Blackjack Strategy: Everything You Need To Win
It makes sense to spend time learning a blackjack strategy for one reason. Blackjack is unlike most casino games. Rather than luck, this card game caters to players’ decisions.
But, keep in mind that strategy comes after the basics. In terms of blackjack basics, you should first learn about basic rules and table etiquette. More importantly, you must understand how the casino has a built-in advantage over players. Also, it is crucial to keep in mind what makes blackjack different from other casino games. So, let’s get started.
Basic Blackjack Strategy
As the word implies, the basic strategy is an optimal way to play this card game. In other words, this strategy teaches players to make mathematically correct decisions during a game. These decisions include:
- Pair Splitting
- Doubling Down
- Even Money
The first challenge when playing blackjack is to lower the house advantage. Players can use several alternatives to achieve this goal. But, you cannot use all of these alternatives whenever you like. So, you should follow a specific order of actions to play an optimal game.
During every hand of blackjack, there are four questions you should ask yourself. You should ask them in the following order. The answers to these questions will help you play optimally:
Should I/Can I Use Surrender?
This decision is always the first one you should make, provided the table you’re playing at offers this feature. Why? Because you can only surrender a hand before any other decisions. If the answer is no, or the table doesn’t offer this feature, you should proceed to the next question:
Should I/Can I Split My Hand?
This alternative will only be available if your starting hand is a pair or two cards with a value of 10. You should ask yourself whether you should split or not when you receive such a hand. In case it is not better for you, or you cannot split at all, you should ask the third question.
Should I/Can I Double?
Remember that it’s a fantastic thing if basic strategy calls for doubling. This situation means that you are likely to win the hand. Doubling may not always be possible, because some casinos forbid doubling on individual hands. But, before you move on, make sure you’ve ruled it out. If you shouldn’t or cannot double, move to the final question.
Should I Stand Or Hit?
Deciding whether to take another card is the last thing to consider in terms of basic strategy. In other words, you would choose to stand or hit if the options mentioned above are not appropriate for your hand.
Basic Blackjack Strategy Phrases
There is a more straightforward way to memorize basic strategy rules by remembering 30 phrases. It might sound more complicated, but this method works well in the long run. Why? These phrases let you immediately recall the rules in your head once you see your hand. Simultaneously, you don’t need to know the dealer’s hand.
In other words, you can make the optimal decision in a split second when you look up to see what the dealer has. So, you will make fewer mistakes and play much faster if you memorize these phrases. You’ll often find these phrases in the form of blackjack charts. Regardless, both charts and phrases represent the same thing. Here we go.
- Hit unless you have a pair of 2’s splits against dealer 2 through 7
- Hit unless you have a pair of 3’s splits against dealer 2 through 7
- Hit unless you have a pair of 4’s splits against dealer 5 and 6
- Hit unless you have a pair of 5’s doubles against dealer 2 through 9
- Hit unless you have a pair of 6’s splits against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit
- Hit unless you have a pair of 7’s splits against dealer 2 through 7
- Always split 8’s
- Stand unless you have a pair of 9’s splits against dealer 2 through 8, except for 7
- Never split tens
- Always split aces
- Revert to hard totals (don’t surrender), unless you have 15, which surrenders against dealer 10
- Revert to hard totals (don’t surrender), unless you have 16, which surrenders against dealer 9 through Ace
Hard Totals: Any hand that has an ace counted as one instead of 11, or any hand that doesn’t start with an ace in it, is a hard total.
- 8 always hits
- Hit unless you have a 9, which doubles against dealer 3 through 6
- Hit unless you have a 10, which doubles against dealer 2 through 9
- 11 always doubles
- Hit unless you have a 12, which stands against dealer 4 through 6
- Hit unless you have a 13, which stands against dealer 2 through 6
- Hit unless you have a 14, which stands against dealer 2 through 6
- Hit unless you have a 15, which stands against dealer 2 through 6
- Hit unless you have a 16, which stands against dealer 2 through 6
- 17 and up always stands
Soft Totals: Any hand where the ace counts as 11 to start and has an Ace as one of the first two cards is a soft total.
- Hit unless you have a soft 13 (A,2), which doubles against dealer 5 through 6
- Hit unless you have a soft 14 (A,3), which doubles against dealer 5 through 6
- Hit unless you have a soft 15 (A,4), which doubles against dealer 4 through 6
- Hit unless you have a soft 16 (A,5), which doubles against dealer 4 through 6,
- Hit unless you have a soft 17 (A,6), which doubles against dealer 3 through 6
- Stand unless you have a soft 18 (A,7), which doubles against dealer 2 through 6 and hits against 9 through Ace
- Soft 20 (A,9) always stands
Blackjack is a game where the house initially has an overwhelming advantage over you (up to 2%). However, you can minimize that advantage in various ways. One way is to follow basic blackjack rules and play with several tips in mind. Here is what you should remember:
- Don’t burn out
- Never buy into myths of gamblers
- Always start small
- Never sit in the first base seat
- Check the dealer’s up card
- Avoid playing insurance
- Play basic strategy
Don’t Burn Out
Playing blackjack can be invigorating, but you must play responsibly. Don’t limit how much you can win, but always set a cap for how much you’re ok with losing. Statistics say that 75% of casino players win at some point, but only 4% of players end up going home as winners.
Never Buy Into Myths Of Gamblers
It is crucial to remember that other players’ decisions do not affect your hand. The only person you’re playing against is the dealer (house). Your hand is a mystery to the dealer, and vice versa. Never listen to the player claiming to be an expert. Instead, simply follow the basic blackjack strategy, and you’ll be safe.
Always Start Small
When you arrive at a table, or a new dealer does, avoid going all out with bets right away. Gauge the situation by starting with small bets. The casino never stops, but you can. You should gauge whether the dealer is “cold” or “hot.” Experiencing hot and cold streaks can have a massive effect on you as a player.
Never Sit In The First Base Seat
If the dealer is rushing, remember to avoid the first base seat. The smartest decision, in this case, would be to sit further down. This way, you can have more time to review the dealer’s up card and your hand.
Check The Dealer’s Up Card
It can be vital to check the dealer’s up card before you take any action. Observe whether the card is good for you (7 through Ace, for example), or bad (for instance, 2 through 6). What action you take as a player can significantly depend on what the dealer has.
Avoid Playing Insurance
Insurance is a blackjack strategy we’ll explain in more detail later on. For now, remember it as another new bet with new money based on whether or not the dealer has blackjack.
Experts recommend players to avoid playing insurance. Why? Because the house typically has close to a 6% advantage over a player with an insurance bet. You only win your original bet if you get blackjack. More importantly, you’ll end up in a push (no win, no lose) if the dealer has a blackjack when you do.
Play the Basic Blackjack Strategy
Among all the tips on this list, playing basic strategy is the most helpful. Using basic strategy can help you cut the house edge to 0.5% down from 1 or 2%. Being successful in the long run means you must memorize the right way to split, stand, hit, and double down your hand.
Understanding the odds of this card game is among the most important rules of blackjack strategy. Keeping in mind the probability of busting and the chance of winning at all times is crucial.
The house edge (advantage) results from the fact that the last hand played in the game belongs to the dealer. Every player that goes over 21 (busts) immediately loses. Then, the dealer plays their hand. If the dealer also busts, players who don’t bust receive payment.
The interesting aspect here is that the casino profits from the immediate losses of players who bust. This profit stands even if the dealer busts subsequently. This aspect always gives the house an edge, regardless of how favorable the blackjack rules may be in any casino.
Practical Example Of Odds
Let’s consider an example to help you better understand blackjack odds.
Imagine you use the same blackjack strategy as the dealer. For this example, let’s imagine that strategy is to hit on 16 and less and stand on 17 and higher. Consequently, the dealer will bust 29% of the time, and you’ll also bust 29% of the time. This example makes the odds even at first glance.
However, according to the game rules: even if the dealer busts, they still win the bets of all players that bust. This rule increases the edge of the house to 8% against you. Also, remember that you win 3:2 when you get a blackjack. This feature further lowers the house edge against you to around 6%. As we mentioned previously, using the basic blackjack strategy when playing minimizes the house edge over you to just 0.5%.
Blackjack Winning Strategy
The Surrender Strategy makes it possible to receive half your stake back if you give up a hand. Why is this a strategy? Because it prevents you from losing money in the long run. In blackjack, you sometimes receive cards with less than a 25% chance of winning than the dealer. In this case, the surrender strategy is viable.
The Pair Splitting strategy can be misleading. In most cases, the house benefits from this strategy. This outcome happens because players rarely know when to split/not split a pair. Originally, pair splitting was supposed to lower the house edge. Use this strategy carefully.
The Doubling Down strategy lets you double your stake at the cost of hitting only one more card. This strategy is perfect for when the dealer has a bad hand and the likelihood of exceeding 21. You can only use it when you start with an excellent hand. If you use this strategy correctly, you can make a profit of up to 1.4%.
The Hit & Stand Strategy comes into play when it’s impossible to double down or surrender the hand. The decision of hitting or standing might sound simple but rarely is in the heat of the game. This strategy can be helpful, but you must understand it in detail for it to produce results.
The Even Money strategy is interesting. If you’ve been getting 21, the house will sometimes show an ace. This ace means that you’re at risk of the dealer also getting 21. As a result, you would not win any profits, but only your original stake back. The house can offer you “even money,” with you getting double the stake and the end of the hand. In the long run, however, this feature lowers your profits by 4%.
Using any blackjack strategy is better than playing blindly. You have several strategies to choose from, but you need to choose carefully. Each strategy works well in certain circumstances. As a result, you should be aware of all of them. Regardless, the safest option at your disposal is the basic blackjack strategy. You should start with that one if you are a beginner. Good luck!