Blackjack Basic Strategy

Unlike Online Baccarat and other non-interactive games, you have quite a few options when playing a game of Online Blackjack. Naturally, this makes Blackjack Strategy all the more vital. On this page, you will find a lot of varied Blackjack Strategy tips and tricks that you will find handy on the road to becoming a Blackjack Champion.

What do you need to know about Blackjack Strategy?

  • Always check what kind of parameters your online casino of choice has applied before you start playing;
  • When using the right basic strategy, blackjack odds on a multiple-deck game can come down to about a 0.45 per cent edge in the casino’s favor;
  • Blackjack is a game of patience, overconfidence never pays in the long run.

House Edge in Blackjack

Due to the favourable rules in blackjack, especially the fact that the dealer must hit on certain hands and is therefore more prone to busting, many people wonder how casinos can consistently turn a profit at the game. Also, increasingly more and more players are aware of the odds of winning blackjack and, in turn, cashing in like never before! The "house advantage" - also known as the house edge - comes from the fact that the dealer's hand is played after all the players have taken their turn. Those players who bust lose immediately. After this happens, the dealer plays her hand and if she busts, the players that didn't bust get paid. The casino earns its profit from the fact that players who bust lose their bets immediately, even if the dealer goes on to bust as well. Regardless of how favourable blackjack's rules are in a particular casino, or how much the odds are in your favour, this one minor detail always grants the house an edge. Keep in mind this edge is significantly lower than in most other casino games, and for this reason, blackjack continues to be one of the most popular land-based and online casino games.

Lowering the Blackjack House Advantage

Blackjack has a long history of being one of the world’s most popular casino games, and shows no sign of abating in the future. While the simplicity of the game lends something to its universal popularity, the main reason for the magnetic appeal of blackjack through the ages is its extremely low blackjack house advantage. In a world of casino games with shockingly high house edges, blackjack is a game in which players who employ even the most nominal blackjack strategy can remove a great deal of the house edge.

Before you set your sights on becoming a blackjack high roller, you need to know a few basic facts about the standard blackjack house advantage in most casinos. Of course, it all depends on how you play, but we will go into that a bit later. If you were to simply sit down at a blackjack table and play mindlessly, the blackjack house advantage would be a little over 5%. Obviously, this is significantly higher than you would like it to be (although comparable to roulette). The good news is that you can easily decrease the blackjack house advantage by adhering to a few simple strategies and choosing a casino with beneficial blackjack rules.

The big things that you are going to want to know before you start to play blackjack are how many decks are in use and whether the dealer stands on a soft 17. Most online and brick and mortar casinos will use a standard six decks. But remember, most does not mean all and you may be able to find a single or double deck game among the free online casinos out there if you look around for a while. As a basic rule the lower the number of decks in use, the lower the blackjack house advantage. It will also be easier for you to count cards if there are fewer decks in use at one time. You also need to review the house rules about soft and hard 17s before you sit down at a table. (Quick reminder about the blackjack rules- a soft 17 is made up of an Ace and a 6.) Don’t sit down at any blackjack table if you learn that the dealer is required to hit on a soft 17. With this single rule a casino can up their blackjack house advantage by 0.3%. Every little bit counts when it comes to blackjack.

The last, and most controversial, way to lower the blackjack house advantage is to count cards. Blackjack counting systems rely on numerical values assigned to each card that the player tracks in his head. This tactic has been proven to work under laboratory conditions, but very few people have the on the spot math skills to really put it into practice. Most people memorize some basic rules like when to split, hit, or stand and do just fine. The numbers really show a difference between pure luck play and even basic strategy. Remember that the automatic blackjack house advantage is a little over 5% if you play solely based on luck. If you can manage to play with good strategy most of the time (even making a few mistakes) you can get that house edge down to 1-2%. You won’t find a game with better odds anywhere on the casino floor. Blackjack is truly the only game wherein a little bit of practice and prudence can really pay out.

Blackjack Probabilities

Blackjack probabilities are not nearly as complicated as you might think. In fact, you can substantially improve your odds when playing blackjack by simply developing a thorough understanding of the game. Unlike most other casino games, blackjack is a game of skill and, as such, can be played to a certain level of expertise. But only once you familiarize yourself with blackjack's mathematical underpinnings can you ever hope to play well enough to beat the house. In other words, knowing a little math can help you win, and relying on dumb luck is...well, dumb! Below you'll find every speck of info. you'll need to understand and capitalize on the different blackjack odds and probabilities. By remembering as much as you can from this page you'll be better prepared when you size up your chances of beating the house. This will hold true for every hand of blackjack you play, whether it be online or in a traditional, land-based casino. The table below is a general outline of your chances of busting (exceeding 21) when you hit. As simple as it may appear, you'll be amazed at how you'll be playing (and winning) like a pro in no time!

Blackjack Probabilities of Busting

Hand Value % of busting

  • Hand value of 21 - 100%
  • Hand value of 20 - 92%
  • Hand value of 19 - 85%
  • Hand value of 18 - 77%
  • Hand value of 17 - 69%
  • Hand value of 16 - 62%
  • Hand value of 15 - 58%
  • Hand value of 14 - 56%
  • Hand value of 13 - 39%
  • Hand value of 12 - 31%
  • Hand value of 11 or less - 0%

Blackjack Soft and Hard Hands

Veteran blackjack players know that some blackjack hands are easy to play. They understand the blackjack strategy behind staying on a high hand (18 or higher) and hitting a weak hand (10 or lower). Here we will be defining what each hand is and how to use them. A "soft hand" is any hand that includes an ace where the other cards total less than eleven. Since the ace counts as either one or eleven, any hand where the ace could count as eleven is a "soft hand". For instance, a "soft 17" hand could be a hand of ace-six (ace = 11, 11+6=17). A "hard hand" can be a hand that does not include an ace. For example, a "hard 17" could be a hand of ten-seven (10+7=17). A "hard hand" can also contain an ace if the other cards in the hand total eleven or more. An example of a "hard 17" with an ace could be ace-eight-eight (ace=1, 1+8+8 = 17).

Blackjack Soft and Hard Hands: House Hits on Soft 17

Players may need to implement different blackjack strategy techniques based on the house rules. In most casinos, the dealer must "hit" (take a card) when he has a "soft 17". This rule increases the house edge on blackjack, which is why so many casinos feature this rule. The rule allows the dealer to improve his "soft 17" into a better hand rather than stay with a weak hand and allow players increased odds of winning.

Blackjack Soft and Hard Hands: House Stands on Soft 17

A key piece of blackjack advice to remember is that players have a slight edge on games where the dealer must stand on both "hard 17" and "soft 17". In a normal game, soft hands in blackjack are just that: soft and prone to losing better blackjack hands. If the dealer has to give up on the chance to improve his hand, the player should take advantage whenever possible. Although the dealer is restricted in how he can play certain blackjack hands, the player has no such restraint.

Blackjack Soft and Hard Hands: Basic Blackjack Strategy

No set of blackjack tips would be complete without mentioning the idea of "basic blackjack strategy". Several of the best books that offer top-notch blackjack advice often feature charts and graphs depicting how to play soft hands in blackjack. One of the most basic blackjack tips that players can remember is to stand with a soft 19 or soft 20 and hit a soft 17 or lower. A player may choose to "double down" on soft hands in blackjack if the dealer's upcard is six or lower.

Blackjack Soft and Hard Hands: Counting Cards

Many new players to the game have read books on "counting cards" or have seen the film "21", which featured the infamous MIT Blackjack Team. The methods behind card-counting can also change the way a player employs his blackjack strategy techniques when playing a "soft 17" hand. If the deck has a "high count" (most of the tens, face cards and aces are still in the deck), then the counter can hit his "soft 17" with strong odds of improving his hand to a "hard 17". If the deck has a "low count" (most of the tens, face cards and aces have already been dealt), the player still can't bust with one card, but may not improve his hand enough to beat the dealer.

Blackjack Soft and Hard Hands: Stiff Hands

Some of the toughest blackjack hands to play are called "stiff hands". Stiff hands are those hands with values between twelve and sixteen. The best blackjack tips our guide can offer on stiff hands is, whenever available, surrender the hand. Stiff hands are those "in between" hands that often lead rookie players to make poor decisions. Basic blackjack strategy charts recommend that, if the dealer's upcard is six or lower, the player should stand and wait for the dealer to bust. If the dealer's upcard is seven or higher, the player should hit and try to improve his hand.

Blackjack Soft and Hard Hands: Split Aces

The ultimate "soft hand" is a pair of aces. While aces are the best starting hand in Texas Holdem poker, a pair of aces can sometimes be a problem in blackjack. The only thing to remember about a pair of aces is to split them -- always, forever, without exception - for two reasons.

Reason 1: Since casinos typically only allow one additional card on each split ace, each new hand cannot lead to a busted hand.
Reason 2: In a "high count" deck, the odds of getting a ten-value card to go with the ace are better than normal, thus leading to more blackjacks.

Surrendering and Insurance in Blackjack Strategy

If the dealer shows you an ace, you will be given the opportunity to take insurance. This means that you will have the chance to post a side bet which is half the size of the original bet and if the dealer has blackjack, the side bet is paid 2:1. While surrendering and insurance can come across as tantalizing options, the truth is that experts in Blackjack Strategy always recommend that you use neither of these options because they raise the casino's edge and almost never work out in the player's favor.

Blackjack Strategy FAQs

Should I give the dealer the chance to bust?

If the dealer has a 4, 5 or a 6 showing, don't hit unless you have a "soft" hand.

Should I always split aces?

A stand-alone ace is a card that everyone wants but if you have two, you only have a 12. Always split them and give yourself the opportunity to achieve two 21s.

When's the best time to stand?

You should always, always stand if you're holding a hard 17 or more as your chances of busting if you take another card are way too high.

At which point in the game should I take insurance?

If it's offered to you, never take insurance when you're playing blackjack.

Play for real money using Blackjack Strategy Basic and win BIG!

While many will argue that player success in casino is always down to chance, when it comes to Blackjack, you really can turn the odds in your favor. If you want to know more about Blackjack in its entirety, visit our Online Blackjack page and after that, take a look at our Blackjack Card Counting page to see how you some of the world's best Blackjack players made their fortunes. The sky truly is the limit!