Your Guide to the Best Blackjack Strategy – Win at Blackjack
Improve your blackjack strategy with our in-depth guide that includes everything from lowering the house-edge to making the most of the hand you're dealt.
Before you read any further, make sure that you already know how to play blackjack and are familiar with the rules. Otherwise, we may as well be speaking in Dothraki.
Multi Deck vs Single Deck Blackjack Strategy
Some casinos offer single-deck blackjack while others offer a multi-deck version (2 to 8 decks). Despite having similar gameplay, there is no one trick to cover that suits both. Therefore, you need to ensure that you are visiting the right table with the right blackjack strategy if you want to up your game effectively.
Multi-deck blackjack offers the bettor odds of 3:2, while a single-deck game offers 6:5. If you place a wager of $10, you will get $15 in a multi-deck game, while on the other hand, a single-deck will give you $12 payout. Beating the dealer’s hand, however, pays 1:1 in both formats. Nonetheless, it is also advisable to enquire about the table rules and conditions before starting the game; avoid playing if the odds are 6 to 5, because it will have a higher house edge.
You need to know when to hit, stand or double down as the scenario changes with the number of cards involved in the game. During either game, it’s wise to split the pairs of 2-2 and 3-3 against the dealer’s upcard of 2-7.
In the single-deck game, if the dealer shows 7, you can split the 6-6, and the dealer has to hit on soft 17. A ‘soft’ hand means that there is at least one Ace in the pair of cards. In a soft hand, an Ace can be valued at either 11 or 1, depending on your hand. Here, for example, a soft 17 means A-6, where the Ace is valued at 11. Now, if you pull out a 9 as you hit on a soft 17, the Ace-value automatically comes down to 1, totalling to 16 (1+6+9) and thus preventing your hand from busting.
Any pair of cards without an Ace is called a hard hand, e.g. 9-6, 8-5, 2-3, 6-6, and so on.
Soft hands generally allow you to pull more cards for its floating value.
Also, doubling down on a hard 11 (a pair of cards with no Aces), is more promising in a single-deck game, regardless of the dealer’s upcard; but in a multi-deck, if the dealer shows an Ace, you should hit.
Basic Blackjack Strategy
Theoretically, if blackjack can be beaten, then you may be wondering how casinos are still making millions. Well, the answer is very straightforward. Blackjack is a game that changes with every round. Despite knowing the most fool-proof of strategies and having years of experience, even the experts with the best blackjack strategy flunk at the table.
According to the experts, the more you play, the more the house edge grows. You may enjoy a flurry of wins, but you must remember that it will turn and you will experience a losing streak very soon.
And that, friends, is Blackjack 101.
So, right before you start playing, you need to calculate how much you want to win and how much loss you are okay with. You may have a hundred dollars or a grand as your budget, but if you decide that you want to go home with a 30% profit, you stick to that plan. Then, you divide that amount by the number of rounds you intend to play. Always remember the expression, ‘quit while you're ahead’. A common mistake people make is they continue when they are winning and winning – a major blunder, because when the table turns, they lose their profit.
Whatever blackjack game you choose to play, including those hosted by the popular Evolution Gaming, we've got the blackjack strategy for you!
There is a widespread notion that surrendering your hand means accepting defeat; something champs don’t do. Well, it’s not what it sounds like. After you are dealt the first two cards, and they turn out to be the lamest ones a player can get compared to the dealer’s upcard, you can surrender your hand. It will spare you half of your wager, which you might have lost entirely given you lost the hand.
If your hand is 75% sure to lose, surrendering it will save 25% of the money that you might have lost playing that bet.
There are two types of surrenders: Early and Late.
Early surrender is when you give in your hand after making a judgement call with your initial cards comparing them to the dealer’s upcard. For a multi-deck game, an early surrender against the dealer’s Ace can gain you 0.39% edge over the house.
- You surrender your hard 5 to 7 (including 3s), and 12 to 17 (including 6s, 7s, and 8s) against the dealer’s Ace.
- You surrender your hard 14 to 16 (including 7s and 8s) against the dealer’s 10.
- You surrender your hard 10-6 and 9-7 (but not 8s) against the dealer’s 9.
If the dealer allows you to surrender your hand after he flips his hole card, that is called a late surrender. Remember, if the dealer hits the Blackjack after flipping his hole card, the surrender option will no longer be available.
A correct surrender can win you a 0.07% edge over the house.
- In a single-deck game with soft 17, surrender your 16 against the dealer’s 10 and Ace.
- In double-deck with soft 17, you should surrender your 15 only against dealer’s 10.
- In a six-deck game with soft 17, you should surrender your 16 against dealer’s 10.
- In a six-deck game with soft 17, you should surrender your pair of 8s against dealer’s Ace.
Note: Some casinos don’t allow early surrenders, while some don’t allow late surrenders. Feel free to enquire beforehand.
When you have cards that total to near 21, you stand, regardless of the dealer’s upcard. Otherwise, you are more susceptible to ‘bust’.
Now, if you have a pair of 9s and you think about splitting them, that’s fine. The confusion occurs when the dealer shows a 7. There is a possibility that the dealer has a 10 in the hole since the number of ten value cards in a deck is four times higher than other cards. Therefore, if you hold your 9-9, there is a fair chance that you will beat the dealer’s 17 with your 18.
Often, it is suggested to hit a hard 16 against the dealer’s 10 upcard. There is nothing wrong with this blackjack strategy; however, if you have a multi-card 16, your best bet would be to stand.
Talking about confusing situations, say for example you have a hard 12 against the dealer’s 4 upcard. There is a 40% chance that you would win if you stand, but if you hit, the winning probability goes down to 39.75%. There are only four ways to have a hard 12 (not in pairs): 10/2, 7/5, 8/4, 9/3.
If you notice the difference between the 10/2 and 7/5, in the latter case, if you hit it you may get a 10, which will eventually bust your hand. The bottom line is, you should only hit the 10/2 and stand in all other cases.
If your hand is below 17 while the dealer shows anything above 8, it is recommended to hit, because the dealer is more likely to bust. However, in case of the soft hands, things get a bit more tangled. Typically, if you have a soft hand with a value between 13-17 and the dealer shows 7 or higher, you can hit.
Always hit your hard 12 against the dealer’s 2 or 3. Many of the players get confused, fearing a bust, but the bottom line is that the dealer’s 2 or 3 will drag you down to the ground in the long run. However, if you keep hitting, you may lose less money. Essentially, it's damage control.
Though the chart above advises to stand, it is highly recommended that you hit your soft 18 against the dealer’s 9, 10 or ace; the logic being that you are an underdog against the dealer’s strong cards, regardless of your decision to stand or hit. That being said, if you hit, you can maximise your chances of reaching 21. Even if you pull out a 10-value card, you will not bust.
In addition, you hit the hard totals of 13-16 against the dealer’s upcard if that is above 6.
If the casino allows you to double down, it means you can double your initial wager after correctly judging your hand. The general rule is you double down on a hard 8 through 11 and a soft 13 through 18.
When doubling down, the player gives up his option of drawing more than one card. Bear in mind that not all the casinos allow doubling down, so you must enquire before trying your luck on the table.
You always double down on a hard 11, regardless of the dealer’s upcard, except in a multi-deck game. If the dealer must stand on a soft 17, you are better off hitting than doubling down.
If you are playing a hard 17 game, you always double down on H11 against the dealer’s ace, double-down on S19 (A-8) against dealer’s 6 and double down on S18 (A-7) against the dealer’s 2.
The best blackjack strategy to maximise your winning is by doubling down a soft 13 through a soft 18 against the dealer’s 5/6 upcard. However, in case of a double-deck game, you also double down your soft 14 against the dealer’s 4 in addition to the 5 and 6 that we just talked about.
In a single-deck game, always double down on a hard 8 against the dealer’s 5 or 6 upcard. But don’t do it in a multi-deck game. Also, if DAS (Double After Split) is allowed, you can double down on 4-4 as well.
Doubling down on the hard hands gives you an edge of 1.3% over the house, while mastering the double-downs on the soft hands adds another 0.13% to that advantage.
Splitting the Pair
First of all, you must know what to split and what not to. You don’t split everything that comes in pairs, and people with these reckless splitting tendencies have made the casinos happier than ever. One such instance is splitting tens, which is an awful move.
Everyone splits their pair of 9s when the dealer shows 9 or less but, when he shows 7, it gets a little tricky for most. As we have discussed in the ‘stand’ section, this is a situation where you don’t split the 9s but stand.
If you are dealt 2-2 or 3-3, you always split against the dealer’s 2/3, if the game allows DAS. This way, even if you draw a high-value card after that, for say 8 or 9, you can double down on them, maximising your chance of winning more profit. However, there is one exception: in the case of a single-deck game, even if the game is NDAS, you still split the 2s and 3s against the dealer’s 2 or 3.
Some people don’t split their 8s and Aces against the dealer’s 9, 10 or Ace, for they take the dealer’s hand as a stronger one – which it is. However, in the long run, you will tend to lose more money by hitting on the hard 16 than splitting them. With Aces, the decision is even more favourable for splitting as it gives you an edge. But there is one exception. If it’s a multi-deck game with H17 and NDAS, surrendering the 8-8 against the dealer’s Ace will be wiser than splitting them, if surrender is offered.
Let’s discuss a common mistake among people that casinos enjoy watching them make. It’s the splitting of the 5s and 10s. Remember the thumb rule: never split a pair of 5s or 10s. With a 5-5 pair, you have a hard 10 where you can afford pulling a high-value card and near 21. Splitting the 10s, on the other hand, should be considered a dire offence. Look at it this way: you have a hard 20 ‘standing’ right over there, so you stand some more on it.
Strategy for Multi-Hand Blackjack
Multi-hand blackjack has become a fan-favourite version of the classic game as it increases the player’s chances of winning. However, to obtain the RTP of 99.6%, you must have a perfect casino strategy to hit the table with.
With rules varying from casino to casino, you must be sure of them before you start playing.
To improve your chance of winning, you can make one of your hands (assuming you are playing five hands) super aggressive while maintaining the other as a cautious, ‘never bust’ hand. You can also bring basic blackjack strategies into play.
If you have two hands, each with a pair of face cards, keep one at hard 20 and split the other, and you can win multiple hands in this way. You can also put wager on insurance for as many hands as you want when the dealer shows Ace.
Lowering the Blackjack House Edge
Following the strategy chart, you can reasonably lower the Blackjack house edge and maximise your profit; however, this is not a formula that guarantees sure success. For that, you must cap your aspirations, as after a few rounds the table can take a turn and you may end up turning your fortune into misfortune. The strategy lies in knowing where to stop.
Usually, a blackjack house edge stands at 2%-8% varying from one casino to the other, and of course, depending upon the varied rules of different versions of the game. The 8% house edge means that every time you put a wager, you are expected to lose 8% of that money. Now, imagine losing $8 from every $100 wager every hand and playing 60 hands every hour. Sit down before you do the maths, as the result may trip you off balance. The house edge applies on a large number of bets and occurs because of many advantages like the ‘push’ and ‘double bust’ that the dealer has over the bettor. See the table below for a better understanding.
Advanced Blackjack Strategy
The basic strategies, like the ones discussed above in the article, are known as the defensive or conservative blackjack strategy. Although nobody wants to lose their money, everyone from newbies to veterans ends up suffering losses.
So, here is one approach to prevent your bankroll being chipped away bit by but: raise your bet as you win.
If you look at the probability factor, you will find both wins or losses more or less come in streaks. So, if you lose a few hands in a row, there is a probability that you will have a winning streak too. And with this mindset comes this strategy to maximise the winning.
Oscar’s Grind Strategy
One of the most popular progressive betting systems in Blackjack, this is the perfect strategy for those who prefer playing long sessions, as it will keep your bankroll afloat for a longer period.
The objective is to make a profit on one unit. The progression starts with winning; after a win, you double your bet. An increased bet follows every win, and it continues until you achieve your profit target.
Ah! For the wealthy, adventurous and lion-hearted gamblers, this is the perfect strategy (one that's even use by rouletteplayers). Every time you lose, you double your bet! Pretty darn crazy right?
Well, remember the probability and winning streak? Once you start winning, this strategy changes everything. However, remember to stop immediately once you go over your initial profit target. Keep in mind that the Martingale Strategy is not for long gaming sessions.
1-3-2-6 Blackjack Betting System
This strategy is for conservative gamblers who like to stay afloat for an extended period.
The numbers are the sequence of bets after you win a hand of blackjack. Still confused? Well, let’s simplify things a bit. For example, you place a wager of 10 quid, and after you win, you put 30 in the next, and 20 the next and 60 after that. However, you cut the sequence as soon as you have lost a hand. The sequence only continues if you win.
It is effective? Well, it is a kind of conservative blackjack strategy that allows you to play for a longer time, as it keeps a cap on your losses.
This is the real deal for the pro players. Let’s delve a little deeper and see how it is done.
The high-value cards (10, J, Q, K and Ace) have a count value of -1 as they are less in numbers and therefore get depleted sooner. These cards are better for the player and add to your advantage.
Then comes the low-value cards (2, 3, 4, 5, 6) that hold a value of +1. These cards are best for the dealer. On the other hand, 7, 8, 9 cards have 0 values or called neutrals.
You have to keep counting the cards’ values as they are being dealt. Once you count the cards’ value to keep track of the remaining decks on the table, it’s called the running count. Running count is essential for the entire process, and it keeps getting updated with every hand.
You can also use the meaningful pairs (a combination of Hi-low cards) by calculating the individual player’s hand. It simplifies the card-counting process.
Then you must calculate the true count. You can use the below formula to do so:
(True count = Running count divided by the number of decks remaining)
For example, if you have a running count of 9 and 4.5 decks are remaining, then the true count will be 9/4.5, i.e. 2. The value of the true count equals the players’ advantage. For a positive true count, you can place higher bets, while in case of a negative value, you place the bare minimum.
True count value is the deciding factor for the wager. Players subtract one unit of the wager from the true count value and places the bet.
If one unit of wager equals $5 and the true count is +3, the bet would be +3-1 = +2 units of wager, i.e. $10.
Power Blackjack Strategy
With rules mostly similar to the classic version, Power Blackjack is popular among online gamblers, allows players to split any two cards (regardless of their values).
One of the main features of this version is that you can exchange your third card with the next draw. The third card that you exchanged goes straight to the discard pile, and this move is called ‘Power double’.
While doubling down, you can keep your original card if it forms a 20 or 21. You can keep any card forming an 18 against the dealer’s 7. However, if these conditions are not met, you can go for a power double.
You need to remember that this version also has two different sets of rules: Wager Works rules and Vegas rules.
Blackjack Cheat Sheet Chart
As you can see in the first chart, you should always double down (if allowed, hit) on a hard 11, regardless of the dealer's upcard.
When it comes to pairs (see the last chart), always split your 8-8, regardless of the dealer's hand.
You can follow the cheat sheet to improve your game.
Blackjack Strategy Conclusion
There is no harm in repeating that, although worth trying out, these strategies don’t necessarily ensure wins. Hence, follow these strategies or techniques only to improve your skills at blackjack. Be wise enough to realise that the casinos also know about these strategies, and would have declared them illegal if they made players win every hand
Now that you are familiar with both the basic and advanced blackjack strategies, practice the moves over and over to master them. We wish you all the luck in the world – 21 times over!
Blackjack Strategies FAQs
No blackjack strategy guarantees a win. These are just ways of trying to lower the blackjack house edge and maximise a player’s winning probability.
In the UK casinos, card counting is NOT illegal. It is not cheating, but a smart way to leverage your game against the house edge. However, although you can easily count cards in online casinos, land-based casinos may not like it.
Blackjack insurance offers a 2:1 payout, which significantly increases the house edge. The player gets to keep half of his initial bets and is advised not to take it.
Multi-deck blackjack offers a 3:2 payout while single-deck blackjack usually offers 6:5. Never play at a table that offers 6:5 payouts. Keeping track of the cards in multi-deck blackjack is a bit more difficult compared to single-deck, but if you get used to it, multi-decks are no different than the single ones.
Well, they do help players understand basic strategies. However, you must remember that they are not formulas that guarantee wins.
There is no perfect blackjack strategy. If you want to lower the house edge significantly, however, you can experiment with those we've described above to see what works best for you.
We suggest going through cheat sheets and instructions for a couple of hours every day for a few weeks until the basics are etched in your memory. And, don't forget: practice makes perfect!
Of course! Anyone and everyone can learn advanced blackjack strategies, such as Oscar's Grind, the Martingale strategy, the 1-3-2-6 betting system and card counting, all of which we described more in detail earlier on in this guide.