Blackjack Basic Strategy
Do you like the idea of playing a card game with very good odds which also offers plenty of excitement? Then online Blackjack may be the right game for you! This popular table game and its variants are available across many online casinos, but to really maximise your profits, you need to have a very good idea of Blackjack Basic Strategy. In this article, we’ll be outlining Blackjack rules and sharing the recommended strategy that will help you make the right moves while playing this game.
Basic Blackjack rules
Blackjack is a card game played between several players against a dealer, with at least one deck of 52 cards and up to 8 decks. The aim of the game is to beat the dealer without going bust (i.e. without going over 21), which means that you need to reach a score that is higher than the dealer’s but also not higher than 21. To do this, you need to let the dealer draw cards until his or her hand exceeds 21, and avoid drawing more cards if you think that your total may go over this number.
Players in Classic Blackjack are dealt two cards, which may either be dealt face up or face down, depending on the table. They are then allowed to draw more cards to improve their hand. The value of a hand amounts to the sum of the individual cards, with the blackjack being the highest hand, made up of an ace (worth 11) and any card worth 10 points (10, Jack, Queen and King). The players then bet, before the dealer gives them two cards each. Then it is the dealer’s turn to draw 2 cards for himself, one of which is dealt face up. The card dealt face down is known as the ‘hole card’. If the dealer’s face up card is an ace, players have to option of taking an’ insurance’ before the dealer reveals his hole card. This is a side bet on the fact that the dealer will have a blackjack, which pays 2:1, to make up for the loss of the original bet.
The below are the options normally available to players before the dealer reveals his hole card:
Stand (also known as stick or stay): Player decides not to take any more cards.
Hit: the player draws another card. If this results in the player's total points exceeding 21 (known as "bust"), then he loses the game.
Double: the player doubles his bet and gets only one more card.
Split: If a player’s first 2 cards are of same value, then he may separate his cards into two individual hands and double the bet. The dealer will deal a second card to pair up with each card. Then, the player may decide to hit, stand, or double normally, and can win or lose his bet separately for each one of these hands. Splitting rules vary according to the Blackjack variant being played, so it’s always advisable to check the rules and options of every individual game.
Surrender: if the game offers this option, the player can forfeit half his bet to the house and not play out his hand.
After every player has had his turn and made his decisions, the dealer will reveal his hole card. If the dealer has a score of 16 or less, he draws another card. When the dealer has an ace with a value of 11 and any cards which add up to six points, this is known as a "soft 17", he may be required to stand, or to hit if the casino has implemented the soft 17 rule.
If the dealer’s cards exceed 21 points, then any player who didn't already go bust wins the game. If the dealer does not go bust, then the game is won by whoever gets the highest points total from the player and dealer.
Blackjack Basic Strategy
If you play Blackjack based on Basic Strategy, you'll be able to increase your chances of winning by pushing the house edge to the lowest possible. This strategy was developed based on a computer program that compared the outcomes of different card combinations, so that players could devise what is the most likely probability of winning with certain cards.
A Blackjack Strategy Chart will help you decide which moves to make based on your card and the dealer's face-up card. The best thing if you play Blackjack at a land-based casino is to learn the moves by heart (since taking the card with you will be very much frowned upon!).
Blackjack Strategy Chart
Besides the above moves, there are some other Blackjack rules which tell you when to take certain actions in Blackjack, such as when to Surrender, Double Down, and when to split Pairs.
When to Surrender in Blackjack
Part of Blackjack Strategy is knowing when to Surrender, if the table you’re playing allows you to do so. When you surrender, you are deciding to give up your hand because you believe that you don’t have much chance of winning it, and therefore, this move is taken to reduce your losses (since the player will lose only half of his bet, and not the full amount).
If the online Blackjack variant you’re playing permits Early Surrender, the basic strategy would dictate the following:
If the dealer has an Ace, you should surrender if you have:
- Hard 5-7
- Hard 12-17
- A pair of 3s, 6s, 7s or 8s.
If the dealer hits on soft 17, you should surrender if you’ve got a pair of 2s.
You should also surrender against a dealer 10if you’ve got:
- Hard 14-16
- A pair of 7s or 8s
Surrender tips vary according to the Blackjack variant you’re playing. In single-deck Blackjack, you shouldn’t surrender to the dealer’s 10 if you’ve got a 4 and 10 or 5 and 9.
When to split pairs in Blackjack
In some Blackjack variants, pair splitting is allowed when you get a pair of cards of the same value. Pair splitting allows you to split the cards into two new hands by getting one new card for each, doubling your bet and giving you the chance to win with both hands, with one hand only, or lose with both!
Whether or not you should split pairs in Blackjack depends on the value of the pair. Here are a few guidelines to show you when to split and when not to:
Aces should always be split (this gives you a chance of getting 2 Blackjacks!). If you keep the two aces as a pair, only one of them will count as 11, whereas the other will have a value of 1. This means that the only way to get a Blackjack would be to draw a ‘9’ card. On the other hand, with two split aces, you can get a Blackjack with any ‘10’ card. It is also recommended to re-split the Aces if you get another pair.
Always split a pair of ‘8’s - keeping these as one hand will give you a 16, forcing you to stand or risk going bust with anything over 5. While having separate 8s doesn’t give you the best edge, it still gives you a better chance of winning with the next card or cards you draw. It’s also best to re-split 8s if you get another pair.
Don’t split 10s - when you’ve got a pair of tens, you’ve already got a great hand, so it’s not worth sacrificing this for the chance of getting a better one (the only way you can get a better hand is by getting an Ace).
Never split 4s- splitting 4s will leave you with two weak hands, which is not worth doubling your bet for.
Never split 5s - this will also leave you with two weak hands, whereas if you keep the 5s, you have a chance of hitting a Blackjack or getting a very strong hand.
Split 2s, 3s, or 7s when the dealer has a 7 or lower - whether or not to split these cards largely depends on the dealer’s hands. If the dealer has a 7 or lower, he’s got a weak hand, giving you a chance of still winning with your card values.
Split 9s if the dealer has 2 through 6, 8 and 9 - in other words, it’s only worth splitting a pair of 9s if the dealer has got a really weak hand.
When to Double Down
Doubling down is a risky move in Blackjack, but it can leave you with a big win in hand. Essentially, there are 3 scenarios when it’s recommended to double down:
- If you get a hard 9 and the dealer has any card below 7 - in this case, your combinations would be 2-7, 3-6 or 4-5
- If you have a soft 16 to 18 while the dealer has a 2 to 6;
- If you have an Ace and either a 5, 6 or 7 giving you a ‘soft’ total of 16 to 18 and the dealer shows a card from 2 to 6, this is a great time to double your bet. With an Ace and a lower card (2 to 4) it is better to just hit, as you are less likely to end with a high hand.
- If you’ve got a hard 10 OR 11 and the dealer has a lower total - this is a very good hand with a high probability of winning. Combinations for a hard 10 or 11 are 2-8, 2-9, 3-7, 3-8, 4-6, 4-7, 5-6.
How to play Blackjack online: a step by step guide
Now that you’ve learnt the rules of Blackjack and are ready to play, it’s time to introduce you to the experience of playing this exciting game online. Remember that a lot of online casinos offer you the possibility of playing Blackjack and other table games for free before playing with real money bets, to help you understand the ins and outs of the game. Here’s what you have to do to start playing Blackjack online today:
- Click on the links on this page to one of the reputable online casinos.
- Make sure you create an account with the casino to benefit from a good welcome bonus.
- Head over to the casino Table Games section to choose a Blackjack game.
- Check the table limit: almost all tables will indicate the minimum and maximum bet you can place on a single hand.
- Choose your bet amount.
- Deal out the cards, view the dealer’s face-up card and click on either the Hit, Stand or Double buttons, which are usually found at the bottom of the screen.
- Click on the split button if you have 2 identical cards if you’d like to double your bet and your chance of winning.
- See which cards the dealer is dealt. You'll either win or lose your bet depending on the dealer cards.
Where to play Blackjack online
Last but not least, here’s our list of top casinos which offer the opportunity of playing Blackjack both for fun and for real money. All these casinos are fully-licensed, implement the latest security measures, and their games are also independently audited to ensure that outcomes are random and fair. Don't waste time looking for an online casino; we've done all the research in order to give you access to the best ones: