But to stand any chance of doing that, you need to learn blackjack strategy.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to master basic strategy, so you can play what is known as “perfect blackjack” every time. You’ll also get an introduction to how to count cards, and I’ll point out some common misconceptions, including the strategies that don’t work and must be avoided.
I’m assuming that you already know the rules of blackjack. So let’s start by looking at basic blackjack strategy.
How To Use Basic Strategy
Blackjack is a game in which the decisions you make as a player directly affect the odds, and your chances of winning.
Using basic strategy can bring the house edge down to less than 1%, depending on which blackjack variation you’re playing.
This is a huge deal. Advanced strategies all require you to know basic strategy first. So it’s an absolute no brainer that you learn how to use it.
To use basic strategy, you only need to follow a set of simple instructions which are set out in the tables below. The decision on whether to hit, stand, double or split depends upon the hand value that you have, and the dealer’s up card.
- Use the first table if you have a hard hand
- Use the second if you have a soft hand (one that includes an ace).
- Use the third if you have a pair.
Once you’ve found a site to play at and chosen a table, you’re ready to start.
Basic Strategy Blackjack Tables
Using the tables, find your hand total on the left, and the dealer’s up card along the top. The cell where these meet will show you what action you need to take. The key at the bottom explains in full.
For example, if you have hard 11, and the dealer’s up card is a 5, the tables show a D – meaning you would double down.
If you use the tables to guide you, it leaves nothing to chance. You’ll always know what decision to make. It might seem a lot to remember at first, but after a while you’ll find that you’ve started to memorise some or all of the correct plays.
You can also bookmark this page and refer back every time you play, or download the tables as a PDF and print them out if you prefer.
Please note, the instructions are vary slightly depending on how many decks are being used, and whether the dealer hits or stands on Soft 17. Some rules apply all the time, for example always split aces. But others need to be changed. That’s why there are different sets of tables to cover each variation of the rules, so make sure you’re using the right ones for the game you’re playing.
Now that you know how to use them, here are the blackjack strategy tables in full.
Single Deck Blackjack: Dealer Stands on Soft 17
This is the most common ruleset online. The dealer must stand on 17 (or more) both hard and soft.
Single Deck Blackjack: Dealer Hits on Soft 17
Some blackjack tables require the dealer to hit soft 17. This means we need to change some of our decisions on certain scenarios.
Multiple Deck Blackjack: Dealer Stands on Soft 17
The tables below are good for multi deck games with between 4 and 8 decks.
Multiple Deck Blackjack: Dealer Hits on Soft 17
As before, these are good for games with 4-8 decks. This variation is more advantageous for the house.
Blackjack Strategy FAQ
I’ll now cover the most commonly asked questions about how to use basic strategy when playing blackjack. If you have a question that isn’t covered here, you can contact us and we’ll keep updating the FAQ with the most popular queries.
Basic strategy is the name given to the rules set out above. They serve as a guide to show you what moves to make in every possible scenario in a Blackjack game.
When you use blackjack basic strategy, it makes the game more profitable for the player and cuts down the house edge. So you should always use it.
The good thing about playing online blackjack on PC or mobile is that you don’t have to remember all the different rules. You can easily refer back to the tables on this page whenever you’re playing. Remember the game won’t continue until you press the button, so there’s no pressure and you have plenty of time to check the tables and see what to do.
Alternatively you can download all of the tables as a PDF, then save it or print it out and keep a copy handy whenever you’re playing on your mobile, tablet or PC.
Both of these factors influence the probabilities of the game, and therefore some of the guidelines need to change accordingly. Others always stay the same – for example always split aces, and always double on 11 when the dealer is showing 10 or less.
Usually the best scenario for the blackjack player is to play the single deck game where the dealer stands on soft 17. If you can only memorise one set of rules, then learn these first.
It’s true that single deck blackjack is more favourable for blackjack players and less for the house. When you play blackjack online you will usually get a choice of different variations. By all means try them all but remember that single deck is going to give you the best return.
However, when you play in Vegas or at any other real world casino, unless you’re a high roller and can get a private blackjack table, you’ll find that every table uses multiple decks. Don’t worry though, simply use the blackjack basic strategy rules for 4-8 decks as set out above, and you can still improve your odds of success.
An Introduction To Card Counting
Card counting is a very simple way to essentially remove the house edge and tilt the odds in your favour. It’s been made famous in films like Rain Man and 21 (which also shows how the players use basic strategy as a basis for their more advanced card counting system).
21 is based on a true story, and a group of MIT students really did make millions from counting cards in casinos all across the USA. So yes, the system really does work. In theory anyway.
Like anything else though, card counting isn’t as easy in practice and there are a few pitfalls you need to be aware of. Firstly, becoming a card counter is not easy to master, and many brick and mortar casinos now have protections in place against this.
Although card counting in blackjack is not illegal, the casino has the right to stop you from playing, and if they suspect you’re counting cards that’s exactly what they’ll do.
You won’t be taken into a back room and beaten up – that’s strictly from the movies. But you will be politely asked to leave (and maybe less politely if you refuse).
Also, card counting doesn’t work when playing blackjack online (unless at a private table) as the decks are fully shuffled each hand.
So, how does it work?
Essentially you assign a value to every card in the deck. You then keep a “running count” based on the values of which cards have been dealt – and this then gives you an idea of whether the next cards to be dealt will be pictures or not. If the odds are in favour of a picture card being dealt, card counters will up their bet size – as their chance of forming a winning hand increases.
Card counting is really interesting, and many books have been written about the subject. If you choose to try it for yourself, just don’t go too overboard; remember, it’s not possible to count cards at online casinos, and land-based casinos keep a very close eye on people they suspect of doing so.
Blackjack Strategies & Systems That Don’t Work
I’m going to preface this section with a word of warning; you should be aware that no “staking system” or “strategy” is capable of beating the casino in the long-run. If such things existed, casinos simply wouldn’t be able to offer the games they do. However, card counting is the only way of playing Blackjack that actually can produce a winning result.
Below, I’m going to talk to you about some other common strategies used at the Blackjack table. Note, however, these don’t have any mathematical advantage and don’t increase your chances of winning.
The Martingale is one of the most popular systems used by players at both online and land-based casinos – although unfortunately, it doesn’t work in the long run.
The general premise behind the Martingale is that you double your bet each time you have a losing hand. Say, for example, you placed a $5 bet and it lost – next hand you would bet $10. If this hand won, you’d return to your default stake of $5 – if it lost, you’d bet $20 on the next hand. In principle it sounds decent enough – but it can get incredibly expensive.
What’s more, virtually every online and land-based casino on the planet has table limits in place to prevent players from using this type of strategy being used successfully.
The D’Alembert System
The D’Alembert System is another well-known betting system, although it’s more commonly associated with Roulette. The system works by you placing a bet – as normal.
If your bet then goes on to lose, you increase the bet by one unit – i.e. if you initially placed a $5 bet and it lost, the next bet would be $10. If that one lost, the next one would be $15 and so on. This continues until you win – at which point you decrease your bet size by one unit.
The name somewhat gives this one away – it’s the “opposite” of the D’Alembert I just covered. With this system, however, instead of increasing your bet size after a losing hand you decrease it. You then up it when you hit a win.
This is a hugely volatile system – and you tend to need quite a large amount of cash to begin with in order to even be able to sustain it.
Find Out More
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. You can find out more about how to play blackjack or the best online casinos to play at by reading some of our other guides.
- Best mobile blackjack sites of 2020
- How To Play Blackjack On Mobile
- Blackjack Variations Explained
- History of Blackjack
Last Updated on July 25, 2020