Basic Blackjack Strategy

Blackjack strategies have been a source of debate amongst pro players for decades, with some swearing their personal strategy is the only one worth using and others delving deep into the mathematics behind blackjack in a bid to beat the dealer. But we’re disregarding the complicated and stripping blackjack strategy back to the basic 3: Pair Splitting, Doubling Down and Hit or Stand.

You may know how to play blackjack, but the basic rules of casino games can be different and knowing how to employ a strategy are two completely different kettle of fish. Often, players think that because they know the basic ‘how to’ when it comes to blackjack, they are automatically blackjack black belts. However, this isn’t always the truth. When it comes to gameplay, it’s important to know what your strategic options are and when is the best time to employ them. Arm yourself with the correct knowledge of the game plus a basic strategy, and you stand a much higher chance of winning against the online blackjack pros and dealers.

The beauty of a basic strategy is just that, it’s basic. Unlike other guides would have you believe, it doesn’t have to be super difficult to understand, and the simplest of techniques can help players tenfold when playing blackjack. In our guide, we’re discarding all of the mathematical equations and breaking blackjack strategy back down to its basics.

These are the strategies we find to be most beneficial. Employ these tactics to enhance the best online casino experience and increase your chances of rumbling the dealer.

When to Hit

The decision to hit can often be a risky one with the potential to take your hand over the value of 21. However, there are some specific scenarios where basic blackjack strategy would recommend hitting to give you the best chance of creating an improved hand.

When following a basic strategy, the following scenarios are the most likely when “hitting” can come in useful:

  • Hit on a hand of Soft 17 or lower
  • If the dealer has a 7-10 or an ace, hit on a hard hand of 8-16
  • Hit on a hand of Soft 18 when the dealer shows an ace, 9 or 10

When to Stand

Knowing when your blackjack hand is at risk of going bust when deciding whether you should stand, is a useful strategy. More often than not, this can be a combination of the value of your hand and the value of the dealer’s face-up card.

Below, you can find some of the most likely scenarios when choosing to stand could be the best option:

  • Stand on Soft 20 (Drawing an additional card is more likely to devalue your hand)
  • Stand on Hard 17-20 (Drawing an additional card has a high chance of you going bust)
  • Stand on Soft 19

Other Basic Blackjack Strategies

In some scenarios, you may choose a different approach to simply “hitting” or “standing”. This includes the options of “doubling down” and splitting”, which, in some instances, can offer better chances of improving your hand.

Pair Splitting

If you’re unaware of what we mean by the term ‘pair splitting,’ it’s simply a blackjack technique which allows players who are dealt a pair (e.g. two 8’s) to split them, playing each card as a separate hand. To do this, you must place a wager on the second hand equal to your original bet, and you must play the hand to your right first. When should you use this tactic? There are certain pairs that it wouldn’t be wise to split. If you are dealt a pair of 10s, do not split. Although it may seem like you have a better chance of winning, there is no need to split a hand totalling 20 to potentially lose with two separate hands. You should also never split on a pair of 5s for similar reasons. If you’re going to split, you're most likely to split aces or 8s. Having an Ace in your hand already puts you at an advantage - two even more so. Being dealt a pair of 8s already brings your total to 16. Suddenly hitting with this amount would provide lower chances of winning.

Doubling Down

When making the decision to double down or not, there are a couple of points you should consider: your hand value and the value of the dealer's up-card.

How far away from the value of 21 is your hand? If it falls into the late teens or hits 20, it’s best to avoid the doubling down option. You should also take into account hard and soft hands.

A soft hand is any hand where an Ace acts as an 11 rather than a 1. Should your hand value be a hard 8, 9, 10 or 11, or a soft 13 to 18, then you might want to consider doubling down. With these hands, you’re least likely to go bust when doubling down. If you do decide to double down with a soft hand, the Ace will automatically convert from an 11 into a 1, lowering your chances of busting and upping your chance to hit 21.

This decision can be an important one as doubling down will require you to place another bet worth the value of your initial bet.

Other Factors to Consider

Soft Totals

Being dealt an Ace alongside an 8 or 9 means you should stand, regardless of the dealer's up-card (unless the dealer has a 6). At this point, it would be smart to double down. Whereas if you’re dealt an Ace alongside a 2 or a 3, it’s better to hit unless the dealer’s up-card is a 5 or 6. In this case, you should double down.

Hard Totals

Most live blackjack games require the dealer to stand at 17 as part of their game rule. You should take a leaf from their book and also stand should your hand be a hard 17, regardless of the dealer's up-card. You should also stand with hard hand values from 13 to 16, providing the up-card for the dealer isn’t a 5 or a 6 - in this case, you should double down.

Blackjack Variations

Depending on the version of blackjack you choose, the basic strategy can change. For example, if you choose a 4-deck game over single-deck blackjack, the strategy you decide to follow can be adjusted as the odds of certain cards being drawn will change in a single-deck game.

Some versions will also incorporate the Soft 17 rule, and this can impact your strategy if the dealer stands on soft 17 or is required to hit.

Basic Blackjack Strategy Summarised

Hit on:

  • Soft 17 or lower
  • Hard hand of 8-16, if the dealer has a face-up card of 7-10 or an ace
  • Soft 18 when the dealer has an ace, 9 or 10

Stand on:

  • Soft 20
  • Hard 17-20
  • Soft 19

Split on:

  • Two aces
  • Two eights

Potential to double down on:

  • Soft hands of 13-18
  • Hard hand of 8-11

Putting Theory Into Action

These strategies are all about making smarter moves to put you in a better position against the house. Getting to grips with the basic strategies is the first step you take towards becoming more informed about what the best decisions are for each possible hand.

The best part about the popular blackjack game is that you hold some element of control in regard to gameplay. Of course, you can’t control the cards you are dealt, but you can utilise the strategies you have learned to make informed movements and lean the odds in your favour.

There is always a way to play which will optimise your chances of winning when you take time to consider the card in front of you. Try not to make irrational, rushed decisions or be tempted to follow unnecessary risks.

Unlike a game of online roulette, where players have zero influence on the outcome of the round, blackjack puts a degree of control into the player's hands. That said, there is no perfect blackjack strategy, as you can't determine the next card that will be drawn from the deck. To begin, you could start with one of our live blackjack tables to find your footing.

Basic Blackjack Strategy Chart

Using a blackjack basic strategy chart can make it simple to determine what moves you should make in certain situations, which is aligned with basic blackjack strategy. For example, depending on the hand you are dealt, the card will show whether you should hit, stand, double down or split. Before playing blackjack, you can memorise aspects of a blackjack strategy card to understand which moves might be the best for you in certain situations.

Below, you can find an example of what basic strategy charts look like, along with the recommended moves players could make with the hand they are dealt. As is the case with basic strategy, these are just recommendations and do not guarantee a specific outcome.

Blackjack Basic Strategy Card

How to use the Basic Strategy Chart

The strategy chart above can look complex upon first glance, but its really simple to use and apply once you understand what everything means.

Down the left column, you will find the different hands you might receive with your first two cards. The top row represents the value of the dealer’s visible card. With that said, how do you use this information to work out your next move?

  1. Take the value of your hand, i.e. a hand totalling 16.
  2. Then, find the column that is underneath the value of the dealer’s face-up card. This might be 6.
  3. Once you have this information, you can find the square on the chart that is aligned with your hand and the dealer’s face-up card.
  4. Across the chart, you will find initials for the following “H” (Hit), “S” (Stand), “Sp” (Split) and “D” (Double Down). The initial that is in your square will determine your next move, which is likely to be the best option in that scenario with the information you have available.

Read More About Blackjack


What is the best blackjack strategy?

There is no guaranteed strategy that works best, as the outcome is ultimately determined by chance.

Basic blackjack strategy is simply a way to determine which move is likely to be the best with the scenario you are dealt with.

When a dealer has a card value of 2 visible, the chances of them improving their hand are likely, which means that your hand of 12 is not likely to win. In this case, players are more likely to hit.

Strategy does play a big role in blackjack, as there is a logic behind the decision-making with each hand you are dealt. That said, random chance ultimately determines the cards which are drawn from the deck, which is something strategy can't influence.

Take Time to Think | BeGambleAware.org | 18+

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