Many gamblers are unsure how to approach blackjack and make the most of the casino game when playing at blackjack sites. We’re here to help you overcome your concerns and become confident playing online blackjack. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced player, the following blackjack strategy guide can help.
From basic information on blackjack strategy to more advanced betting tips and tricks, our guide reveals all. Jump below to see our resources broken into several subtopics to help you understand blackjack betting strategies and how to use them.
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What is Blackjack Strategy?
A blackjack strategy is any gameplay system that helps you gain an edge and win more hands when playing blackjack games. A strategy will consist of rules that tell you the best moves you can make based on your hand and the dealer’s up card (visible card). Blackjack strategies are not a guarantee you will win, but they can enhance your chances and help you maintain your bankroll.
When using a basic blackjack strategy, you have a betting system that uses probability to show you what action to take. Essentially, a blackjack betting strategy shows you when to Hit, Stand, Split, Double Down, or Surrender. At the core of any system is the goal of helping your increase payouts and reduce losses, you can also view the best high roller casinos around:
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Basic Blackjack Strategy
One of the reasons blackjack is so popular in online casinos is because it’s easy to play and has a low house edge. However, a big caveat to the house edge theory is that the house edge only remains low if you play what is known as a “perfect game”.
Unlike most casino games, blackjack involves an element of skill. Or, at least, there is a method that will increase your chances of winning. Given that you have to make choices for each hand, these decisions can affect your overall chances of winning.
For example, you must consider each decision and card combination to make a mathematically beneficial play. It’s only when you make the right play every time that the house edge becomes as low as it’s reported.
A blackjack strategy chart lets you see the correct play to make with every combination of cards you are dealt. It does this by considering the dealer’s up card and highlighting the action that will be most profitable. Yet, charts will go beyond simply saying to hit or stand.
Using a blackjack strategy chart is a straightforward process. You simply find the combination of cards you hold between the soft total, hard total and pairs section and then match that up with the up card for the dealer. The chart will specify the move that you need to make.
A key to the table might look something like this:
- H = Hit
- S = Stand
- D = Double if allowed (otherwise hit)
- Ds = Double if allowed (otherwise stand)
- N = Don’t split the pair
- Y = Split the pair
- Y/N = Split the pair only if “DAS” is available
If you are playing online, you can keep the chart handy as you play. You’ll have time to check off the correct play. If you play live blackjack, some casinos will allow you to keep a chart at the table, and some might ask you to remove it. Either way, it will be massively beneficial for you to memorise the blackjack strategy chart.
We must add that this basic blackjack strategy chart that we have included is just the starting point. Depending on the house rules and the type of blackjack game you’re playing, you will need to alter your blackjack chart accordingly. Yet, these changes will be minimal, making memorising it much easier when playing new games.
Advanced Blackjack Strategy
Composition Sensitive Hands in Blackjack
When most people think of a blackjack strategy, they think of hand charts. These charts are easy to understand, follow and implement, telling you what to do in every scenario. Additionally, many refer to these charts as “total dependent”, meaning the number on display is a representative of the total for the cards you have.
For example, if you have a 6 and 5, you have a total of 11. If you have a 7 and a 4, you also have an 11. For these blackjack strategy charts, how the number comes about is irrelevant.
Compositions-dependent or composition-sensitive takes this to the next level. Instead of looking at hands as total numbers, it also looks at how the numbers are made up. Like the example above, several cards can create the same total in blackjack. One of the reasons players do this is so they have a better idea of what cards are left and how the blackjack odds would then reflect this.
Compositions sensitive hands are easiest to utilise in games with fewer decks of cards (ideally a single deck game). Ultimately, this makes tracking much more straightforward. It also makes factoring in a composition that bit more relevant.
Two main rules apply to this: the “Rule of 45” and the “Doctor Pepper Rule”.
The Rule of 45 is linked to having a hand worth 16, usually made up of a 10 and a 6 or any other card combination totalling 16. If the player is up against a dealer 10, then the chances are they will lose the hand. They need a 4 or a 5 to have any luck here to reach 21 considering dealers usually stand at 17 in these situations. For this, the player needs to see if they have any 4’s or 5’s in their hand.
They can also look at other hands at the table if possible. If many are already out, then the chances of them grabbing the card they need are reduced. Therefore, this would mean that, in this example, it would be better to stand, given that fewer cards you will need to win are available. This is something that a traditional hand chart does not include.
The Doctor Pepper Rule has a similar layout, but instead of targeting value 16 hands, it targets value 12 when the dealer has a 4 facing up. In this situation, the odds for stand and hitting are almost identical, with stand being a marginally better play.
How the hand is made up is another key factor here. It can include 10/2, 9/3, 8/4 and 7/5. A 10 is the only bust card, so when you’ve got one in hand (with 10/2), it’s one less in the pack that can bust you. For this reason, you should hit when you’ve got a 10/2 in the hole against a 4. All other combinations, you should stand.
Blackjack – When to Double Down
Double down is one of the key plays in blackjack. This strategy will give you a chance to maximise your winnings when you have a promising hand. You need to be aware of table rules about doubling down, but most will allow you to use this as and when required.
One of the most common times you will double down is when your cards total 11. This total is the best low combination hand in the game, as many cards can either get you to 21 or get you somewhere near that will pressure the dealer regardless of their hand.
Next, you want to be targeting soft 16, 17 and 18. These hands are generally based on the dealers’ up card. If it is low, you can double down here. Many people look at 16, 17 and 18 as solid hands. Therefore, they are inclined to stand. However, when dealers have low cards in the hole, they are more vulnerable. They will need to take at least one more card, making them susceptible to going bust.
With a soft hand, there aren’t many cards that can hurt our chances. Even a 4 on a soft 18, which would be the worst outcome, you’d still have a 12 against a dealer’s hand that could well go bust.
The final time we want to double down is with a hard 9 or 10 against a low dealer card. This hand has the same merits as the soft hands above. But with this, there are lots of mid-high cards that make ours very strong. Again, the dealer also has a good chance of going broke, so we are always in the game here.
When to Split in Blackjack
There are two scenarios where you want to be splitting every time in blackjack. The first one is when you get dealt two Aces. While this is quite rare in blackjack, you want to split and try to create two big hands when you do. By utilising this blackjack betting strategy and spilling, we get not one but two chances to do this. If we leave them together, then we have 12 or 2. Very few hands help here, so splitting is ultimately the best route.
The second is when we receive two 8’s. For this, we need to take note of the table rules and see what the dealer stands on. If they stand on 16, then the best outcome you have is hoping they bust. If they hit without busting, then at best, you can split. By splitting, you can still make two strong hands starting with your 8’s. Any 10 or 9 card will be considered a big favourite, while with Ace, 2 and 3 still more than enough to take another card.
When to Hit or Stand in Blackjack
The two most common decisions you will have at a blackjack table is whether to hit or stand. Timing is vital, but one of the biggest blackjack strategy tips we can give is to make sure you consider the dealer’s up card. One of the biggest mistakes players make is they get too transfixed on what their cards are and how close to 21 they can get. Yet, in reality, the skill of knowing when to hit or stand is all about what the dealer holds.
There are dozens of blackjack strategy charts that you can use to know when to hit and stand. They enable you to make the best possible decision based not only on your cards, but also the dealer’s card up. By following these charts, you can play the game as optimally as possible. It’s also essential to take into account composition-sensitive hands. Doing so will allow you to take your game to the next level and work on a much more professional basis.
When Should You Surrender in Blackjack?
Surrendering is a blackjack tactic that many people try not to use. However, it’s worth remembering that the casino’s house edge will increase if you don’t surrender at the appropriate time. The tips and tricks in this blackjack betting strategy require timing. Therefore, you need to be able to work out when and where is the best time to surrender.
To surrender is to forfeit half of your stake in your hand if you’ve little chance of winning. There are generally two types of surrender: early and late. Early is less common, as you get to decide before the dealer checks for blackjack. If you get access to the option, take advantage of it. Ideally, you want to be on the lookout for an Ace or a Ten from the dealer.
You should surrender early if you hold a hand that includes a hard 5 to 7, hard 12 to 17, 3s, 6s, 7s and 8s if the dealer has an Ace. You should also surrender early if you have a hard 14 to 16, 7s and 8s if the dealer has a 10. This may seem like a wide range of hands, but by implementing this correctly, you can reduce the house edge by 0.24% up to 0.39%. Given blackjack only has an overall edge of around 1%, this is huge.
Late surrender is much more common, made when the dealer has checked for blackjack. Surrenders for this are generally only made with hands made up of 14, 15 and 16. The number of decks matters here as well. Still, here are several rules to note:
- 14 – single deck surrender to a 10.
- 15 – single or double deck surrender to an Ace.
- 16 – single or double deck surrender to dealer Ace and 10.
When to Take Insurance in Blackjack
But if you're wondering when you should take advantage of this blackjack option, the answer is - never. Don't take insurance!
Why? Well, the numbers are massively in the casino’s favour here. You see, insurance will pay out at 2:1 for a successful bet. But the odds of the dealer making blackjack is 9:4. Ultimately, the house edge on the insurance bet can go between 5.8% and 7.5% which is definitely not in your favour.
Blackjack Side Bets
Speaking of side bets, you have various side bets to choose from with blackjack, but most are pretty rare. Yet, as a general rule of thumb, these should almost always be avoided. For example, some carry a huge house edge, offsetting any low edge from the main game.
One of the most popular bets is that of 21+. In this game, you are looking at hands that create a flush, straight, pair and combinations of each from the players’ two and the dealers’ one card. The house edge for this bet is a massive 8% in games played on four decks. This edge does decrease with the more decks that are in play. You’ll find that this is a common theme with side bets.
If you’re looking to go pro, these are the wagers you should avoid. You would be far better off nailing a blackjack strategy from within the main game than messing around with side bets that may offer you little value in the long run, we compiled casino reviews of the best blackjack sites for you here:
Blackjack Shuffle Tracking
Shuffle tracking is a form of card counting that allows players to work out where certain clumps of cards are in the deck. If done successfully, the player can determine how likely a series of cards in the deck will appear at a particular time.
Yet, this is a complicated blackjack strategy and skill to master and one that only seasoned card counters can pull off. Similarly, this is not a technique you can use online, given that most virtual blackjack games are shuffled electronically after each hand.
The player will need to know what cards have fallen and which are left. The idea is then that the dealer will either poorly shuffle or simply not spend enough time getting them totally random that players can link it with a cluster of cards. Shuffle tracking works on the same points-scoring that card counting does. Low scores indicate a low number of cards are out, and high scores mean a high-value number of cards are out.
Blackjack Dealer Tells
Dealer tells are signs made by dealers followed by players in an attempt to predict the next cards. While tells are usually associated with games like online poker, there are times when playing blackjack live that you can use dealer tells to your advantage. Most of these times are when the dealer must check for blackjack.
Many players may look at the amount of time it takes for the dealer to read their card. It’s often thought that if they hold a face card or high value, the look will be pretty quick as it’s easy to see what card it is.
Yet, looks can take a little longer when it comes to smaller ranked cards. This is especially true for cards like a 4, which can easily look like an Ace at first glance. Similarly, 6s and 9s are cards that dealers must check reasonably well.
However, the reality is that most dealers are taught not to give off tells of any kind. They aim to time each look the same. Dealers are also conscious of their body language signs, ultimately seeking not to give anything away. It takes a keen eye to spot a professional giving off a tell in blackjack.
Blackjack Bankroll Tips
Bankroll management is one of the most important factors with any form of gambling. It’s also one of the most overlooked areas. It’s tough to say that you need X amount or wager X at the table. The reality is that only you know how much you can afford to lose.
The idea of a bankroll is to allow the inevitably losing sessions that will occur with blackjack. Regardless of if you’re a profitable player or not, you will have losing sessions. But that’s perfectly fine because this is precisely why you have a bankroll.
Bankrolls are going to change from person to person. High rollers will likely be able to replenish their bankroll as and when needed. Those on tighter budgets may only have a limited amount they can lose before needing to stop.
Once you’ve decided how much you want to use, we recommend you take no more than 5% of your bankroll to the blackjack table at any one time. Therefore, if you’ve got £1,000, you can sit down with £50. While this may seem incredibly small, the losses can start to add up. Therefore, having a decent cushion is vital and an excellent blackjack strategy to maintain.
However, it’s essential to be flexible with your bankroll. Say you’ve been card counting and get a favourable shoe. Therefore, this will be a good time to invest more and go for a more significant win. On the other hand, if you’re struggling and the shoe is bad, then it might be time to leave for another day.
The best professional blackjack players know when to walk away. Similarly, blackjack pros gamble sums of money that make next to no indentation into their bankroll in the immediate future. If you want to play on a budget, we recommend the following low-stake casinos:
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Best Online Blackjack Odds – How to Beat the House
As previously mentioned in our blackjack strategies guide, blackjack is a game with a small house edge. It’s still an incredibly entertaining game and one of only a few where your actions can influence your chances of success.
It’s important to note that the house edge only remains small if you play a perfect game. Therefore, this means using blackjack strategies like blackjack strategy charts, hand charts, and the information in this article to ensure your game is spot on.
If you fail to make these correct decisions, the house edge will skyrocket. If you wish to play by “feel”, then blackjack can actually be a game with the biggest house edge in an online casino, which is why so many casinos offer the game.
You can certainly beat the house over short periods, and one of the crucial rules is to quit whilst you’re ahead and lock in those winning sessions. Margins will be razor fine, so the longer you play, the closer they will be.
Another great tip is to search for games and variants that have the lowest house edge. Tiny rule changes can have enormous implications for the house edge, and you always want to find the lowest possible in this case.
Blackjack Betting Systems
From a blackjack basic strategy to a more complex system, all blackjack strategies are built around a betting system. No betting system can provide 100% accuracy and guarantee wins, but it will help you make the best decisions when playing. That is why seasoned players like to use a blackjack betting strategy.
While there are many betting systems to choose from, the wonderful thing about an online blackjack strategy is that you can pick the best one that works for you. Below are the most popular blackjack betting systems that work for beginners and experts alike:
- Flat betting: If you want to keep it simple, a flat betting system is a good option. Easy to learn, the system revolves around betting the same amount on each hand. The concept is you can lower your risk and have more control over your bankroll.
- Positive Progression: For a system that allows you to take advantage of your winning streaks, a positive progression system is ideal. Essentially, when you play this system, you increase your bet every time you win a hand.
- Negative Progression: With a negative progression, you must increase the best whenever you lose a hand. Doing so can result in big profits but also increases the risk of losing big to losing streaks. That’s why this betting system is best for experienced players.
- Oscar’s System: With Oscar’s system, you are combining aspects of both negative and positive progressions. In this blackjack strategy, you aim to increase your bankroll by just a single unit after a series of bets. If you lose a hand, make the same bet, and continue to wager until you make one unit of profit. Then start the series over.
- Martingale System: One of the most famous blackjack progressions, the Martingale is a negative betting system. This system says you should double your bet after each losing hand and keep the same wager value after a win.
Easy to Read Blackjack Strategy Chart
Blackjack betting strategies can be complex and require you to remember numerous betting patterns and actions. A blackjack strategy chart accompanies the betting system to allow users to quickly check what they need to do. Players can memorise rules or reference them when needed using a blackjack strategy sheet.
Blackjack strategy charts have a colour-coded grid layout that makes them easy to understand. Gamblers can read them to know when to stand, hit, surrender, double down, or take any other action when playing blackjack. Furthermore, the sheet will also highlight your odds of winning based on the number of card decks.
You can also check the blackjack strategy sheet for your chosen betting system to see the dealer rules and other gameplay elements.
Blackjack Mistakes to Avoid
The reality is that, with blackjack, it’s easier to make mistakes than avoid them. It’s a given that new players will make mistakes. However, it’s essential to understand that mistakes are part of the learning curve, so don’t worry too much about them as long as you don’t continue to make them.
Take a look at the most common blackjack mistakes below and how to avoid and combat these blunders.
- Don’t use a hand chart – To help avoid mistakes, we recommend using a blackjack strategy chart. Too many players fail to do this from the start and, as a result, turn a low house edge game into a massive one. Furthermore, if you’re playing online, then there is no excuse!
- Get as close to 21 as possible – While this is the aim of the game it’s actually more beneficial to play your hand against the dealer. It doesn’t matter if you win with 12 or 21; the payout is the same (aside from blackjack).
- Other players can affect your hand – Studies have shown that other players’ decisions at the table do not affect how your hand plays out. The cards are random, so there is no way to anticipate what is coming next.
- Play games with high house edge – There is no excuse for choosing the wrong blackjack game, and the house edge is about as sinister as it comes.
- Apply betting systems – Blackjack strategies like the Martingale betting system is a fast way to lose a lot of money. These blackjack “perfect” strategies are actually nothing of the sort, as they cannot guarantee wins.
So, read our complete guide on the top blackjack betting strategies for more information on how to build your best betting strategy and test it on one of our recommended live dealer casinos:
Blackjack And Card Counting – What’s the Deal?
Card counting is not a blackjack strategy but rather a technique that gives players a deeper understanding of when they have an advantage. Built on a mathematical model, card counting involves literally counting the high and low value of cards during a game. Overall, the aim is to fight back against the casino house edge by understanding which cards the dealer has not yet dealt.
With card counting skills, it is possible to win blackjack games without relying on pure luck. Players can tweak their bets on the knowledge of an advantage in gameplay. If there is an advantage, increase a stake. When there is no advantage, reduce the wager.
While this sounds amazing, card counting requires massive amounts of practice and skills. It is also worth noting that counting cards against virtual blackjack online games is impossible. These games use random number generator (RNG) technology to ensure all outcomes are decided by random chance.
How do I play Blackjack online?
- You can play blackjack online by heading to one of our recommended online casino sites. All the operators we review are licensed and have a great selection of blackjack games where you can test blackjack strategies for free or for real money.
When should I hit or stand in blackjack?
- When to hit or stand in a blackjack game depends on the cards you hold in your hand and the upward the dealer has. Using a blackjack strategy lets you understand when to hit, stand, or take other actions when playing online blackjack.
Can you count cards in online blackjack?
- Yes and no. Counting cards in online blackjack is impossible if you play a virtual table game. Online casinos use RNG technology to ensure games are random, and there is no way to count decks. Live casino blackjack games use real dealers, cards, and desks. Counting is more realistic in these games but still tricky.
Are casino blackjack welcome bonuses worth it?
- Absolutely. At our recommended blackjack casinos, you will find a range of generous bonuses, including no deposit promotions, deposit match bonuses, cashback offers, and much more. Make sure you read the T&Cs of your casino bonus, as many come with wagering requirements, payment restrictions, and more.
Can you withdraw a blackjack welcome bonus?
- Occasionally, but more often, no. Online casinos often keep players locked into a wagering commitment before they can cash out bonus winnings. This is known as the wagering requirement, the number of times you must wager the bonus amount before cashing out. However, some bonuses do allow withdrawals of bonuses.
What are the disadvantages of blackjack welcome bonuses?
- While welcome bonuses are worth trying to claim, they come with downsides too. The wagering requirement is one well known disadvantage. It refers to the amount you must wager through after claiming a bonus, before you are allowed to withdraw your funds. Other disadvantages include withdrawal limits, game eligibility restrictions, and payment limitations.