Blackjack Basic Strategy
How would you like to master the game of Blackjack - one of the leading deck games in every brick-and-mortar and online casino around the world? It’s fun to play, simple to understand, and taking advantage of the Blackjack Basic Strategy may increase your chances of winning if you’re lucky! Distinct variations of this game have been developed throughout the years, offering players multiple ways to enjoy playing this all-time favourite game. The introduction of online casinos has even made it much more convenient to play Blackjack, dispelling the need to dress up and visit a physical casino to have fun.
In this article you'll learn:
- The origins of basic strategy.
- Why you should use the basic strategy when playing Blackjack.
- How to apply the basic strategy.
- Best strategic actions to take.
- Basic strategy tips.
Despite being a fast-paced, straightforward game, Blackjack is not solely a game based on chance. On the contrary to what casino novices may think, the decisions the blackjack player makes can have a significant impact on whether he leaves the table with a win or a loss. You can fire out actions at random, but chances are you’ll return home empty-handed. Otherwise, if you want to play responsibly and manage your money better, playing with a strategy in mind is the way forward. Although luck is undeniably a significant influencer, knowledge, skill and a strategic approach can reduce the house edge, increase your chances of winning, and, subsequently, change the outcome of the game.
Unlike other casino games, such as Roulette, where luck is the primary influencer, the way Blackjack unfolds hinges on the choices the player makes. How will you know which actions are the most favourable? This is where basic strategy comes into play. As a mathematical strategy based on the theory of probability, it illustrates the best possible actions to take in all possible situations and how to play in relation to the value of yours and the dealer’s hands. Rather than following your instincts, you can use this approach to exploit the most favourable odds, maximise your wins and keep your losses to a minimum. Bear in mind that 100% success can never be guaranteed, but following this Blackjack strategy may help you remain in the game for a longer time.
You may have heard about basic Blackjack strategy but got disheartened as soon as you saw the strategy chart with its array of colour-coded numbers and letters. However, in this blackjack strategy guide, you’ll be able to learn how to apply each action in the most effective way possible and, consequently, make your casino experience more enjoyable.
History of Blackjack Strategy
Blackjack originated in Spain around the 15th or 16th century and has made its mark in several countries around the world. However, it was only in the 1950s that four US Army engineers - Baldwin, Cantey, Maisel and McDermott (also known as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse), started carrying out tests to come up with a way to beat the casino at Blackjack. They published their findings in their journal ‘Playing Blackjack to win’, which data was then used by Edward O. Thorp to conduct further testing on an IBM computer in an endeavour to test its accuracy. Thorp is the man credited with developing the first card counting strategy. Later in the 1970s, Peter A. Griffin produced a composition-dependent basic strategy. Another IBM mathematician - Julian Braun - is also known for refining Thorp’s strategy on a more powerful computer.
The Blackjack strategy we know today is derived from millions of computer simulations which determined the most favourable actions for each combination of cards that could occur in Blackjack.
Why should you use the basic Blackjack Strategy?
Using this strategy has certain valuable benefits. It will help you:
- Increase your chances of winning.
- Make better decisions - if you always carry out the recommended actions, you may keep losses to a minimum and enjoy playing Blackjack more.
- Decrease the house edge between 0.20% and 0.50% - Blackjack has the lowest house advantage when compared to other deck games, so it would be wise to exploit that percentage by playing strategically. Although you can never gain a higher edge over the casino, you might be able to boost your chances of winning.
How to apply the basic playing strategy
Before you kick off your strategic Blackjack journey, you must acknowledge that it requires time and effort to understand the strategy’s fundamental mechanics. You might initially be discouraged by the seemingly complex numbers, but you can memorise the moves and get the hang of it with some patience, dedication, and most importantly, practice. The best way to go about it is to learn how to tackle hard hands, then move on to pairs and soft hands. Make sure you keep playing strategically throughout each game, even if you’re on a losing streak. The strategy is based on probability, so it may be helpful in the long-run, as long as you manage your bankroll responsibly.
How to play Blackjack?
The primary objective of Blackjack is simple - you try to build a hand as close as possible to the value of 21 without going over (also known as busting). Although you can play this blackjack game with other blackjack players at the same table, you only compete against the dealer, so your focus should be on outscoring the dealer’s hand.
Knowing the Blackjack card values is crucial before you start playing. Cards 2 to 10 are worth their numeric value, the face cards (Jack, Queen and King) are worth ten and the Ace can have a value of 1 or 11, depending on your hand’s total value. Generally, its value is deemed 11 and becomes worth one point if you exceed 21. You can have two types of hands in Blackjack - a hard or a soft hand. A hard hand has no ace, or an ace valued as 1, while a soft hand has an ace valued as 1 or 11. Which one you have will determine the actions you take.
The best blackjack hand you can build consists of an Ace and a ten-value card (known as a classic Blackjack) and boasts a 3 to 2 payout. There are three ways you can win - by building a higher-value hand than the dealer’s, getting dealt two cards worth 21 from the start, or by remaining in play when the dealer goes bust. Read our How to play blackjack for beginners, to learn more tips and tricks.
How does Blackjack work?
Blackjack uses multiple decks of regular playing cards. Although you might find some tables which only use a single deck of cards, most tables use between six and eight decks to hamper players from card counting. The dealer shuffles the cards, and after the players place their bets, he deals two cards face up to each player, and one face down and face-up card for himself. Depending on your hand’s value and that of the dealer, you must choose from five options - surrender, double down, split, hit or stand. As soon as you pinpoint the most favourable action, the dealer’s turn is up. His actions are dictated by a set of rules which illustrate when he can hit or stand. In some tables, the dealer hits if his hand is 16 or lower and stands even on soft 17. Before you start playing Blackjack, make sure you go through the table’s set of rules - which would indicate the betting ranges, the availability of the surrender option and whether a tie is regarded as a win or a loss for the player.
As we’ve already mentioned, there are five actions you can take during a game of Blackjack:
- Hit - draw more cards.
- Stand- refrain from drawing any more cards.
- Double down - double your original bet.
- Split - split your hand in two if your two cards are an identical pair.
- Surrender - withdraw after the dealer deals your initial cards.
Playing Blackjack using the basic strategy
If you wish to maximise your chances of winning in the long-run, you might want to use the basic strategy to determine the most favourable actions in all possible scenarios. We’ll go over each one below:
When to surrender
If the Blackjack table provides the surrender option, you may withdraw from the game after your initial two cards are dealt. The basic strategy advises players to surrender when you have:
- A hard 16 against dealer 9, 10 or Ace.
- A hard 15 against dealer 10 or Ace.
When to split
If you don’t surrender, your next step is to decide whether to split or not. This is only possible when you have an identical pair of cards, and if you do split your hand, you must place a second bet equal to the original bet on the second hand. Here are all the strategic rules you need to know with regards to this action:
- Always split a pair of aces and eights.
- Never split fives and tens.
- Split nines against dealer 2 to 9 (except for 7), otherwise stand.
- Split sevens against dealer 2 to 7, otherwise hit.
- Split sixes against dealer 2 to 6, otherwise hit.
- Split fours against dealer 5 to 6, otherwise hit.
- Split twos and threes against dealer 2 to 7, otherwise hit.
When to double down
You can double your bet as soon as your hand is dealt, but you need to remember that you may only hit one more time after doubling down. In case of a classic Blackjack, you’re not allowed to double your bet. The basic strategy recommends you double on a:
- Hard nine against dealer 3 to 6.
- Hard ten except against dealer 10 or ace.
- Hard 11 except against dealer ace.
- Soft 13 or 14 against dealer 5 to 6.
- Soft 15 or 16 against dealer 4 to 6.
- Soft 17 or 18 against dealer 2 to 6.
- Soft 19 against dealer 6.
When to hit and stand
After you split or double your hand, it's time to choose whether to hit or stand, depending on the dealer’s and your hand’s value, and on whether you have a soft or hard total.
Soft hands (Hands with an ace worth 11 or 1)
- Always stand on soft 19 and 20.
- Always stand on soft 18, unless the dealer has 9, 10 or Ace.
- Always hit soft 17 and less.
Hard Hands (Hands with no ace or an ace which can only count as 1)
- Always stand on a hard 17 and up.
- Always stand on hard 13 to 16 against dealer 2 to 6.
- Always stand on hard 12 against dealer 4 to 6.
- Always hit hard 11 or less.
You must keep in mind that this basic strategy may change slightly depending on the casino and the active table rules. Does the dealer hit on a soft 17? How many decks are being used? Is the surrender option available? All these factors may have a minor impact on the way you play your round.
Blackjack Betting Strategies
Now that you’re familiar with the basic Blackjack strategy, you must also understand that money management is a crucial element of each strategy. You should only play what you can afford to lose, or you may end up with serious financial repercussions if you get carried away. Here are some betting Blackjack strategies you may wish to consider:
- Start with low stakes and only increase your bet when you win.
- Double your bet every time you lose. This approach requires players to have a large bankroll to start with, or else your funds will be depleted in no time.
- Use the 1-3-2-6 betting system - you’d start with €10 and increase your bet to €30, €20 and €60 if you win. When you lose, you start anew with the original amount.
Blackjack Strategy Tips
Using the basic strategy may help you maximise your wins, but a sure win can never be guaranteed. However, you may find yourself in a more advantageous position if you choose a Blackjack table with a lower house edge. Here are some valuable tips you should follow:
- Choose a table with a small number of decks if you want to base your actions on the theory of probability.
- Never take insurance - it’s a high-risk betting option as the probability of the dealer’s hole card being a ten is very low.
- Take note of the payouts before selecting a table - always opt for a 3:2 payout rather than a 6:5 payout.
- Don’t go over your budget and stop playing when you use all your funds.
- Check out the table rules - does the dealer stand on soft 17? Does the dealer push a tie forward? What are the minimum betting limits?
- Try to memorise a basic blackjack strategy chart, especially when playing at a land-based casino.
- Promotions can grant you extra wins without using your funds.
- Other players’ hands have no significance. Keep your attention focused on your hand and the dealer’s.
- You can find free Blackjack versions at EnergyCasino. Practise the basic strategy using virtual currency before risking your money.
Blackjack is not a random game. With some skill and strategy, you can transform a loss into a possible win and have more fun! Sure, the casino will always be at an advantage, but adopting this Blackjack strategy can help you manage your money better and possibly win some money and cut down the losses. Sometimes the actions you need to take are self-evident - you most definitely stand on a 20 and always hit if you just have a total of 5, but in most cases, the way forward is not that straightforward. Following the basic strategy will require dedication and patience, but in the long-run, it’s the best way to increase your chances of winning and beat the dealer.
Learn basic strategy, and have fun!
⭐ Does the Blackjack strategy work?
Following the basic strategy can effectively maximise your chances of winning if you play responsibly. Although it can never guarantee an absolute win, it will reduce the house edge and help you survive longer in the game.
⭐ What is the best strategy to win at Blackjack?
Your best chances of winning at Blackjack is to carry out the most favourable actions recommended by the basic strategy. Since they are based on the mathematical theory of probability, you’ll reduce the casino edge if you play strategically and take into account both your hand and that of the dealer before making a decision.
⭐ Who invented the basic strategy for Blackjack?
BM is considered as one of the pioneering companies who conducted one of the first Blackjack simulations. The basic strategy dates back to the 1950s when the mathematician Edward O. Thorp used the data collected by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to test out the strategy on an IBM computer. He created a computer simulation which played millions of Blackjack hands to determine the most favourable actions for each hand combination which may occur.
⭐ How effective is the Blackjack strategy?
Like in every casino game, the house will always have a higher edge. Otherwise, casinos will go bankrupt. However, if you base your decisions on the basic strategy, you can expect to make the optimal choices every time, consequently reducing the house edge.
⭐ How can you memorise the Blackjack strategy?
It requires time, effort, and most importantly, practice, to memorise each recommended action for every possible combination. You may take advantage of the free demo Blackjack versions to practise the strategy without risking your own money.
⭐ Where can you play online Blackjack?
EnergyCasino is one of the fastest-growing online casinos in the world which offers its players a vast selection of Blackjack tables to choose from. Place your bets and enjoy the game of Blackjack with our online and live dealers!