Blackjack is considered to be the only truly beatable game in the casino and relies on strategy more than any other game. The right blackjack strategy can reduce the house edge to nearly zero, or even give players an advantage in the case of card counting, but incorrect strategy can practically guarantee a loss.
Blackjack strategy focuses on minimizing the house edge as much as possible. There are a limited number of card values, and thus only a limited number of card combinations. Furthermore, the dealer must play the same way regardless of the player's actions. Thus, the player's hand and dealer's upcard can be used to calculate the odds of winning in any situation, and ultimately determine the best course of action. This is the basis for blackjack strategy.
Blackjack requires more strategy than any other gambling game. The odds are ultimately stacked against you no matter which casino or online gambling site you choose, but the choices you make during the game directly affect how well you do.
The blackjack strategy chart below summarizes the player's best move in every situation. Locate the sum of your blackjack cards in the left column and match it with the dealer's face-up card in the top row to see what you should do.
Do not be discouraged if you experience a string of losses. Blackjack has a very small house edge when proper strategy is used, and you will likely experience huge swings in the short term.
Follow the blackjack strategy chart exactly as it appears. Even a small deviation from the recommendations in the table can drastically decrease your odds of winning. Fortunately, many casinos actually offer their own strategy chart so you do not have to memorize every move. If you play at online gambling sites, feel free to print a copy of the chart provided above.
Standard US blackjack rules include the use of eight decks, the dealer standing on soft 17, and allowing players to double after splitting. However, there are numerous variations to these rules that affect the odds of winning. Depending on the variation, the house edge may be increased or decreased. The best online blackjack sites have tables that favor the player in as many of the following categories as possible.
Playing with fewer numbers of decks lowers the house edge. This is mainly due to the player's chance of being dealt a blackjack. If the first card is a ten, the odds of getting an ace are highest with the fewest number of decks. Single deck blackjack offers the best player odds, but is usually countered by other unfavorable rule variations to make up the casino's advantage.
The traditional payout for a player-dealt blackjack is 3:2, but there has been a growing trend among casinos of paying less than the full three to two on blackjack. These blackjack tables usually pay 6 to 5, but some 7 to 5 and one to one payouts also exist, all of which substantially raise the house edge. Do your research and stick with casinos and gambling websites that pay 3:2 on blackjack.
If the dealer's upcard is an ace, the player may take "insurance" before the hole card is checked. Insurance is a side bet independent of the main bet that pays 2:1 if the dealer has blackjack. This is designed to make up for the loss on the main bet by "insuring" against the possibility of a dealer blackjack.
It is not recommended to take insurance. The likelihood of the dealer having blackjack is less than one-third, and insurance bets will result in an overall loss in the long run since the payout is only 2:1.
The dealer must hit or stand on a soft 17, a rule that is usually printed on the blackjack table. H17 indicates the dealer must hit, while S17 means the dealer will stand on a soft 17. If you can find an H17 game, you should take it; this rule will decrease the house edge by about 0.2%.
A general rule of thumb is that the ability to double and split without any restrictions benefits the player. Some land-based casinos and online casino sites place restrictions on these, such as only being able to double on certain hands, not being allowed to double after splitting, and only allowing players to split to a certain number of hands. These restrictions all favor the casino and result in a higher house edge.
Counting cards in blackjack is not as easy as it appears in television and movies. Card counting requires the combination of flawless blackjack strategy with on-the-spot memorization and calculations to determine the current count and bet accordingly.
Card counting in blackjack can actually give the player a 0 to 2% advantage and is thus largely frowned upon by casinos. Though it is not illegal, casinos reserve the right to throw out players suspected of counting cards. This means you have to be subtle and stay relaxed on top of all the other elements that make this strategy so difficult.
Despite the challenges, many people are successful at card counting. If you would like to learn how to count cards we recommend you head over to our blackjack card counting page, where you will find a full how-to guide with helpful tables to simplify the process.
Blackjack strategy can largely control the player's outcome, but the casino will always have the advantage. Players may experience favorable swings from time to time due to luck, but ultimately the more you gamble, the more you will lose. Even so, you can still make your money go a long way by following the blackjack strategy table above and sticking with favorable tables that have the lowest house edge.