What will you learn from our Blackjack basic strategy guide?
If you’re new to blackjack or wish to brush up on your Blackjack skills, you might want to read our guide on how to play one of the most revered table games in the industry.
In this guide, you’ll be taught all the rules you need to know in order to participate in fun and, sometimes, rewarding Blackjack games.
4 important tips before you start
- Get to know all the blackjack rules, blackjack odds, best blackjack bets and best blackjack payouts
- Choose a blackjack variant smartly
- Plan your budget – how much are you prepared to win or lose
- Don’t forget about the time you’re willing to spend on a game
Basic Blackjack Strategy
Our basic Blackjack strategy will teach you the ins and outs of Blackjack in a simple yet informative way.
When playing Blackjack, the goal is to ultimately reach a value of 21 with your playing cards, without going over (bust). If you do happen to go over 21, the dealer wins, regardless of their hand.
In a game of Blackjack, face cards have a value of 10, whereas Aces are worth 1 or 11.
In a traditional game of Blackjack, which is the Blackjack game we’ll be focusing our text on, each player starts with two cards, with one of the dealer’s cards remaining hidden until the end.
How to Play Blackjack Hands – Hit or Stand?
In a Blackjack game, the term “Hit” refers to the act of a player picking up another card with the goal being to get to 21 or as close to 21 as possible.
If this action causes a player to exceed 21, to go bust in other words, the player will lose the game.
When the term “Stand” is used in Blackjack, it refers to when a player decides not to pick up another card for fear of going bust (exceeding 21).
Deciding on when it’s appropriate to hit or stand in a Blackjack game can be very tricky, but a good idea is to hit against the dealer’s hand if your hand totals 8, for example.
The table below shows some examples of when it can be a good idea to either “Hit” or “Stand”.
This table example only applies to Blackjack games where the following is the case:
- Up to 8 decks of cards are used
- An insurance is offered when the dealer’s hand shows an Ace
- Where there’s a Double Down on any 2 cards
- Only one split per hand
- Where the payout is 3:2 and the insurance pay is 2:1
- Where there’s no “Double Down” after “Split”.
Doubling Down basically means doubling your bet, and this commonly occurs once you’ve been dealt two cards.
Once you “Double Down”, you receive an additional card in a face-off with the dealer which, in essence, will determine the winner.
The “Double Down”-option is advised when your hand has a better value or the cards in your hand are higher than that of the dealer.
“Split Pairs” in a game of Blackjack refers to when a player’s first two cards have the same value and they choose to separate the cards into two individual hands while doubling their bet.
The best time to choose to “Split Pairs” is when you are dealt two Aces, for example, so your chances of beating the dealer are doubled. However, if you don’t choose to “Split”, each card will be given its own value by default – usually 1 and 11.
The table below shows different scenarios where the “Split Pairs”-option is a reasonable move.
The Soft 17 Rule
A Soft 17 is a blackjack hand worth 17 but it includes an Ace, which can be counted as either 1 or 11. Any hand that includes an Ace is considered ‘soft’, right up until the Ace can only be counted as a 1 to keep the hand in the game. So, if you had a 9, 10 and an Ace, your hand would be considered hard because your Ace can only be counted as 1 without busting your hand.
Dealers have to either stand on Soft 17 (or higher) or hit, which means they can only stand on Hard 17 or more. If the dealer stands on Soft 17, you’re playing a Soft 17 game. If not, you’re playing a Hard 17 game. You can tell which rule a game uses because it is always written on the table, near the odds.
When to surrender?
The term “Surrender” describes when you decide to give up your hand so you get to keep half of your original bet.
It’s good to consider the “Surrender” option if the dealer has a hand with a higher value than you. For example, if the dealer has an Ace, and your hand totals between 12 to 17, and you don’t have an Ace.
Advanced Blackjack Strategy
A Blackjack advanced strategy is utilised mostly by Blackjack experts who, at this point, know their way around a game of Blackjack and can most likely refer to themselves as pros.
In contrast to a basic Blackjack Strategy, an Advanced Blackjack strategy goes more in-depth and covers themes such as card counting and shuffle strategies, etc.
What exactly is blackjack card counting and does it actually work in your favour?
What card counting entails in the wonderful world of Blackjack, is basically to keep track of all the cards which are dealt during a game of Blackjack, so as to make a calculated guess about how you should move forward with your bets.
Through card counting, you may be able to guess what card comes next and therefore have a better chance of beating the dealer.
However, it is not an act admired by many casinos.
How to count cards?
As mentioned, there exist a number of systems for card counting, and some involve, and here are some examples:
- The Zen counting system – a system that, even though complex in nature, allows you to lean away from traditional rules so you stand a better chance at winning. You basically add 1 point for all 2s, 3s, and 7s, 2 points for all 4s, 5s and 6s, and take away 2 points for all 10s. For each Ace card you take away point, while ignoring any other card.
Essentially, the number you have should be divided by the decks present in the shoe.
- The Hi-Lo counting system, which originated in the early 60s, is the most popular counting system in the world of Blackjack. Here you add points to cards between 2 and 6, while subtracting from cards with the values 7 through 9, additionally subtracting from any other card.
Similar to the Zen counting system, a player will need to guess how many decks are present in the shoe.
With the Knockout (KO) counting system, you will be left with a deck of 4 after counting.
What you do here is you add one point to every card with the values 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 and subtract points from Aces and 10s. Using the KO system, you essentially bet more with a positive count and less with a negative count.
Keep in mind that face cards don’t get counted.
Which blackjack Strategy should you choose?
By now, you should know that there is a sea of different Blackjack games, all of them with different advantages and thrills.
Which Blackjack strategy you choose to use depends entirely on things like your budget, whether you’re just starting out or have a bit of experience playing already.
Classic Blackjack is the most commonly played Blackjack for beginners, and it’s also the best place to start.
The best blackjack strategy to try when you’re new to casino
When you’re new to casino gameplay, it’s best to stick with the most common Blackjack strategy, which in this case is the Basic Blackjack strategy, just to be on the safe side.
When you’ve learned the ins and outs of this type of Blackjack, you should be ready to proceed to a more advanced level of playing.
Here are a few other examples of Blackjack variants that may pique your interest and that work as great starting points when you’re new to the Blackjack game:
- American Blackjack – In this game of Blackjack, the dealer will be given one upturned card and one card facing down (a hole card) which they are allowed to glance at if the face card happens to be an Ace. A deck of between 6 and 8 is used in this game.
- Multihand Blackjack – During a game of Multihand Blackjack, you will be able to play a total of 5 different hands at once. It might be risky, but it may lead to some impressive wins.
- European Blackjack – This variant differs from American Blackjack as the dealer isn’t allowed to look at his second card until the player has completed their hand.
- Buster Blackjack – During a game of Buster Blackjack, the player wins a little extra if the dealer happens to go bust due to an added side bet.
There are plenty more Blackjack variants, and the tip is really to scour around to find one that perfectly fits your taste.
The best blackjack strategy to play if you’re a pro
If you’re more familiar with Blackjack and you know your way around it, you could go for variants like Blackjack Switch where you can switch cards between the two hands you are dealt.
There is a catch here though, as with most things, and that is that the payout rates are lower.
Most wins recorded in Blackjack
Some of the biggest Blackjack wins recorded to date have taken place in the UK. However, here is a list of some of the most impressive wins recorded to date:
- Glasgow, Scotland, 2017 – A gambler won a total of £74 000 playing the Ace King Suited Blackjack game. During such a game, a player wins if they are dealt a Blackjack with a suited king.
- Maryland, USA, 2018 – A player who participated in the $1 million Blackjack Tournament ended up taking home a staggering $500,000 – around £371,613.
- Las Vegas, Atlantic City 1970s – 1990s – So far, a team of 6 students from MIT are the biggest winners in Blackjack to date, winning up to an impressive $100 million in the space of two decades. It is said that they used card counting to their advantage. A movie starring Kevin Spacey titled “Bringing Down the House” is based on them.
General blackjack beginner mistake easy to avoid
When you’re a beginner there are plenty of traps you should avoid setting for yourself, one of them being to avoid setting your stakes too high.
As a beginner, you should make sure you are well aware of the rules within any Blackjack game you choose to play and be on the lookout for ones where you can practice for free to get a hang of things before you advance to playing with real money.