A Blackjack Strategy Guide: Tips for Online Casino Players
Blackjack is a super popular game which also happens to be home to some of the biggest myths about gambling and winning, inevitably leading to people using various tactics to try and up their chances of landing that huge win. Of course, you’re free to try as many of these strategic techniques as you want, but let’s be realistic: there’s no silver bullet that will magically help you eliminate the house edge and one-up the casino in just a couple of swift moves. But what there is, however, are various ways to lower the house edge and get a slight advantage through a series of strategic decisions. Playing smart will not only improve your understanding of the game but also give you a chance to minimise your losses and therefore get a somewhat higher win over time. Keen to learn more? This blackjack strategy guide will give you a rundown of the basic and more advanced strategies – so stay strapped in if you want to know how to get started!
Using Blackjack Strategy: Basic Principles
Blackjack isn’t all fun and games – there’s some serious thinking to be done if you want to master a strategic approach to this game. Don’t worry though: as daunting as it sounds, in the end, all blackjack strategy comes down to is basic arithmetic and probability. There are many tools to help you learn. Strategy charts are a very common reference point for players. These combine the possible hands of the player and the dealer and give you the best follow-up moves depending on each combination.
Blackjack Strategy Chart
- = Hit
- = Stand
- = Double
Of course, playing at a land-based casino, you’ll have to work on memorising a chart. This is made easy with colour coding, with each hue representing a move like hit, stand, double or split. On the other hand, playing at one of our top recommended online casinos will give you the chance to use a chart as you play!
Scouting the Best Blackjack Tables
Before you hunker down and start learning some blackjack tactics, there are a few things to scope out. Namely, the place where you’ll play. Blackjack tables online are ten a penny, so you’ve got to be prudent about where to settle down and play. Our reviews of the best online casinos in the UK are a great starting point for that, so we’d recommend you check out some of the online casinos in this top list. Alternatively, our guide to the best blackjack casinos can serve as a more pointed resource tailored specifically for blackjack players.
When looking for the right table(s) to play at, always keep an eye on the details. For instance, table limits are important to consider as these can vary wildly. While some tables start at just £0.25, others may be more geared towards high stakes gambling with table minimums that start at £50 or more. Another factor to consider is the number of decks in play. Typically, you’re looking at 5 or 6 decks, but there are also single or double deck games both online and offline (though online, the former is more common). This may seem like a small difference, but the number of cards in play does have a massive effect on probability.
The number of players also matters for similar reasons. Simply put, dealing out one, two or three hands will impact not only how many cards there are left in the shoe, but also what that implies for your chances. That’s why many blackjack strategy experts advocate sitting at a crowded table only if you’ve got a good deal of experience to back you up. Lastly, shuffling also matters. Most dealers will shuffle by hand and place the deck(s) in the shoe, while some tables employ a continuous shuffling machine. This contraption mixes up cards constantly, virtually eliminating your chance to know what’s left in the deck and make it harder for you if you try to count cards.
What is the Best Blackjack Strategy to Use?
It’s hard to pin one particular chart down as the overall best blackjack strategy. This is mainly due to the fact that there are several game variations, with each game’s slight difference in rules rendering an adjusted strategy chart. For instance, Blackjack Pontoon players follow a subtly different chart than those playing Double Exposure. Nevertheless, there are some basic blackjack strategy guidelines and tactics that can be applied to all variations of this game. We’ll tackle these in the following section.
Blackjack Tactics for Beginners
Whether you play Blackjack Surrender or Single Deck Blackjack, there are some common threads that allow you to make smart decisions and, hopefully, reach a rewarding outcome. These may seem incredibly obvious – but you’d be surprised at how many people approach the table without any knowledge of the basics and hit, split or double up willy-nilly! So, all things considered, it never hurts to review the basic blackjack tactics, if not for anything else then at least to have you avoid looking like a total noob at the casino.
- Basic Blackjack Principles
- Check the dealer’s upcard – This will help you gauge how likely the dealer is to win or lose a round.
- Stand on 17 and up – It’d be extremely unwise to hit with such a high count – you’ll most likely go bust!
- Split Aces and 8s: These are the best pairs to split – you’re nearly halfway to a win, twice!
- Double with 11 points – This is an advantageous position, so use it!
- Don’t take insurance: It’s mostly a rip-off, so swerve it.
That’s fairly easy, isn’t it? Of course, there are additional guidelines and recommendations – for instance, never split pairs of 10s or double when you’ve got a soft 19 and the dealer has a 6. For those keen to practice, you can check out our casino games demo player with a handful of blackjack favourites!
Test Your Basic Blackjack Strategy
To help you practice what we’ve just preached, here’s a quick exercise in blackjack basics where you can test out the principles we’ve just gone over. Take a look at the hand on the left and decide what to do next and see if you’ve mastered the basics. Option A – Hit. Option B – Stand. Option C – Double Down. Click the expandable text to find out, whether you succeeded or not.
HOW DID YOU DO? If you chose option C, then you’ve mastered this little example, well done! The dealer will stand on 17 they turn a 10, so doubling down for a 7 or higher is a nice move. But there’s still more things to learn. Stay put and get the scoop on some principles of the more advanced blackjack strategies.
How did you do? If you’ve mastered this little example, well done! But there’s still more things to learn. Stay put and get the scoop on some principles of the more advanced blackjack strategies.
Advanced Blackjack Strategy
If you’re feeling confident in your basic strategy for blackjack, time may be ripe for moving onto some more advanced methods. We’d be lying if we said that these will usher in an era of endless wins. However, that’s not quite how this card game works (and, frankly, if it were so, it would take all the fun out of the experience, wouldn’t it?). So, mastering an advanced strategy simply means playing in a way which minimizes your losses over time – and, consequently, ups your wins. Apart from observing the basic tactics explained above and making good use of strategy tables, here are some general steps or levels of advancement you can undertake in order to join the ranks of blackjack heavyweights.
As you can see, these are long-term strategical approaches instead of direct shortcuts to astronomically high wins. Frankly, this is what it boils down to in blackjack – playing smart and thinking strategically will, in the long run, prove rewarding. All you need to do is stay alert, don’t get swept up in the thrill of the game, and think before you act.
Basic Blackjack Strategy for Side Bets
There are several options for side bets among the existing blackjack variants out there, and they are offered both at offline and online tables. Since availability is not an issue, the only thing to address is when a side bet is worth going for. Apart from insurance, which is best left untouched, various side bets offer players the chance to wager on various scenarios, out of which some can actually be very rewarding if played right (otherwise the RTP can be quite low). With that in mind, many pro players choose to stay away from side bets and focus on good basic play. This is something to consider as we browse the options. Here are some of the more common side options to consider.
As the name suggests, Perfect Pairs is a wager placed on the player’s expectation to get a number pair in his hand. Your wager should be equal to the original one, and the initial wager and the side bet are treated separately, meaning you can lose one but win the other, and vice versa. You get different payouts based on what colour and suit the cards are. For instance, a 5:1 payout is in store for mixed colour and suits, while same colour but mixed suits gets 10:1 and the same suit, same colour combo gets you 30:1. While there’s nothing wrong with using this side bet every so often, there’s little benefit in doing so long term – the side bet has an extraordinarily large 6% house edge (which is crazy high compared to most blackjack house edge averages).
Another attractive side bet is the Royal 20’s, which pays a player out based on whether he or she has a total of 20 in the initial hand (if the player opts for this, of course). It pays up to 25:1 for two cards of the same suit, while same suit but non-face cards get 10:1 and unsuited get 5:1.
21 + 3
Though there are various versions of this side bet, especially in land-based casinos, in principle, the 21+3 bet is based on the player’s hand and the dealer’s up-card. If you opt for this side bet, most commonly you’ll get a payout of 9:1 when the three cards form a straight flush (three cards of the same suit in a sequence), three of a kind, straight, flush or pair and flush.
Another side bet you might come across, the Bust Bonus, is perhaps also the only side bet that allows the players to take it after they have played their hand. You can bet before the dealer plays her or his hand – even if you have already busted you own! You might have already guessed it from the name – the Bust Bonus is a wager you can place on the dealer busting when she or he reveals the hole card. Observe the dealer’s upcard and you’re halfway there, but win the bonus, and you can have up to a 50:1, depending on the combination of cards in the dealer’s hand.
How to Decrease the House Edge
Knowing the basics and the side bet options have hopefully given you a good overview of the game. Though we should note that, with blackjack being an ever-evolving game, it is still possible to spot other fringe side bets depending on the casino you play at. That being said, there’s some tips and guidelines which will help you make use of the rules and your own strategic thinking in order to minimise the house edge if you play well. The foundation of this should be a basic strategy for blackjack, for instance, the total-dependent or composition-dependent one. The former observes the total of the player’s hand but not the composition and considers whether the hand is soft or hard and whether actions like splitting, doubling or surrendering are possible. There are total dependent strategy charts for games with one deck, two decks or four or more decks, as here the total number of cards also plays a role.
Alternatively, the composition dependent approach considers the make-up of the hand in relation to the rest of the cards in the deck. However, this strategy works best in single deck games. For instance, a hard 16 hand can consist of a 10 or a 6, or even a 7, a 5 and a 4 – so the two compositions are wildly different. Whereas a T-D strategy chart would tell you to hit on both, the C-D strategy proposed standing with a three-card 16 and hitting on the other one.
Another thing to observe is whether the dealer hits or stands on a soft 17 (an Ace and a 6). This detail plays a huge role because it might influence the rate at which the dealer busts, which, of course, gives you an advantage. Pay close attention to the blackjack variant or even table – this rule should be clearly designated each time. Re-splitting is another touchy item on the table: some games allow you to split a second time, with some casinos even allowing unlimited splitting. Keep your eyes peeled for the chance to re-split Aces: if allowed, playing this strategy could further reduce the house edge by 0.08%.
Bogus Blackjack Strategies
As much as you might want a foolproof method to beat the house, we’re sorry to say many approaches that call themselves ‘strategies’ are actually absolute biscuits. Whereas some roulette players stay true to the Martingale system, for instance, we’re talking about a different game here and, as it turns out, with blackjack, you’re best off sticking to the good old strategy charts. Let’s take a look at some of the less-advisable methods.
A simple approach like Martingale is based on doubling your wager after each loss, meaning that a win will recover your lost wagers and give you a profit of one unit. This sounds fair and square and also quite attractive, but this strategy spells out trouble for blackjack players. Options like splitting or doubling down complicate the matter, so, to actually employ this strategy you’d need a sizable bankroll. Plus, you’re likely looking at more losses than wins considering that there’s roughly a 52% chance of losing a hand. Considering this detail combined with the fact that maximum table limits are a thing in real life, you’re likely to hit a wall with doubling your bets before you recover your losses.
Inspired by the principle of the Fibonacci sequence, the betting pattern of the same name involves making a wager which is always the sum of its two predecessors. That means that, starting from two wagers of one unit each, the third one will be the sum of the first two, the fourth one the sum of wager two and three, and so on. This repeats until you win, which is when you go back and start from one. However, this method again ignores the element of doubling up, splitting, re-splitting, etc, so you’d need a really hefty bankroll to pull through with the Fibonacci method. As intriguing as it sounds, perhaps it’s better to stick to this approach when trying to replicate renaissance paintings.
This strategy is somewhat similar to the Martingale approach – but slightly tweaked. While you increase your bet by one unit after a loss, you also decrease your bet by one unit after a win. And even though this system was presumably invented with card games in mind, it’s still hard to apply the D’Alembert system to blackjack due to the quite common streaks of losing hands, as we’ve mentioned before.
Practice Makes Perfect
Put your knowledge to the test and hit up the play table to see how far this blackjack strategy guide has got you! Don’t want to risk losing any money while you learn? No worries – there are plenty of practice play game versions and demos where you can try out a hand of 50 (or 500 for that matter) and apply a strategy chart in combination with other tactics described above. Alternatively, you can opt for a casino with a no-deposit bonus or a free play reward to still have a crack at playing with real money. Keep at it until you feel like you’re making a small profit after breaking even, or after you feel completely comfortable with the game. Only then move on to real money play – it’d be a shame if you succumbed to impatience and lost a chunk of money as a result!
Our Verdict on Blackjack Strategies
As you can see, there’s no magic or mystery to mastering the best blackjack strategy out there – simply stick to the fitting chart and keep in mind the principal rules applied at a specific table and choose your tactics carefully based on those rules. We could go on for days and explore various angles and takes on how to make smart gameplay decisions – but that won’t help you further, will it? Instead, focus on the basic blackjack tactics, helpful tools and a realistic long-term strategy and you’ll be on your way to becoming a skilled blackjack player!