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Blackjack Strategies

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Next to poker, blackjack is the most popular card game in casinos. It is played with a classic deck of 52 cards in which there are four colors with 13 values ​​each. The colors and symbols of the cards are not relevant in blackjack; only the values ​​of the cards count. Blackjack can be played alone, against the dealer and with multiple players. Over the years players have developed different blackjack strategies to increase their odds of winning. The most famous one is the so-called “Basic Strategy” which helps to decrease the house edge to a very thin margin. But before we’re getting into the strategy part of this article we want to cover some basics for beginners to get everyone set up properly.

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Overview of the Rules of Blackjack

In order to implement proper blackjack strategies in your game you first have to understand the rules. The objective of the blackjack game is to get as close to 21 points as possible with the cards dealt to you. The values ​​of your cards are added up and you win the round if you have better cards than the dealer. Each player and the dealer start with two cards. Except for the dealer's second card, all cards are face-up on the table. After each player has received their playing cards, they can individually decide their options (more on this later). Then the dealer reveals his previously hidden second card. If your cards do not exceed 21 and have a higher total than the dealer then you win the game. Each player is checked individually to see whether he wins or loses against the dealer.

The Role of the Dealer

The dealer plays an important role in blackjack and influences the use of casino strategies. While he tends to be passive in other card games, he is actively involved in blackjack. The difference between the dealer and player is not just that the dealer is the bank. While the player can play at his own discretion, the dealer is bound by fixed rules and must act according to these.

When all players have made their moves during the round, the dealer must reveal his second card. If the total value of both cards is below 17, he must continue to draw cards until it is at least 17. If he exceeds 21, the player wins automatically. This is important to know so that you can pick your strategy accordingly.

The value of the cards

All cards from 2 to 10 have their respective face value. The jack, queen, and king are each worth 10 points. The ace is worth either 1 or 11 points, chosen in favor of the player.

Important blackjack vocabulary

In blackjack, you will come across the same technical terms over and over again so it’s good to know the following game-specific vocabulary:

  • "Blackjack": The name of the game also stands for the best combination of cards. An ace and a 10 add up to 21. This is blackjack. With this combination of cards, you can no longer lose the game. You can only tie if the dealer also has a blackjack. A blackjack only ever consists of two cards. A score of 21 out of three or more cards loses in direct comparison to a blackjack.
  • "Up-Card" and "Hole-Card": Up-Card is the name of the dealer's first open card. The hole card is the face-down card.
  • "Push": Push stands for a draw in blackjack. This happens when your cards and the dealer's cards have the same value. With a push, you get your stake back, but you don't make a profit.
  • "Bust": The total value of your cards is over 21. This means you lose automatically and you are “Bust”. 

The course of the game

Before the cards are dealt, all players place their desired bet. Then the dealer distributes the first cards, which are all laid out face up. The dealer then distributes the second round so that each player and also the dealer have two cards in front of them. However, the dealer's second card is face down. When all players have their cards, they take turns in deciding their moves:

  • "Stand": You are satisfied with your cards and pass it on to the next player. 
  • "Hit": You want to draw another card. You can draw cards as many times in a row as you wish until your total value is as close to 21 as possible. If your score goes over 21 on a hit, you have lost and the dealer collects your chips and cards.
  • "Split": If you have been dealt two identical cards (a pair), such as two kings, you can split your cards. The dealer then separates your two cards and adds one more to each. For the new hand, however, you also have to make a new bet, because the hands play independently of each other. 
  • "Double Down": You have the option to double your bet before you draw another card. This is called "double down". In a double down, you can only draw one card. Then your turn ends.
  • "Surrender": If you have a bad hand, you can reduce your losses by giving up. The round ends for you and you only lose half of your stake. The "surrender" option is not offered in every casino.
  • “Insurance”: If the dealer's first card is an ace, you can take out insurance. For this, you have to pay half of your starting stake as a bet. If the dealer then has a blackjack, you win the "Insurance Bet" and receive the profit from the insurance. This is always double your stake. 

Blackjack Strategies and Tips

Blackjack is easy to understand, but it offers many possibilities because the game is relatively complex. There are several blackjack strategies that can help you win. Here we want to cover some of the basics that every player should know before hitting the tables.

When to Hit or Stand?

Should you draw another card or do you prefer to pass? You will often ask yourself this question in blackjack. Concentration and strategic thinking can help you: if your cards total 11 or less, you should definitely draw another card. A bust can only occur if your cards are over 11 points. Only when you have a total of at least 12 do you have to consider drawing another card. The dealer's upcard plays an important role in this. He has to get at least 17 with his cards. Because of this, the chance of the dealer busting increases if the upcard is of low value, as he will likely have to draw multiple cards.

If the dealer's card shows a value of 2 or 3, you should only draw a card if your cards total 12 or less. If the dealer's upcard is high, he will likely have a higher score too. So you have to take a bigger risk to win. If the dealer has a 7,8,9 or 10, you should draw when your card total is 16 or less. If the dealer has an ace, you draw if the card total is 17 or less.

The Right Time to Double Down

You should only double down if you have either a 9, a 10, or an 11. 11 is the optimal number of points for a double down, as you can not go over 21 with an additional card and you can get to exactly 21 with a cared valued 10 points. Double down on 9 or 10 is the same as hit or stand. If the dealer's upcard is 4,5 or 6, you can double down.

Splitting Your Hand Effectively

Just because you got a pair doesn't mean you have to split your cards right away. In general, there are two pairs that are really worth splitting: two aces and two eights. If you split two aces, you have a good chance of hitting a blackjack or at least a high score. Splitting aces is so effective that not all casinos allow it. Splitting eights is also worthwhile. 16 is not a good value because the chance of busting is good. If you split the two eights, however, you have a good chance of a high result like 18 or 19 on both hands.

Should You Buy Insurance?

The dealer is obliged to offer you an insurance bet or even money in certain situations. Although it is called "insurance" and is intended to "protect" the player from a dealer's blackjack, it is nothing more than a side bet. If you win the insurance bet you will get the insurance bet back twice - but you will likely lose your starting bet.

It sounds like you can prevent a loss but in fact, in the long run, it is the bank that wins. Ultimately you bet that the dealer has covered a 10-card. If this is not the case, you lose this bet and the game continues as normal. If you then also lose the round regularly, your loss is one and a half times as large as your actual stake. In the end, insurance bets are not profitable for the player in the long run. The chances of winning are too low compared to the considerable risk of losing.

Blackjack Strategy Charts

Even if your strategy is counting cards, you still need to know what the probability of a particular outcome is, and you can then choose your moves based on that. So the first thing you should learn as a basic blackjack strategy is the chart that will help you play perfect blackjack – because yes, there is such a thing as perfect blackjack.

One of the great benefits of playing online blackjack is that you can have the chart next to you, or on your screen, while you’re playing. Using the strategy chart, you can make the optimal choices for each hand, and in this way, increase your chances of winning. However, if you play at a land-based casino, they probably won’t allow you to do this, so you should memorize as much of this chart as possible before heading to a real casino. Since counting cards is frowned upon at land-based casinos, learning to use strategy charts is a good trick for understanding how to win at blackjack without counting cards.

For this blackjack guide for beginners, we’ll share some charts used for standard blackjack, meaning American Blackjack played with between 6 and 8 decks of cards.

Chart explanation:

S – Stand

H – Hit

SP – Split

SU – Surrender

SU/S – Surrender if allowed, if not stand

SU/H – Surrender if allowed, if not hit

SU/SP – Surrender if allowed, if not split

DD – Double Down

DD/H – Double Down if allowed, if not hit

DD/S – Double Down if allowed, if not stand

Blackjack Strategy Chart – Hard Hands Without a Pair

This chart should be used if your hand is hard, meaning you don’t have an ace, and when your cards aren’t a pair (2 cards of the same value that can be split).

 

Dealers card (face-up)

Your cards

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

A

21

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

20

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

19

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

18

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

17

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

SU/S

16

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

SU/H

SU/H

SU/H

15

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

H

SU/H

SU/H

14

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

H

H

H

13

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

H

H

H

12

H

H

S

S

S

H

H

H

H

H

11

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

10

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

H

H

9

H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

H

H

H

H

H

8

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

7

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

6

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

5

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

Blackjack Strategy Chart – Soft Hands

This chart should be used if your hand is soft, meaning you have an ace used as 11. If, after using this chart, you end up with a hard hand where the Ace is valued at 1, use the chart above.

 

Dealers card (face-up)

Your cards

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

A

A + 9

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

A + 8

S

S

S

S

DD/S

S

S

S

S

S

A + 7

DD/S

DD/S

DD/S

DD/S

DD/S

S

S

H

H

H

A + 6

H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

H

H

H

H

H

A + 5

H

H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

H

H

H

H

H

A + 4

H

H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

H

H

H

H

H

A + 3

H

H

H

DD/H

DD/H

H

H

H

H

H

A + 2

H

H

H

DD/H

DD/H

H

H

H

H

H

Blackjack Strategy Chart – Pairs

If your hand consists of a pair, and the rules of the game allow you to split, this should be done according to this chart. If the rules don’t allow you to split, use the chart for hard hands above. 

 

Dealers card (face-up)

Your cards

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

A

A + A

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

10 + 10

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

9 + 9

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

S

SP

SP

S

S

8 + 8

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SU/SP

7 + 7

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

H

H

H

H

6 + 6 

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

H

H

H

H

H

5 + 5

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

DD/H

H

H

4 + 4

H

H

H

SP

SP

H

H

H

H

H

3 + 3

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

H

H

H

H

2 + 2

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

H

H

H

H

Advanced Blackjack Strategies

In this beginner's blackjack guide on strategies, we covered the basic rules and gave you an overview of some of the fundamentals of the most basic blackjack strategies. This should only serve as an overview. If you are interested in improving your skills you can find plenty of articles with more advanced tips and tricks when it comes to blackjack strategies and other casino games.

Eve Luneborg
Eve LuneborgUpdated: 25 May 2022
Eve started working at an online casino back in 2014, and she's been involved in the iGaming industry ever since. Starting off as a support agent at LeoVegas Casino, she later took...
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