Basic Blackjack Strategy – Blunders, Bonuses, and Bluffs

Blackjack remains one of the most popular online, live, and on-site casino games. In the long run, like with most casino games, the house always comes out on top, but for the short term, there is a basic Blackjack strategy a player can implement in order to reduce that pesky house edge. We are willing to wager that the best online Blackjack players resort to these simple strategies to try and get the upper hand (pun intended) on the casino. Read our basic Blackjack strategy guide to find out how to try and stack the decks in the player’s favour. 

Blackjack basic strategy guide to understand what to do and what not to do in a casino – 2024 edition 

Blackjack, Pontoon or 21 as some gamblers call it requires a touch of luck, but mainly skill and strategy if a player wishes to beat the house (which of course, they all do). The objective of Blackjack is for players to get as close to the complete sum of card values in their hand being 21, to get exactly 21 or just to have a higher card value total than the dealer – as long as that total isn’t more than 21 because then a player is bust and they can kiss any chance of winnings goodbye. Blackjack can offer some good returns and probabilities of winning for anyone that understands just a few rules. But what is the best Blackjack basic strategy to use? Is it a conservative strategy? Or is it an aggressive strategy? 

Take a seat at the table and let’s begin. First off, it is important to understand that all the playing cards have their own value. Aces are equal to either 1 or 11, face cards are equal to 10 and all others are equal to their face value. From the deck, the dealer gives each person at the table two initial cards face up for everyone to see. Once all of the players have their cards, the dealer reveals one of their cards to the table. Always check this card; good cards in the dealer’s favour are any card from 7-Ace, whereas bad ones in a player’s favour are any card from 2-6. A dealer only reveals his second card and makes his play once all the other players at the table have chosen to stand. Now it is time for a person to make a decision about what they are going to do next.

There are five options to choose from:

  1. Stand
  2. Hit
  3. Double
  4. Split
  5. Surrender

A player can choose between either stand, double or hit throughout the game, but they can only choose to split or surrender if it is their first go. So, here’s the rule of thumb: if a person is dealt a terrible two cards, now is their chance to surrender and give up – this means that they are immediately out of the round but that they get half of their original bet back. If a person is dealt two cards with the same number value, but in different suits, they can choose to split the two cards into two hands where they will receive an extra two cards and continue to play the hands separately. In order to play these two hands, bettors will have to double their original wager so that each one has the same wager amount – doubling either their winnings, but doubling their losses too. To choose to stand means a person chooses not to add any more cards from the deck to their hand, whereas choosing to hit means that the dealer flips over another card from the deck and that card’s count now adds to the total value of their hand.

The order of operations for the basic Blackjack strategy is as follows:

1. Is the hand bad enough to have to surrender?

a. Yes – then give up

b. No – continue to step 2

2. Does the hand consist of a splittable pair?

a. Yes – Do it and continue to play the game with two hands of cards

b. No – continue to step 3

3. Is the hand worth doubling the bet placed for?

a. Yes – place an extra bet

b. No- continue to the final step 4. Is the value of the hand high enough to stand or should it be hit with another card from the deck? 

With so many options, how do people know which one to use and when? What killer combinations of cards and choices are there? All of the strategies and combinations can be found in the Blackjack strategy card below, but here are a few ones to be extra aware of:

  • Always choose to split if the hand has two aces or eights.
  • Double if the total adds up to 11 and the dealer’s card is from 2-10
  • Double Aces-6
  • Always hit when the total is 12-16 in total value and the dealer has turned up a 7-Ace card
  • Always stand when the hand is 12-16 but the dealer has turned up a 2-6 card
  • Never, we repeat, never split tens.

Of course, as with everything in life there are exceptions to the rules and these exceptions in terms of Blackjack come in with betting deviations and playing deviations – especially prevalent if a player is practiced in the art of counting cards. But, even with these exceptions we are willing to bet that most players stick to this basic strategy as much as possible.

Blackjack strategy chart 

The Blackjack strategy chart is the answer to all gambling newbie’s prayers. This chart is a simply laid out and colour coded cheat sheet of all the basic strategies that a newbie needs to know. Charts can differ depending on whether they are based on hitting on a soft total 17 or standing on a soft total 17. Ours is based on an H17 game, so a game where the dealer hits and flips over another card on a soft 17. This type of Blackjack game is more common in casinos. The cheat sheet shows the different strategies to implement for hard totals, soft totals, surrendering and splitting depending on the different cards a dealer has dealt and revealed. Luckily for players, although memorizing and knowing some of the strategies is favourable for faster players, this chart can also be used at the table – in fact, some casinos sell them from their casino store. Of course with online casinos it’s easier for players to use their charts as there is no one keeping a beady Blackjack eye on them and adding additional pressure to the situation. Players can take their time to consult the cheat sheet and to decide what the next best move is. See the chart below: 

The ultimate Blackjack betting strategy to improve your odds of winning

The aim of the basic strategy is to decrease the house edge or the odds that the dealer will win, so as to increase a player’s chances of winning. The house edge refers to the automatic advantage that all casinos give themselves (after all, casinos are businesses that don’t want to lose all their money). The house always stacks the decks in their favour. The house edge ensures that in the long run, the casino always comes out on top. Odds and probability play is an important part of all gambling games, but particularly with games such as Blackjack. The main probabilities to take into account are a person’s own probability of going bust if they choose to flip over an extra card from the deck as well as the dealer’s probability of going bust. The reason it is important to look at a dealer’s hand too is that if they go bust, everybody at the table automatically wins. Of course, the higher the hand’s score, the higher the probability of going bust. Conversely, with a higher score, there is also a higher chance of beating the dealer’s own hand, so there really is a fine line between risk and reward. 

Whilst Blackjack aficionados have worked tirelessly at their strategies, the Blackjack basic strategy seen in the chart above was actually put together by a computer algorithm and tested through millions of simulations.

The Blackjack cheat sheet strategy is as follows:

  • For surrendering, only surrender if the hand value is 16 against the dealer’s up card of 9 – Ace or if the value is 15 against a dealer hand 10.
  • For splitting, aces and eights always get split.
  • Never split 10’s.
  • 9’s get split if the dealer has turned up a card of the value 2 – 6 or 8 & 9, otherwise stand.
  • 7’s, 3’s and 2’s get split if the dealer has turned up a card of the value 2 – 7, otherwise hit.
  • 6’s get split if the dealer has turned up a card of the value 2 – 6, otherwise hit.
  • 5’s get split if the dealer has turned up a card of the value 2 – 9, otherwise hit.
  • 4’s get split if the dealer has turned up a card of the value 5 – 6, otherwise hit.

There are also a variety of different strategies for whether a player’s hand is a soft total or a hard total. A soft total refers to any hand with an Ace in it as one of the first two cards and a hard total is one without an Ace as one of the starting cards. Hard hands are called this, well, because they are difficult to play. Having a hand like this is much riskier. The reason soft totals are called this is because there is no chance of initially going bust, since an Ace can take on the value of either 1 or 11 at any time.

For soft totals:

  • 20 always stands
  • 19 doubles against a dealer who has been dealt a card of 6, otherwise stand.
  • 19 doubles against a dealer who has a card of 6, otherwise it stands.
  • 18 hits against a dealer who has a card of 9 – Ace, otherwise stands.
  • 17 doubles against a dealer who has turned up cards of 3 – 6, otherwise hit.
  • 16 and 15 doubles against a dealer who has a card of 4 – 6, otherwise hit.
  • 14 and 13 doubles against a dealer who has a card of 5 – 6, otherwise hit.

For hard totals:

  • Anything higher than 17 stands.
  • A total of 11 always doubles.
  • 8 always hits.
  • 16, 15, 14 and 13 stands if the dealer has a card of 2 – 6, otherwise hit.
  • 10 doubles if the dealer has a card of 2 – 9, otherwise hit.
  • 9 doubles if the dealer has a card of 3 – 6, otherwise hit.

Sounds complicated right? Luckily there are easy to read charts (like the one above) to help people memorize and learn the strategies. Some casinos even allow players to bring the cheat sheet in with them! 

Okay, so a gambler has now mastered the basic strategy and now they want to get the most of their cash and try out a different Blackjack betting strategy. Betting strategies go hand in hand with basic Blackjack strategies and they help gamblers to make the most out of their bets (or at least they try to). Honourable mention goes to anyone daring enough to try the Martingale System. This system works with negative progression. Negative progression means that every time a game is lost, the wager must increase, but if a game is won then the wager must decrease again. Most Blackjack tips say a player must only try out this system if they have enough cash to support the potential loss. The reason this system works is because statistically a winning streak can’t last forever – a gambler just has to hope that their eventual winnings are larger than their money lost. High risk, high reward. 

Other common betting Blackjack systems include the Paroli and the Parlay. The Paroli System is opposite to the Martingale System in the fact that it is a positive progression system. This means that every time a person wins their hand, they increase their bets and every time they lose they decrease their bets. Set a reasonable initial amount as this system requires gamblers to increase their bets until they have a winning streak of three hands. Low risk, low reward. The Parlay system is similar to the Paroli System as it is also a progressive system. When following this method the strategy is to double the bets placed with every round won and decrease the bets with every round lost. Low risk, low reward. Especially since to make any money off the bets a player’s winning streak needs to be several strong. 

There is also a 2-1-2 betting system where if a player wins a round they then place a bet worth two units. If the next round is also won they lower the bet down to one unit, only to raise it to two units again if they win the next hand too. They then continue to increase the bet by one unit after that. This system only resets if a player loses. If a player continues to win, the bets will continue to increase. This is a good way for gamblers to make the most out of their winning streak. The 1-3-2-6 system is similar to the 2-1-2 system in the fact that it also works with bet units. A player starts off betting 1 unit. If they win the next round they bet 3 units. If they win again then they bet 2 units. And if they win a fourth time they bet 6 units. If a gambler loses a hand whilst placing bets with this system then they reset their bets back to the base unit. For example if a base bet unit is C$2, the next bet will be C$6, the next one C$4 and the final bet C$12, granted the winning streak lasts this long. 

None of these betting systems increases a player’s odds of winning, the only way to do that is with strategy, but they do help players not to lose all of their well-earned cash. If a gambler is a Blackjack newbie then we suggest playing with one of the more conservative betting systems such as the Paroli or the Parlay where they only raise their wager once they have won a hand.

Blackjack tips

  • A player should not make an insurance wager
  • Check the pay-out percentage before playing
  • Always check what the card is that the dealer has turned face up
  • Start with small bets to decipher if a dealer is having a hot or cold run
  • Learn the basic strategy or always carry the chart
  • Set a budget and stick to it. Great gamblers know when to quit
  • Try out Blackjack in demo mode before playing for real money
  • For online Blackjack read and review the rules sheet carefully

Blackjack cheat sheet to count cards in Blackjack and follow Blackjack casino rules

In Blackjack counting cards refers to a player that keeps track of the deck cards which have been dealt out as the game continues. This is done in order to determine whether the next hand laid out is likely to give the player a probable advantage or the casino.

There are five easy steps to counting cards:

1. Give a value to each deck card to make the sum easier to keep track of

a. Low cards= +1

b. Middle cards= 0

c. High cards= -1

2. As a dealer deals a card a player adds or subtracts the value

3. Keep a running count of the total value during the entire game

a. High running count= advantage player

b. Low running count= advantage casino

4. Calculate the true count for a game if a casino is using multiple decks

a. True count= running count divided by the remaining decks

5. Raise the bet made if the true count is high, and lower the bet made if the true count is low 

According to the Canadian rules of Blackjack, card counting is legal, but certain casinos will still stop players whom they notice doing it.

Basic Blackjack strategy to reduce dealer’s odds in live Blackjack

Live Blackjack is played live and in real-time on an online casino. The difference between normal online Blackjack and live dealer Blackjack is that with the live version players can interact with real experienced dealers, place their own real money bets and raise their own stakes all whilst interacting with the other real people at the table. Whether playing online or live Blackjack on a website the basic Blackjack strategy to reduce the dealer’s odds remains the same and should be correctly implemented throughout the entire game play. In the wise, old words of Kenny Rogers: “You need to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em”. Or at least Stand and Hit.

Captain boy

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