Blackjack Strategy Guide – Basic & Advanced
Blackjack is a relatively simple casino game perfect for gamblers who want to profit and strategize. In fact, anyone who wants to make a profit will need to learn how to play and win at blackjack, which involves learning and using certain blackjack strategies, including basic strategy and more advanced ones.
When playing blackjack for real money, it’s important to first learn about basic strategy. Without a basic strategy, it’ll be practically impossible to win consistently to make a profit.
What is Blackjack’s Basic Strategy?
Basic strategy is the foundation of all effective blackjack strategies. It is essentially the first step to learning more advanced strategies since it tells people when to do the following actions:
Mastering basic strategy means knowing perfectly when to do any of these actions perfectly. Once a player masters basic strategy, they can finally learn when to deviate from basic strategy to make more advantageous plays.
Learning basic strategy first requires the player to learn the card values in blackjack, which is easy enough since they only need to remember three things.
Blackjack Basic Strategy Chart
Learning basic strategies can be difficult because of the many different situations and actions to memorize. Having a chart can make things easier since players only need to memorize the chart instead of listed-down rules.
Hard Hands Chart
|Dealer Up card|
Soft Hands Chart
|Dealer Up card|
|Ace, 5, 4||H||H||D/H||D/H||D/H||H||H||H||H||H|
|Ace, 3, 2||H||H||H||D/H||D/H||H||H||H||H||H|
Splitting Pairs Chart
|Dealer Up card|
|Ace & Ace||S||S||S||S||S||S||S||S||S||S|
|10 & 10||Don’t||Don’t||Don’t||Don’t||Don’t||Don’t||Don’t||Don’t||Don’t||Don’t|
|9 & 9||S||S||S||S||S||Don’t||S||S||Don’t||Don’t|
|8 & 8||S||S||S||S||S||S||S||S||S||S|
|7 & 7||S||S||S||S||S||S||Don’t||Don’t||Don’t||Don’t|
|6 & 6||Split if|
|5 & 5||Don’t||Don’t||Don’t||Don’t||Don’t||Don’t||Don’t||Don’t||Don’t||Don’t|
|4 & 4||Don’t||Don’t||Don’t||Split if|
|3 & 3|
2 & 2
Mastering Blackjack Moves
After learning the cards’ values, it’s important to learn when to take certain actions. Memorizing the chart above is advisable, but they can also try remembering the following and practicing by playing blackjack online for free:
When to Hit
Players should always hit during the following situations:
Basically, hitting on Hard 11 or lower is never a bad idea.
When to Stand
Players should always stand during the following situations:
Basically, always standing when the player’s hand is a Hard 17, Soft 19, or Soft 20 should be the default move.
When to Double Down
Not all blackjack games allow players to double down. If players can double down, they should do so during the following situations:
Basically, players should double down when the player’s hand can get blackjack after an extra card is drawn. Doubling down at another time is largely situational.
When to Split
Not all blackjack games allow players to split. If players can split, they should do so during the following situations:
Basically, players should always split Aces and 8s.
When to Surrender
Surrendering is the option for the player to give up their hand to forfeit half of their bet. This occurs after the dealer checks if they have blackjack and is offered to players to limit their losses if the dealer has blackjack. Alternatively, players can sometimes opt for early surrender which allows players to give up their hand even before the dealer checks for blackjack, allowing the player to keep the house edge down.
The basic strategy says that players must surrender when the dealer has a 9, 10, or Ace when the player has a 16 and to surrender when the dealer has 10 and the player has 15.
|Dealer Up card|
Not all blackjack games allow players to surrender. If players can surrender, they should do so during the following situations:
Basically, players should always surrender when the dealer’s hand can result in 20 or 21 and the player has 16.
When to Take Insurance
When to take insurance? Never. Taking insurance is always a bad idea since players will need to bet half their initial stake just to get even money.
Card Counting in Blackjack
After learning all about basic strategy, learning how to count cards in blackjack is the next step to making perfect plays. Card counting is an advanced strategy based on adjusting bets according to the true count. To get the true count, players will need to assign a positive, negative, and zero value to certain cards and count accordingly to get the running count then divide it by the number of decks in play.
When counting cards, it’s important to remember that low cards increase the count while high cards reduce it. The higher the count, the higher the chances of getting dealt a high card and even getting a blackjack.
Card counting is only effective when playing live blackjack.
Blackjack Betting Systems
After learning and mastering basic strategy, blackjack players can then test it out alongside advanced strategies like certain betting systems. Such systems work as betting plans to either increase winnings or limit losses by taking into account the outcome of the previous wager.
Using betting systems alongside basic strategy makes sense as it can either help players progress through a system’s sequence or to keep on betting the initial stake, depending on the system’s rules. These can help the player beat the dealer.
In the Martingale system, players always double their bets after losing and go back to their initial stake the moment they win. This allows them to recover their losses and make a small profit when they have a small winning streak.
In the d’Alembert system, players raise their bets by 1 unit every time they lose. If 1 unit is $5, players must increase their initial 1 unit bet by one more unit or $5 to bet $10 when they lose a bet. Every time players win their bets, they reduce their bets by 1 unit.
Based on the sequence above, players will increase betting by 1 unit every time they lose. If they don’t lose and keep on winning, they stay at their original bet. They decrease 1 unit after winning when they just suffered a loss.
In the Fibonacci system, players follow the Fibonacci sequence which goes like this:
1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55…
The sequence progresses from the sum of the previous two numbers. Because the sequence starts with two 1s, their sum becomes the next number in the sequence so they’ll bet 2 units after losing twice. After losing thrice, they bet three units. Every time the player wins, they move two numbers down the sequence.
When a player is already betting 13, they go to 21 the moment they lose. If they win while betting 13, their next bet is 5.
1-3-2-6 Betting Strategy
In the 1-3-2-6 system, players bet 1, 3, 2, and 6 units consecutively. If the player wins a bet, they progress through the sequence. If the player loses a bet, they either stay at 1 or go back to 1 when they’ve already progressed through the sequence during the previous bet.
212 Manhattan Betting System
In the 212 Manhattan system, players follow the steps below:
Through this sequence, a blackjack player’s losses are capped since the player immediately quits after losing.
In Parlay, the player bets both the winnings and the initial stake of their first bet. This allows the player to create a pyramid of winnings. The moment they lose, they go back to their initial bet.
In the Oscar’s Grind system, players will press their bets when winning without escalating the bets as much as Martingale. The Oscar’s Grind systems work according to the following rules:
Single Deck Blackjack Strategy
The fewer the decks in play in a blackjack game, the better the odds of a player winning real money. This is because there are fewer aces and 10-value cards than when there are multiple decks at play. A one-deck blackjack game will only have four Aces out of 52 cards so the probability of getting an Ace is 1/13. Apart from the better chances of getting an Ace, there are more advantages to playing a one-deck blackjack game.
It’s possible to deviate from standard basic strategy to adjust to this particular game and strategy, but mastery of basic strategy first is necessary to know how to adjust.
4, 6, and 8 Deck Blackjack Strategy
The more decks there are in play in a blackjack game, the worse the odds of a player winning real money. The house edge increases as more decks are in play, but not by much to keep blackjack players from winning. An 8-deck game will have more low-value cards and will run flatter, effectively discouraging card counters from playing since the game will run flatter.
The house edge stagnates after more than four decks are added to the shoe and the player’s advantage flattens. Games with 6-8 decks and where the dealer stands of Soft 17 and allows doubling after splitting (DAS) are the best games for players apart from single-deck games. This is because the player has more chances of winning and making a profit all thanks to the rules variations and the fact that the house edge stagnates.
Basic strategy is only the first step and it’s still important to learn about blackjack odds and the house edge and how to affect them to the player’s advantage. Players have multiple ways to get an edge in blackjack and learning about the odds of different blackjack games, and actions can help them formulate their own do’s and don’ts of playing blackjack while keeping basic strategy in mind.
Learn how to improve your odds of winning and reduce the house edge through our blackjack odds guide.
Top Blackjack Strategy Tips
Learning about strategies can be difficult at times, especially since there are a lot of them out there applicable to different situations. Having easily digestible tips to keep in mind can help players remember things easier and never forget some of the most basic tips.
Use a Strategy Chart
The easiest way to remember basic strategy and even more advanced charts deviating from basic strategy is through strategy charts. It’s far easier to remember patterns in a chart than in a collection of words and instructions.
When playing live blackjack in an online casino, players can reference a strategy chart to help them make the right decisions without any fear of other players or the dealer judging them.
Never take insurance
Taking insurance is never a good idea. It’s better to take the loss than try and win it back later.
Split Aces and 8s every time
The basic strategy says to always split Aces. This is because the player can have higher chances of getting blackjack than when hitting. Splitting 8s is useful to get out of a tight spot and potentially have two 18s instead of getting stuck at 16.
Stand on Hard 17 or more
A Hard 17 or higher is easily one of the strongest hands anyone can get in blackjack and hitting or splitting will only either risk busting or producing two weak hands. Even doubling down to try and get an Ace, 2, or 3 when the player’s hand is a Hard 17 is risky because of the risk of busting.
Standing on Hard 17 is the safest move when you already have a strong hand.
Blackjack Strategy FAQs
Mastering basic strategy is key to being able to use other strategies to win in blackjack because it tells players what moves to make. Once players master basic strategy, they will then know the correct moves to make in certain situations, thereby increasing their chances of winning while using other strategies and betting systems. Without a basic strategy, a player will be clueless and the house edge will only increase.
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