Winning at Blackjack: Basic Blackjack Strategy
Blackjack is one of the most played table games at USA casinos. It’s simple to learn and fun to play, but difficult to master. In fact, blackjack comes second only to poker in terms of the number of guides, strategies, charts and tips out there.
In this post, we’ll show you some of the most common blackjack strategies that top players use. In addition, we’ll talk about other considerations to know before you hit the tables. Scroll down for more.
What is Blackjack?
As we said earlier, blackjack is one of the simplest games to learn. The only object of the game is to beat the dealer’s hand without exceeding 21. Bets are placed before the cards are dealt. Each player receives two cards, face up. The best possible hand you can receive is an ace plus a card with a value of 10 (a 10 or face card). This is known as blackjack.
In blackjack, the cards are valued as follows:
If your hand is low, you can ask for an additional card (or “hit”). You can do this as many times as you like until you’re happy with your hand, hit 21 or go over (“bust”). If you’re content with the hand you’ve been dealt, you can keep it (or “stand”). The dealer must hit until the cards in their hand total 17 or more.
Blackjack: Basic Strategy
At the end of the day, blackjack will always be a game of luck. There are, however, common strategies you can learn that will help improve your game and minimize the house edge over time. It comes down to knowing when to hit, when to stand and when to double down.
Hard and Soft Hands
Before learning when you should hit, stand or double down, you need to understand what’s meant by a “hard” hand and a “soft” one. A hard hand is defined as any hand that doesn’t contain an ace that can count as an 11. For example, a 10 and a 9 together make a hard 19.
A soft hand contains an ace that is valued as an 11. An ace plus 5 is a soft 16. Players can generally be more aggressive with soft hands since the ace can also be valued at one. There’s little risk of going bust.
Below we’ll walk you through some scenarios for when you should hit or stand based on the hand you have plus the dealer’s hand. This outlines the basics, but we recommend that you study some charts before you get into more serious play.
When to Hit
If your hard hand is low (think 4-8), always hit no matter what the dealer hand is. Same goes for a soft hand valued 13-15. If the dealer has a 7-A and your hand is either a hard 9 or hard 12-16, then hit. In the same scenario, always hit if your soft hand is 16-18.
When to Stand
If you have a hard hand that is 17-21 or a soft hand that is 19-21, always stand. If the dealer’s hand is 2-6 and you have a hard hand that is 12-16, then you should stand as well.
When to Double Down
Doubling down is a fun move that could give you some big wins. Doubling down is when a player places a secondary bet that is more than the original bet. It means that the player can only receive one additional card. That’s why it’s important to understand basic blackjack strategy for making this move.
If you have a 9 and the dealer is holding 2-6, double down. You can pretty safely double down if your hard hand is 10-11 (not an ace), no matter what the dealer has. For soft hands, double down if the dealer has a 2-6 and you’re holding a 16-18.
Understanding House Edge in Blackjack
Like any casino game, blackjack has an edge in favor of the house. Inexperienced players can expect a typical casino to have a two percent advantage. This can decrease over time as you build up your skills in blackjack strategy.
Playing Blackjack Online
At a land-based casino, you’re pretty limited when it comes to the variety of blackjack games available. When you play online, however, a whole new world of blackjack opens up.
Here are some of the key differences in the blackjack games you can expect to see at an online casino. This is where you can really practice your new-found blackjack basic strategy skills.
Casino software developers put tons of resources into coming up with new game varieties to play. These games keep the core of blackjack play intact, but insert little twists here and there. For example, some game varieties omit certain cards (like the 10s) while others allow you to play multiple hands and switch cards between them.
Side bets in online blackjack are quite common. These consist of parallel actions that are played alongside the current hand, but are separate from it. They provide players with an additional opportunity to win something, even if they end up losing the hand. In most cases, players need to bet that a certain combination of cards will appear in order to win (like pairs, cards that add up to a specific amount, or cards of a distinct suit).
There’s so much more to blackjack strategy, we can’t possibly cover it all in one post. That said, we hope you enjoyed this overview of basic blackjack strategies and tips. The information provided here should give you the insight you need to start playing blackjack with more confidence.
There’s no magic formula that will allow you to win every blackjack game. But with education and practice, you’ll be on your way to decreasing that house edge in no time at all. Best of luck!