Home Gambling Guides Optimal Blackjack Strategy – Blackjack Chart and Pro Tips
Johanna Gullberg
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Blackjack strategy is vital for anyone who wants to succeed at the casino. This is because blackjack has some of the best odds of winning of any casino game and is one of the most popular casino games available in just about every casino. However, this doesn’t mean you can just join in at a blackjack table and expect to come out on top.

You can only take advantage of the high odds in this popular game if you have the right strategy, which takes time, memorization, and practice. Otherwise, your odds will be just as bad as, if not worse than, other games.

This article will explain the best blackjack strategies you need to know. You’ll learn key terms, common mistakes, and even different variations of blackjack you may encounter in one of the most popular casino games in the world. This knowledge will increase your chances of winning while deepening your love for this enjoyable game.

Best Blackjack Strategies

Blackjack Strategy – Objective, Rules, and Key Terminology

Before mastering any blackjack strategy, you must fully understand the basics. This means knowing blackjack rules, how the house maintains an edge, and all related terms. Getting a handle on these starts with taking them one at a time.

Blackjack Game Objective

The most basic goal in blackjack is to have the value of your cards be more than the value of the dealer’s cards without going over 21. If you do this, you win.

While this may sound simple, it isn’t. You choose how many cards you will receive. However, if you choose to receive a card at any point and your total goes over 21, you lose — no exceptions.

With this in mind, the blackjack table strategy revolves around determining whether you should risk going for another card or stick with what you have. The best blackjack strategy will take what you currently have and what the dealer is showing into account to make this decision. This careful weighing of decisions will make or break your chances of winning that elusive pot.

Basic Blackjack Rules

Each game of blackjack starts the same way. All players receive two visible cards. Meanwhile, the dealer receives one visible card and one that stays face down until the end of the hand. This discrepancy introduces some key considerations of strategy.

On your turn, you can choose to receive another card or stay with what you already have. You can receive as many cards as you want until the value of your cards goes over 21, at which point you automatically lose. Meanwhile, the dealer will keep receiving cards until the value of their cards is 17 or higher.

You win if, at the end of this process, the value of your hand is greater than the value of the dealer’s cards or if the dealer goes over 21. You lose if the value of the dealer’s hand is greater or if you go over 21. These conditions are true regardless of the version you play (more on these variations below).

It is worth noting that, as you go about this process, each card is worth the value printed on it, except for face cards and aces. All jacks, queens, and kings are worth 10. Meanwhile, aces are worth either 1 or 11; the choice is yours and depends on the flexibility of your hand in its potential to reach 21.

The House Edge and How To Minimize It

Your odds of winning a game of blackjack are generally better than your odds of winning most other casino games. They also tend to be more consistent. However, it’s important to remember that winning is never a sure thing, as the house still has an edge.

A big part of this comes from the dealer taking their turn after you have already gone. Even the fact that they instantly win when you go over 21 gives them a slight edge. However, the house also gains an additional mathematical edge when they use more decks, the payout structure is less in your favor, or they take advantage of additional rules.

The best way to minimize house edge is to follow the perfect blackjack strategy. Following along with an ideal strategy will prevent you from making mistakes that give the house a greater edge. In addition, you can try to only play at tables that use rules that work in your favor rather than the house’s.

Defining Blackjack Terms

Now that you know how the game works, let’s discuss additional definitions. Blackjack has its own terminology, and failing to know the right terms will prevent you from fully mastering it. It also helps keep you on the same page when discussing the game with other enthusiasts.

When you take another card in blackjack, you hit. Players at a table will say, “Hit” or “I hit” to ask for another card.

This is often accompanied by a hand gesture. Players will tap the table with one hand to indicate they hit and want another card.

Stand

When you are done taking cards for the hand, you stand. You may hear players say, “I stand,” to indicate that they don’t want another card, or you may hear the dealer say, “The dealer stands at __” to let the table know they aren’t taking more cards.

This is also often accompanied by a hand gesture. Players will swipe their hands from side to side over their cards to indicate they stand and no longer want more cards.

Double Down

To double down means that you are doubling your initial bet but only receiving one additional card. This can only be done at the start of a hand when you have your first two cards but have yet to receive any others.

For example, if you start with a bet of $10 on a hand worth 11, you can double down to change your bet to $20. You’ll then be dealt one more card but no others. So, if you get a 10, you’ll be sitting pretty with 21, but if you get a 2, the odds are against you.

Split

If the first two cards you are dealt have the same value, you can split them. This means doubling your original bet. However, you then get two hands to play, each starting with one of the two cards you were originally dealt. A general recommendation is always to split aces.

For example, imagine you bet $5 and received two 10s at the start of the game. You could bet an additional $5 and split your hand. Now, you have two hands that each begin with one 10.

Insurance

Insurance is a side bet you can place in specific circumstances and follows specific rules. If the dealer starts with a visible ace, you can “buy” insurance for up to half the original bet. Then, if the dealer has blackjack, the insurance bet pays out.

Surrender

At some casinos, you may have the option to surrender. This means that you give up before you see the result of the dealer’s hand. If you do this, you get half of your original bet back.

However, this is not something you will see everywhere. Many casinos or tables don’t allow this as an option.

Soft

A soft hand is a hand with an ace in it, but where the ace could be counted as either a 1 or an 11 without causing the hand to go over 21. So, a hand with an ace and a 5 would be a soft 16, while a hand with an ace and an 8 would be a soft 19. Think of the word soft as representing the flexibility of the hand.

Hard

A hard hand is a hand with an ace, but where the ace has to be counted as a 1. This is because if the ace was counted as an 11, the total of the hand would be over 21. So, a hand with an ace, a 7, and a 10 would be a hard 18.

Blackjack Basic Strategy

The basic strategy in blackjack boils down to knowing when to take certain actions over others. This could mean something as basic as knowing you should always hit if your hand is only 8. It could also be as elaborate as knowing you should double down on a 10 unless the dealer shows a 10 or an ace.

All such decisions are based on statistics. They keep in mind the chance that you will win the current hand with what you have and weigh that against the increased chance of winning you will have if you take another card. This considers all possible cards that could come up next and the chance each number will arise.

For example, if you have a hand worth 11, the ideal strategy is to double down. This is because 10 is the most common card in the deck, and if the next card is a 10, you will have 21. This is how statistics support your decision.

Ultimately, this is what strategic blackjack play is all about. It uses proven mathematics to give you the best chance of winning.

Basic Blackjack Strategy Chart

The blackjack chart below explains all the decisions you should make based on basic strategy.

To use it, take the value of the cards in your hand and the card the dealer is showing. Correlating values are on the top and left sides of this chart. Find the point where the row and column meet to see what you should do next.

For example, if you have 16, you should hit if the dealer shows a 7 but stand if they show a 6. Meanwhile, if you have two aces, you should split no matter what the dealer shows.

To play blackjack perfectly, you should memorize this chart in its entirety. Doing so will let you know what moves to make. Think of it as always having a blackjack cheat sheet in your head.

Blackjack Chart for Blackjack Strategy

Advanced Blackjack Strategies

Understanding basic blackjack strategy will get you pretty far when winning in blackjack. However, some advanced tips are necessary to fully develop the best blackjack betting strategy. With these, you push your chances of success even higher.

Card Counting and Counting Systems

Card counting relies on knowledge of the cards that have already been played to predict what kinds of cards will be coming and is far easier when playing single deck blackjack than with multiple decks because a single deck game leaves you with fewer cards to count.

The most mainstream card counting system is based on a running total you keep in your head. You add one point to this total for every 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 that is dealt; keep the count the same for every 7, 8, or 9; and subtract a point for every 10, jack, queen, king, or ace. Then, you make decisions based on how high the count is.

In this case, you typically bet more when the count is higher. You are statistically more likely to win if the cards left in the deck are larger.

You can also make plays that deviate from the basic strategy when counting cards. For example, if the count is negative, you know there are not many high cards left in the deck. So, you may hit with a 14 against a dealer’s 4, which you wouldn’t normally do.

Other systems to count cards exist as well. These include the KO system, the Omega II system, Zen Count, and more. The main difference between each system is how much each card influences the count.

While on the subject of card counting, it is worth mentioning that it is either not allowed or is heavily frowned upon in most casinos. You may get kicked out or told you can no longer play blackjack if caught counting cards. So, use this advanced strategy at your own risk.

Blackjack Betting Strategy Tips

When betting, consistency is key. When playing regular hands of blackjack, you generally want to place the same bet on each hand.

Many players forgo this rule based on how they feel. They will place a big bet after losing several hands in a row because they think they are due to win one soon, or they will do the opposite in other situations.

However, this isn’t how odds and statistics work; you have the same chance of winning each time you play. It is better to stay consistent.

Bankroll Management

Managing your bankroll in blackjack is another highly personal decision and depends on how you want to play the game.

You can choose to bet large amounts very early. Since the house maintains a slight advantage in every game, this gives you less chance of having your winnings chipped away over many games. However, it also comes with a risk of losing everything very quickly.

Instead, you can choose to make the minimum bet each time. This lets you play for the longest period. However, statistically, the longer you play, the more likely you are to lose money.

Ultimately, how much you bet and how you manage your bankroll are entirely up to you. Larger and smaller bets have their advantages and disadvantages.

The most important rule is that you should never bet money you aren’t comfortable losing, as even the best blackjack betting strategy does not guarantee a win. So, approach the table with a specific amount of money you limit yourself to. If you lose this, walk away for the rest of the day or night.

Blackjack Strategies for Tournaments vs. Standard Table Play

All of the basic strategy tactics discussed above mostly relate to standard table play. Tournaments are different. You’ll still need to keep the basic strategy chart in mind at all times in a tournament, but you will also need to make additional considerations.

First and foremost, tournaments involve playing against other players. Your goal isn’t necessarily to have as many chips as possible but more than your opponents. This may influence how you bet, one of the largest factors determining success in a tournament.

For example, if you are leading in a tournament, you should generally make smaller bets. If you bet big and the other players bet small, you could spoil your lead even if everyone loses. One strategy is to simply match the bets of the person under you so they can never catch up.

Meanwhile, your bets will generally need to be larger if you are behind. In these cases, you may want to make the maximum bet any time you have a chance of winning.

This may result in you losing all your chips. But failing to bet enough will result in you losing anyway, so it at least gives you a chance at a comeback.

Another popular strategy when behind is to make bets that are the opposite of the leader. So, you would make big bets when they make small ones and vice versa. This can be a little risky, but it can also allow for some major swings when you shoot up in chips and they fall behind.

Common Mistakes and How To Avoid Them

Mastering blackjack strategy is about more than learning what to do and when to do it. It also includes avoiding mistakes that will sink an otherwise positive day at the casino.

Common Mistakes in Blackjack

  • Not following the basic blackjack strategy chart: The chart is there because it is the mathematically proven best course of action for blackjack. However, some players divert from it when they feel lucky or have a gut feeling the next card will be good. However, unless you use advanced strategies like card counting, you are always better off following the basic blackjack strategy chart.
  • Placing side bets: Making a side bet or buying insurance can be tempting. However, the odds on these bets generally favor the house to a high degree. Avoiding them entirely will generally result in better play.
  • Picking a bad table: Not all blackjack tables are the same. Tables that use many decks of cards or that give you an unfavorable payout will result in fewer winnings. Avoiding these will give you the best chance at success.
  • Doubling down on losses: Some players like to increase the size of their bets or even double them after a loss. This goes on the assumption that they will win soon afterward and that the increased bet will cover their earlier loss. However, a series of unlucky losses can crush this strategy and leave you with less money than ever.
  • Drinking while playing: Many players prefer to play blackjack with a beer or other alcoholic beverage. Casinos know this and will often encourage this practice. However, drinking while playing makes it harder to remember blackjack strategy and, thus, makes it easier to make mistakes.

How To Avoid Making Mistakes

  • Memorize the blackjack strategy table: The number one way to avoid mistakes is to memorize the blackjack strategy table. The more you know this table, the easier it will be to follow it.
  • Bring a strategy card with you: If you haven’t memorized the table yet, you may be able to bring one with you to help you bet. Some casinos will allow you to keep a basic strategy blackjack card with you while you play. However, remember that not all casinos will do this, and some players will get upset if using the card slows down the game. It’s worth mentioning that when playing blackjack at safe online casinos, no one can check you.
  • Practice: Before going near a high-stakes table, ensure you know what you are doing. Find a table that allows low bets and spend lots of time there. Once you’ve mastered the game, you can work your way up to larger bets.
  • Research the casino: As previously mentioned, avoid blackjack tables with poor odds and payouts. By looking into what the casino offers, you are more likely to find a table with a higher payout that works for you.

Applied Strategies for Different Blackjack Variations

There is more than one type of blackjack out there. Popular variations include European blackjack, Spanish 21, and Blackjack Switch. Blackjack winning tactics may change depending on the variation you are playing.

The rules in European blackjack are mostly the same as regular blackjack rules. However, in European blackjack, the dealer usually stands on a soft 17, there is no hole card, and there may be rules restricting when you can split or double down. Depending on the exact table you play at, this could necessitate changing your blackjack betting strategy to take these changes into account.

Spanish 21 is also, at its core, the same as regular blackjack. However, in Spanish 21, there are no 10s, just face cards, and there are different payouts for different hands. These are very significant changes that dramatically alter the odds of the game.

Blackjack Switch is a variant that also introduces some serious twists. Instead of using one hand of cards, you use two and then have the option of swapping cards from one hand to the other. In addition, many of the payouts are different.

When discussing strategies across these blackjack variations, the approaches are very different. European blackjack will simply require altering the traditional blackjack chart to accommodate the small rule changes. Meanwhile, Spanish 21 and Blackjack Switch are so different that they each require entirely different blackjack charts.

Online Casino Blackjack vs. Blackjack at a Land-Based Casino

Nowadays, online casino blackjack has become increasingly popular. An estimated 129.5 million people will be using online casinos by 2029. So, is it better or worse than playing blackjack at a land-based casino?

First, it is worth noting that online blackjack is far more accessible. You don’t have to worry about a table not having seats or even finding a table. Instead, you can search from one of many options available with just a few clicks. Many online options are available for US players who want to try their luck on blackjack. Check out these pages and pick the feature most important to you:

However, it is also worth noting that online blackjack can be less favorable for a few reasons. The biggest of these is that the cards are shuffled after every hand. This means those unfavorable low-value cards will come back over and over again, and card counting is impossible.

So, the answer to which is better comes down to your preferences. If you prioritize accessibility, online casinos may be for you. If you want to try your hand at card counting, you’ll likely only be able to do so at a land-based casino.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Blackjack online
  • Seats are available at all times.
  • More variations are available.
  • Bets may be more customizable.
  • Card counting is impossible.
  • Play is faster, and you can lose money quicker.
Blackjack at a land-based casino
  • Odds may be better.
  • Card counting is possible.
  • The environment can be better.
  • Availability can vary.
  • Variants may be unavailable.

Practice Tools and Resources

Before heading to a casino, you should look into various tools and resources to improve your blackjack game. Exploring the perfect strategy for blackjack detailed in this article is a great start. However, to truly master the game, you will need more.

You can start with other guides and even books that explore the subject. Professional Blackjack by Stanford Wong digs into the essentials of winning the game while uncovering some helpful blackjack betting tips. Meanwhile, Beat the Dealer by Edward O. Thorp was written by the inventor of card counting.

With enough research, you can also start to practice basic strategy. You can find apps, websites, and games that let you practice blackjack games without spending a dime. These are some of the best resources before you head to the casino.

This is because playing blackjack without betting is the perfect environment to memorize the best blackjack betting strategy. You can keep the blackjack chart right next to you when you start and then remove it once you start to memorize it fully. Play free practice games like this until you can go dozens or even hundreds of hands without making a single mistake.

Conclusion

It is possible to win and win often at blackjack. However, to do so, you must know what you are doing. This starts with understanding everything there is to know about blackjack, continues with memorizing the blackjack strategy chart, and concludes with perfecting your game through practice.

If you do all of this, you will develop an effective blackjack approach and be ready to take on the casinos with the best chance of winning.

FAQs

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Johanna Gullberg

Johanna Gullberg

With over a decade of experience in the online casino industry, Johanna is a seasoned expert and passionate advocate in this field. Her role as Casino Editor at Tech Report is enriched by years of writing specialized iGaming content for several different markets. Johanna is an authoritative source for everything related to online casino gaming, providing insights on where and how to play. Her expertise ensures players have a comprehensive and well-informed gaming experience.