The basic blackjack strategy is the best way to improve your chances of winning the casino card game. It consists of dos and don’ts that you must follow to execute each hand you are dealt in blackjack.
Blackjack basic strategy – The best tactic to win at blackjack!
The basic blackjack strategy was created following a comprehensive study of the math and odds behind the card game. Unlike what you might think, it is not a bunch of tips to help you win at blackjack. It’s not a betting system like Martingale, either.
Moreover, the basic strategy doesn’t give you the illusion, fallacy, or impression that you will beat the game of blackjack. Like any other casino game, blackjack always gives the house some edge over the players. Regardless of what blackjack strategy you use or approach, the house always wins in the long term.
Instead, you can increase your winning odds with the correct blackjack strategy, partly thanks to the fact that blackjack is a game of strategy, unlike slots, video poker, and roulette. The basic strategy is the most optimal strategy you can use.
With this strategy, you will use the information at your disposal, including the value of your holes cards in your hand and the dealer’s up-card, to execute an optimal play. In other words, the strategy tells you when to hit, stand, double down, split, or surrender.
The basic blackjack strategy can vary slightly, depending on the blackjack variant you’re playing, the number of decks in the shoe, and the specific rules of the game.
What is the basic strategy in blackjack?
In blackjack, the player has to decide every turn at both online and land-based casinos. Do you split the pairs you have been dealt, double down, stand, or hit? Knowing the correct move to take can be challenging at first, which is where the basic blackjack strategy comes into play.
The basic strategy in blackjack is a guideline that shows players precisely how they are supposed to play each and every possible hand. It shows you the best possible action to take, depending on your hand and the dealer’s up-card.
In essence, the basic strategy refers to a set of immovable rules and guidelines that show you the best moves to make in any blackjack scenario, based exclusively on the dealer’s up-card and the two-hole cards in your hand. The approach utilizes blackjack math and probability to tell you when you should:
- Double down
- Split, then Double Down
It also uses logic to help you create optimal blackjack play and boost your chances of winning. For instance, it tells you whether to stand or hit on soft 17. Whether you should split a pair of 10 or surrender with a hand worth 14 points.
The Importance of Blackjack Basic Strategy Charts and Sheets
Most blackjack basic strategies are available online as mobile apps or cheat sheets in print format. They are typically available in the form of strategy charts or grids that tell you whether to stand, hit, split, or double down for every possible combination of the dealer’s up-card and the player’s hand.
Most land-based casinos, including those in Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and elsewhere, don’t mind if you bring your strategy charts to their blackjack tables. And there are plenty of reasons to have such a helpful resource by your side when playing blackjack…
Easy bankroll management
Remember that the primary aim of the basic blackjack strategy isn’t to help you beat the game or win each & every time you play blackjack. That’s not possible—instead, it is designed to help you minimize your losses and optimize your chances of winning.
Anything that reduces risk and increases reward will eventually boost your bankroll. At the end of the day, basic strategy cards help you whittle down the effect of the house edge and better protect your bankroll from managing your betting money.
Blackjack cheat sheets at your disposal
Basic strategy charts are essentially blackjack cheat sheets. They’re the most effective tools to help you memorize blackjack rules and basic strategies. They present the blackjack strategies and rules in a color-coded cheat grid, making them easy to read and use during play even if you have not committed them to memory.
Handy blackjack reference resource
You can always refer to the basic strategy cards to know when to stand and hit in the game of blackjack. It also covers instances when it’d be best to surrender, split, or double down. Every blackjack bettor should have a basic strategy chart when playing the game of 21.
Crosscheck the effects of dealer rule variations
Changes in the number of decks in the shoe and the rules of the game can ultimately impact your chances of winning. Thankfully, blackjack basic strategy charts usually mirror these variations. For example, the cheat sheet will indicate how the basic strategy is affected if the dealer has to stand on soft 17.
The vast majority of casinos (both online and offline) use six- or eight-deck shoes at their blackjack tables. Accordingly, most basic strategy charts cover blackjack games that use between four and eight decks. They also reflect many different dealer rules, helping you apply the basic strategy to most variants and perfect your skills.
Reading basic strategy charts/cards/sheets
You are halfway there if you have ever used a cheat sheet that employs an XY graph format. Blackjack basic strategy charts follow this format, too. In the color-coded grid, the X-axis indicates the value of the player’s hand, while the Y-axis shows the dealer’s up-card.
The color of the cell where the X and Y axis intersect tells you which move to make for the best outcome in the blackjack scenario. Some colored cells may give two options. If the first option isn’t available, you are recommended to make the second move.
The Best Blackjack Basic Strategies
If you want to win more often when playing blackjack, it’s best to use the top basic blackjack strategies we shall highlight below. You can utilize them in almost all blackjack games. These basic blackjack strategies also assume you are not counting cards.
(1) Never take an insurance bet
It is customary for most casinos to offer an insurance bet when the dealer shows an ace up-card. You should never take this insurance bet, even if you have received a decent hand, such as 20 or 19.
The reason for this advice is simple: the offer insurance is a sucker bet because it pays 2 to 1, which is much lower than the probability of the dealer getting a blackjack. Remember, the dealer required to stand on soft 17 still has a 17% chance of bursting with an ace up-card.
(2) Always stand with 9 pairs against the dealer’s up-card of 7
The basic strategy dictates that you split a pair of 9s against the dealer’s 9 or lower up-card. The tricky part is when the dealer has a seven-up card. In such a case, your best move is not to split the pair of 9s but to stand. You are more likely to win here.
It is easy to see why this is a good move. There’s a higher chance that the dealer’s down card is worth a ten because ten-value cards (10, J, Q, and K) are 4 times as many as other cards in any deck of 52 playing cards. So, there is a good chance that the dealer’s hand is 17, and your pair of 9s is worth an 18, so it is best to stand.
(3) Always double down on 10 against the dealer’s 9 or less up-card
If the dealer shows a 9 or less, you should always double down on 10. You will likely win with a two-card hand of 10 against the dealer’s up-card of 9 or less.
(4) Always hit a hard 12 on the dealer’s 2 or 3
If the dealer’s up-card is either a 2 or 3, and you have a two-card hand of hard 12, you should always hit. It might seem like you will burst, but hitting is the right move here.
You will likely lose if the dealer shows a 2 or 3, no matter if you hit or stand. However, you have a slightly higher chance of winning when you hit rather than standing, which is why this is the best way to approach the tricky combination.
(5) You should never split 10s or 5s
A pair of fives creates a hand of hard 10. It is not wise to split the 5s and deal with two 5-value hands. Taking at least one more card puts you at a better chance of betting the dealer’s hand or forming a blackjack.
The same goes for a pair of 10s. You already have a 20-value hand, which can only be beaten if the dealer lands a blackjack (21). Never split any pair of 5s or 10s, even if the dealer is showing a ten-value card or an ace.
(6) You should always split a pair of As and 8s
It doesn’t matter what the dealer’s up-card is; you should always split a pair of aces and 8s. Understandably, the majority of blackjack players will not split a pair of eights if the dealer is showing a 9 or higher up-card. But that is the wrong move.
It is worth splitting when you have a pair of aces because you stand to win both hands. You are also likely to hit a blackjack on both hands after splitting.
(7) If you have a hard 11 hand, always double down
As a player, you will likely win more money when you double down on a hand with a hard 11, regardless of the value of the dealer’s up-card. There’s a single exception to this rule when you play a multi-deck game, and the dealer’s up-card is an Ace.
If the blackjack game’s rules indicate that the dealer has to stand on soft 17, you will be slightly better off hitting rather than doubling down when the dealer is showing an ace.
(8) You should always hit Soft 18 (A-7) when the dealer is showing an ace, 9, or 10
Most people wrongly think that an 18-value hand is a sure thing. That’s why most players tend to stand on Ace-7 or soft 18, particularly if the dealer’s up-card is an Ace, 10, or 9.
Unfortunately, you have a weaker hand if you hold ace-7 and the dealer shows an ace, 10, or 9. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you hit or stand – you’re still the underdog in the face-off.
So it would be best if you always hit on soft 18 since drawing a low card like 2, 3, or an ace will get your hand to 18 or higher, slightly improving your chances of beating the dealer.
On the other hand, if you draw a 10, J, Q, or K, you won’t hurt your soft-18 hand. Your best bet is always hitting soft 18 against the dealer’s strong up-cards like A’s, 10s, and 9s. You aim to get either a hard 17 through 21 or a soft 19 through 21.
One exception to this rule when you are playing single-deck blackjack says that the dealer has to stand on soft 17. In this case, you are a little better off when you stand on soft 18 against the dealer’s ace up-card.
(9) What to do when the dealer has to hit on Soft 17
If the rules of the blackjack game you are playing indicate that the dealer must hit on Soft 17, you should always double down on Ace-7 (S18) on the dealer’s 2 up-card, Ace-8 (S19) on the dealer’s 6 up-card, and hard 11 if the dealer is showing an Ace.
On the flip side, if you’re playing a blackjack game that rules the dealer must hit on hard 17, you should do the opposite. The surrender rule in some blackjack variants may change, too.
(10) Always double down on Ace-2 through Ace-7 if the dealer is showing a 5 or 6
The cardinal rule when the dealer’s up-card is a 5 or 6 is to double down a hand with an Ace, and the other is any card from 2 through 7. That means you should double down anything from soft 13 through soft 18 if the dealer holds a five or a six. It’s the best strategy.
Note that this rule can apply to other hands on the fringe, depending on the number of decks in the shoe and the specific rules of the game. For instance, if you’re playing a blackjack game with a two-deck shoe and hard-17 rule, you should always double down Ace-3 (soft 14) against the dealer’s 4, 5, or 6.
(11) Surrender rules for hard 15 and 16
Hard 15 and hard 16 are some of the weakest hands in blackjack, particularly if the dealer’s up-card is strong, meaning they’re showing an Ace, 10, or a 9. Whether you hit or stand, you’re the underdog, so the best option is to surrender and cut your losses.
Surrendering when you have a hard 15 or a hard 16 is a safer bet as it saves you money in the long term.
More specifically, you should always surrender a hard 15 if the dealer is showing a 10. A hard 16 is even worse because you must also surrender on the dealer’s up-card of 9 and 10. You may also have to surrender other hands, depending on the rules of the game and the number of decks on the shoe.
(12) Always double down on 8 when the dealer is showing a 5 or 6 in a single-deck game
The basic strategy shows that you should never double down on a hand worth eight if you play a multi-deck game. The opposite is actually true if you are playing a single-deck variant. You should double down on an 8-value hand if the dealer’s up-card is either a 5 or a 6.
This strategy applies if you have a pair of 4s, except in one instance. If the rules allow players to double down after splitting pairs, you should go ahead and split a pair of 4s against the dealer’s 5 or 6 up-card rather than doubling down.
(13) Player’s pair of 2s or 3s vs. Dealer’s 2s or 3s
The way to approach a pair of twos or threes when the dealer is showing a 2 or 3 will vary based on the rules of the game. If the game allows you to double down after splitting pairs, you should split a pair of 2s or 3s when the croupier has an up-card worth 2 or 3. You will be able to win more money by doubling down rather than hitting.
On the other hand, if the game rules don’t allow doubling down after pair splitting, you should always hit with a pair of 2s or 3s against the dealer’s 2 or 3 up-card. If you are playing a single-deck blackjack game, you should always split a 2-pair versus dealer 3.
Does blackjack basic strategy work?
Yes, the basic blackjack strategy works as intended. Speaking of intention, the main goal of basic blackjack strategy is to:
- Reduce the house edge of a blackjack game
- Minimize blackjack losses
- Optimize your odds of winning in blackjack
The bottom line is that the basic strategy is meant to ensure the player’s return or payback is as high as possible. To that end, the strategy works 100% — it’s one of the few, if not the only, strategy that can actually push the blackjack house edge down to 0%.
That is different from saying that the blackjack basic strategy will help you win every blackjack hand you play. Instead, it increases the chances that you will leave the blackjack table a winner. This approach can help you better manage your bankroll and boost your blackjack gambling experience.
How do you win at blackjack every time?
It is nearly impossible to win at blackjack each and every time you play. Like most casino products, Blackjack is a game with a house edge. That means the casino (aka the house) will always have the upper hand, and you will lose money in the long run.
Card counting is another great strategy that can guarantee a good stream of wins, especially if you are an expert card counter. Use card counting systems like Hi-Lo, which is easy to learn, master, and use at land-based casinos.
How do you win online blackjack every time?
Again, no strategy will help you win every time you play online blackjack. The casino has the edge over you as a player, meaning you likely lose money after an extended period of playing online blackjack. In fact, your average odds of winning at online blackjack is around 42.22% (depending on which version of the game you’re playing), which means more than half of your hands are actually lost or pushed.
With that said, the next best thing is to use the strategies and tips shown below to boost your chances of winning at online blackjack. You may not win every time, but you will likely walk away with some money with the following tactics…
Use basic blackjack charts or cheat sheets
Using blackjack strategy charts is one of the most obvious tactics you can use to boost your winning chances. But how many blackjack players have you seen in a casino carrying one?
These cheat sheets are allowed by most casinos, and you can reference them to make the right move on every blackjack hand you receive to avoid making costly mistakes.
A basic blackjack strategy chart helps players make the right decisions in every scenario. However, you may not be allowed to place the strategy cheat sheet on the blackjack table for security purposes. Thankfully, you can keep the digital version on your phone or download a blackjack strategy app to your mobile device.
Play only blackjack games with flexible and favorable rules
Most online casinos offer multiple blackjack variants. Check these games to find variants with the most flexible and player-friendly rules. For starters, pick a live dealer table or online blackjack game that pays 3 to 2 for a blackjack hit. At the same time, avoid live dealer tables and online games where the payout for a blackjack win is 6 to 5 or 1 to 1.
Other favorable rules you should look out for in a good blackjack game include:
- The dealer stands on soft 17
- You can double down on a hand after splitting pairs
- You can double down on a two-card hand
- You can surrender
- Uses a shoe with fewer decks of cards
When scouting for online blackjack games with the best odds, you should always focus on double-deck and single-deck variants instead of the ones that use 6-deck or 8-deck shoes.
You should never take blackjack insurance bets
As we’ve already stated, you should always avoid blackjack insurance bets. They’re sucker bets whose expected value is much lower than the risk factor. It doesn’t matter if you have placed a $5 or a $250 wager; you should never make the insurance bet.
When you take an insurance bet, you are betting that the dealer’s down card is worth 10 points to create a blackjack with the Ace up card. If that is the case, you will be paid 2 to 1, but the chances of winning are worse than that. The dealer actually burst 17% of the time with an up-card Ace. Decline this offer even if the dealer gives you an even-money payoff when you have a blackjack.
Learn the basic betting strategy
Blackjack is not a game of pure luck. You cannot guess each decision and hope that you will win. It’s a game of skill and strategy. Intelligent scholars have studied the dynamics, math, and logic of the blackjack game for more than six decades. After all these efforts, they have developed a foolproof betting system, the basic blackjack strategy.
This optimal strategy is worth learning and applying when playing blackjack. It allows you to reduce the casino’s house edge on blackjack to below 1%. All in all, you should only play the blackjack game after learning or using the basic betting strategy.
Avoid progressive betting systems
You will lose a lot of money if you size your next bet based on whether you lost or won the previous hand. The only time you should increase your bet size is when more low-value or high-value cards are in the shoes, depending on your hand. Use card counting techniques to keep track of the quantity of these cards remaining in the shoe.
In blackjack, a hand with a pair of 10s is regarded as excellent because the chances of it pushing or winning are 92%. You may be tempted to split the pair of 10s, thinking that you will create two good hands. That’s a big mistake you should always avoid if you want to increase your chances of winning.
Claim online casino bonuses and offers
There is nothing as sweet as playing blackjack using the casino’s money. You stand to win real money while not risking your hard-earned cash. As a new customer, you should always claim the welcome bonuses, which are usually big and lucrative. Also, keep an eye out for cash-back promotions, reload bonuses, no-deposit bonuses, loyalty rewards, refer-a-friend bonuses, VIP bonuses, and much more.
Stick to your betting budget
Bankroll management is the best thing you can do to boost your chances of winning money at the end of the playing session. Use tactics like playing the table minimums, choosing low-variance games, and setting betting limits to stretch your bankroll.
Is blackjack a skill or luck?
Blackjack is a casino game of mostly skill, but luck plays a significant role. The skill part concerns the decisions and moves you must make for every blackjack hand.
The element of luck comes into play because the decks of cards in a blackjack shoe are shuffled and come in an unpredictable order.
What is the best strategy for online blackjack?
As with land-based blackjack, the best strategy for online blackjack is to stick to the basic playing strategy. This strategy guides the player’s decision-making, helping you know when is the best time to stand, hit, or split, as well as surrender or double down.
This is the best strategy for online blackjack because it helps you dial down the game’s house edge. It also increases your probability of winning at online blackjack, as well, not to mention minimizes the chances of losing.
What’s the secret to blackjack?
The secret to blackjack is to always stick to the basic strategy. If you are a professional player, you can opt for advanced blackjack betting strategies, such as:
- Martingale Blackjack Betting Strategy
- Parlay Blackjack Betting System
- Fibonacci Blackjack Betting Strategy
- d’Alembert Blackjack Betting System
- 1-3-2-6 Blackjack Betting Strategy
- Oscar’s Grind Blackjack Betting Strategy
Card counting is another secret to winning at blackjack. Of course, this strategy may not work on online blackjack, except for live dealer games.
Do you split 10s against a 6?
No, it would be best if you did not split 10s against a dealer’s 6. A hand with a pair of 10s is worth 20, meaning it is a very good hand that a dealer’s blackjack can only beat. That’s why you should always stand on a pair of 10s or 5s, even if the dealer is showing a 6.
Is it better to hit or stay on 16 in blackjack?
It is generally better to stay than hit on hard 16 in blackjack. However, you should hit on 16 against the dealer’s 7 or 8 up-card. If the dealer’s up-card is a nine or a 10, you should surrender if the option is available on hard 16.