many players see 18 as a safe score to win blackjack, especially when the dealer is showing a high upcard like a 9, 10, or Ace. At this point, whether you stand or you hit, you are the underdog. However, you are less of an underdog if you hit rather than stand. You could draw a small card like an Ace, 2, or 3 and that will put you closer to blackjack. Yet, if you pick any of the ten-point cards then you have done your hand no harm at all.

Always stand on a pair of 9s when the dealer’s upcard is showing a 7

So, there are two aspects to this tip. You should always split a pair of 9s if the dealer’s hand is 9 or less, except when the card is a 7. When the dealer shows a 7, you should stand on your pair of 9s leaving you 18. This is because the chance of picking a ten-card is four times higher than any other number. If they pick a ten they will be left with 17, and your 18 trumps it.

Always surrender a hard 16 against a dealers 9, 10, or ace upcard and a hard 15 against the dealer’s 10 upcard

Sadly, there is no beating around the bush here. A hard 15 and hard 16 are the two worst hands in Blackjack. It hurts just that bit more when the dealer gets a strong upcard like a 9, 10, or Ace. This tactic is a long game profit strategy as you will minimize your losses by surrendering on the above hands when the dealer has a strong upcard.

Learn to stand on a multi-card hard 16 against a dealer’s 10 upcard

The traditional Blackjack basic strategy only takes into account the total of the player’s hand and the dealer’s upcard. When you are dealt a hard 16, the basic strategy will tell you to hit. While this choice isn’t technically incorrect, you can enhance your playing accuracy by deciding whether your hard 16 is a multi-card 16 or not, such as a 7-5-4 hand. If it is, your best strategy is to stand if the dealer is dealt a 10.

Don’t play at the casino sites offering 6 to 5 Blackjack payouts

Traditionally, Blackjack has always been paid out at odds of 3:2. So, if you were to place a €10 bet and you win a hand, you will receive €15 in winnings. More recently, some casinos have started introducing 6:5 odds, so that €10 stake would only return €12. This increases the house edge by 1.45% in a single deck game and above 2% for double or multi-deck games. Always try and avoid the online casinos and games that are offering odds of 6:5, as there are still plenty of options at 3:2 that you can find.

Beyond advanced blackjack strategy

As you can see, there is a lot to take on board when betting on blackjack. On the face of it, it is a simple game to pick up and the payout for a casino card game is great. However, you can uncover key tips and strategies to develop your game further and increase your chances to win at blackjack. Make use of our tips and guides and you should be able to maximize your chances of making a profit. This goes for playing at online casinos and brick-and-mortar casinos.

You can beat the small house advantage by using basic strategy charts that you can pick up with ease. Having access to the internet will give you a lot of information that you can use to guide you through each move. If you can put in place the perfect basic strategy then you can near enough reduce the house advantage to nothing. This leaves you with a fantastic opportunity to make a profit. Once you get a grasp of these advanced tactics then we suggest that you look into the card counting technique. It’s an interesting read even if you decide not to take the idea any further. If anything, it shows that there is a lot more to learn about this classic and intriguing casino game.

Steven Ford
Steven FordUpdated: 06 Jun 2022
Steve started his iGaming career back in 2007 and he has not looked back since. Various job roles for both global and startup casino brands have given him a deep and thorough under...
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