Blackjack Strategy: Everything You Need To Know

Blackjack is one of the most entertaining casino games, combining skill, analytical thinking and luck in one. To master the game and derive the greatest satisfaction from your gaming session, though, you need to turn to a proven blackjack strategy.

The good news is that the game offers depth, but it also relies on simple rules to help you familiarize yourself with it. We have prepared a blackjack basic strategy for you to find out more about the foundations of the game and pick the useful habits that will help you become a professional if you choose to.

The key to each blackjack strategy is practice as well as analyze your mistakes in a way that allows you to avoid them in the future. Once you are done with the blackjack basic strategy, you can switch to more sophisticated stratagems, such as card counting.

By choosing to stick to card counting and a blackjack strategy, you can improve the frequency and quality of your winnings. That said, you are about to discover both basic and advanced play in order to produce the best results you can during your own gaming sessions.

Blackjack Basic Strategy Charts

chart tab
H Hit Ph Split if double after split is allowed, otherwise hit
S Stand Pd Split if double after split is allowed, otherwise double
Dh Stand Ps Split if double after split is allowed, otherwise stand
Ds Double if allowed, othrwise stand Rh Surrender if allowed, otherwise hit
P Split Rs Surrender if allowed, otherwise stand
Download chart

Decoding Table Values

Reading the blackjack strategy chart isn’t at all complicated. Each chart displays your hand, as well as the dealer’s hand. Depending on what cards you receive, and what hands the dealer has, there is a recommended action for each situation.

To clarify the meaning of each action in the table, we have posted a short legend below to make your blackjack strategy a little more successful. These actions could change and be slightly different for single-deck, as compared with double-deck, blackjack strategy.

First, you need to understand the colors. Red is for Hit, yellow is for Stand and dark blue is for Dh. The table uses purple for Ds and green for Split. For Rh, Rs and Rp, you will notice that all three options are marked in white, because they rarely occur in any blackjack strategy.

This should make interpreting the blackjack table and blackjack strategy a little easier now. Here are the actual values:

  • H means Hit, where you will receive one more card from the dealer
  • S means Stand, where you will play with your current hand, without adding additional cards
  • Dh stands for Double, if allowed, or otherwise Hit
  • Ds means to Double, if allowed, or just Stand otherwise
  • P is used to indicate a Split
  • Ps means that you should Split, if double after split is allowed, otherwise Stand
  • Ph reads as Split, if double after split is allowed, or otherwise Hit
  • Pd asks you to Split, if double after split is allowed, otherwise Double
  • Rh means Surrender, if allowed, or just Hit if not
  • Rs reads Surrender, if allowed, or otherwise Stand
  • Rp calls for you to Surrender, when allowed, but otherwise follow through with a Split

How to Read the Charts

Now that you understand how to decode table values, the next part of the simple blackjack strategy is to learn situational blackjack, i.e. blackjack strategy for single-deck and double deck blackjack strategy, and so on. You see, to win at blackjack, you need not only to play through many hands, but also to understand the statistical probability attached to each card.

Depending on the number of decks, and therefore the rules that apply, you will have to use a different blackjack strategy against the dealer. We will start with single deck, dealer hits on Soft 17, and give you a rundown of the chart.

Single Deck, Dealer Hits on Soft 17

In this situation, you will play against the casino where the dealer hits on Soft 17 and uses a single deck. Most blackjack strategy cards here are easy to follow, thanks to the single deck. However, you can further improve your blackjack strategy single deck.

So, the table gives you a very good idea of how to act in certain situations. Let’s assume you have Hard 16 and the dealer has 6. You would want to stand in this situation. However, if the dealer has 10, you would want to hit.

Another situation in the same version is if you have a Hard 11. In this situation you would double, if allowed, or otherwise hit. If you just refer to the table and follow these situations, you will see how the blackjack strategy advises you to act in each. Let’s have a look at another, more complicated version right now.

4 to 8 Decks, Dealer Stands on a Soft 17

Clearly, when you have more decks in the game, you will need a different online blackjack strategy chart. The gameplay will change a whole lot. But the good thing is you can use the same blackjack basic strategy, i.e. repeatedly referring to the chart.

After all, the blackjack strategy chart sums up all the information you need to know and makes it accessible. This way you can read a situation in a matter of seconds – regardless of the difficulty of the game – and play immediately.

If you hold a Soft 15 and the dealer has 4, 5 or 6, you will want to double, if allowed, or otherwise hit. However, bear in mind that in any other situation, i.e. you have a Soft 15, but the casino holds 2,3,7,8,9, 10 or ace, you want to hit.

The blackjack strategy here is simple and relies on proven mathematical algorithms that are duly summed up in a simple list of actions to undertake. There are other variants you can explore, naturally.

For example, you can find a reference sheet for a blackjack strategy 6 deck or look for another specific number of decks. Most of the time, you shouldn’t have any trouble using the 4-to-8 reference sheet for anything in between.

Blackjack Basic Strategy in Rules and Tips

We have talked about blackjack strategy a lot, but we believe to help you establish a foothold in the game, it would be best to break down the different stages for you, as in surrender, split and double, and specifically when to implement each one. But first, we need to give you some general pointers.

To begin with, you must realize that a blackjack basic strategy isn’t enough; you must focus on developing in-depth understanding, and that comes with practice. More importantly, you must memorize the blackjack strategy and references, because you won’t always be able to check a reference chart.

Once you advance enough, you will notice that there are more variations, especially as you explore new formats and games, and casinos introduce new versions of blackjack. In the meantime, though, you will want to stick with the games that offer the best house edge.

Whichever blackjack strategy you use, you must make sure the house edge is the best you can get. Here are some proven rules for you to memorize. They refer to the 4-to-8-deck version of the game we discussed before. So, you should:

Surrender

  • Only surrender Hard 16 (never a pair of 8s) vs the dealer’s 9,10, or A
  • Hard 15 vs the dealer’s 10

Split

  • Split aces and 8s
  • Don’t split 5s and 10s
  • Split 2s and 3s versus 4 and 7, and against 2 or 3 only if double after split (DAS) is allowed
  • Split your 4s if double after split is allowed vs. the dealer’s 5 or 6
  • Split 6s vs. the dealer’s 3 or 6, and vs. 2 if double after split is allowed
  • Split 7s vs. anything 2-7 the dealer holds
  • Split 9s if the dealer holds 2-6 or 8-9

Double

  • Double your Hard 9 vs the dealer’s 3-6
  • Double your Hard 10 unless the dealer holds 10 or A
  • Double Hard 11 unless the dealer has A
  • Double Soft 13 or 14 if the dealer holds 5-6
  • Double Soft 15 or 16 if the dealer holds 4-6
  • Double Soft 17 or 18 if the dealer holds 3-6

Hit or Stand

  • Make sure anything on par or below Hard 11
  • Stand on Hard 12 if the dealer runs 4-6, or hit otherwise
  • Stand on Hard 13-16 if the dealer holds 2-6, but hit otherwise
  • Always stand on anything on par or above Hard 17
  • Always hit Soft 17 or anything below it
  • Stand on Soft 18, unless the dealer has 9, 10 or A
  • Always stand on Soft 19 or anything above that (in most cases, just 20)

You can treat this as a basic blackjack strategy that will work for your 4-deck and 8-deck games, driving some decent results your way. Modifications can be made, of course, but this comes over time as you begin to understand the game a little better.

Card Counting as One of the Blackjack Strategies

Card counting is a buzzword in any blackjack strategy, yet you need to know that it is not a panacea – an all-out solution for anything blackjack-related. Counting cards is an intellectual challenge and carries risk, because most casinos forbid it.

When done right, this basic, yet highly-efficient, strategy can take you a long way at any land-based casino, but it has zero utility in online casinos, because the decks are reshuffled each time a hand has been played.

This eliminates any opportunities to card count reliably online. However, you can benefit from this blackjack strategy at most retail and commercial casinos. To get yourself involved in card counting, you will need to study, have rudimentary mathematical knowledge, and be very patient.

Only if these three conditions are met can you begin to grasp card counting. Time will be of the essence in order to grasp the necessary skills to count cards, and you will need to practice. With this said, let’s take a look at what the blackjack basic strategy principles of card counting are:

  1. Assign a value to each card
  2. Start counting
  3. Calculate the “true count” per deck
  4. Adjust your bet based on the true count
  5. Bring the house down

You see, these four conditions are in fact very simple to follow through with. Assigning a card value is the simplest. Most players go with the following values in their blackjack strategy:

  • 2-6 = +1
  • 7-9 = 0
  • 10-Ace = -1

Once you have the values, all you have to do is pay attention and count the cards. A single deck would allow you to figure out the true count, as there are no additional challenges. But this is where your blackjack basic strategy should begin to adapt.

Casinos are aware of card counters; in fact, they employ many card counters to help them catch other players who are counting cards. Therefore, casinos have introduced additional decks to make your job more difficult.

Now, the true count is split between several decks and you need to keep track, adjusting your bets. But this is not quite all. There are additional challenges threatening to throw a spanner in your blackjack strategy.

For starters, a dealer might chat you up, a waitress may start bringing drinks your way in an effort to see if you are easily distracted or focused on the game – almost always a dead giveaway you are counting cards. With this said, you are probably wondering right now – is card counting worth it? The simple answer is yes; any blackjack strategy will benefit from counting cards. Here are a few things to keep in mind however:

  1. The casino will actively pursue you if you are a card counter, especially if you’re good at it
  2. You can be asked to leave if you win too much and systematically
  3. To master card counting, you will need months, if not years
  4. Casinos use artificial intelligence, card counters and staff to see if a winning customer is a counter
  5. A dealer might shuffle the deck if he suspects a customer is winning too much, or request a new deck and cards

This sums up card counting, painting one of the most popular blackjack strategies in broad strokes. Card counting is worthwhile, but you must commit to it over a long period of time to see benefits.

Best Blackjack Betting Strategies. Do They Work in Blackjack?

Blackjack has a lot of depth. It offers very simple gameplay, but there is much to master. Therefore, players continue to turn to blackjack strategy in order, hopefully, to reach their full potential in the game and earn a little more.

Some blackjack strategies are arguably better than others, but what will work for you will depend on the type of player you are, the version of the game you play, and how good you are at following the prescribed play.

With this said, there are three blackjack “basic strategy” options for you to try here. Each is worth your attention and consideration.

Win Little by Little

This blackjack strategy is rooted in a very conservative approach towards blackjack. Instead of taking on any big risks, you will want to streamline your experience and focus on small bets.

That said, you won’t place big amounts at all, and you will probably find the best-RTP game while still looking for the lowest basic bet.

One way to apply this blackjack strategy is not just by betting small amounts but rather, from time to time, you will want to double your bet, for example. You can double until you catch up on a loss. This way, even if you lose five times in a row, you will recuperate your losses if you win on the sixth hand.

The strategy relies on the fact that a player bets very small amounts, so it’s statistically very unlikely that the player will turn up a loss in the end.

You don’t have to double up anything, though. Just play with small amounts and try to balance how much money you spend on blackjack and how much you earn back.

True, this particular blackjack strategy doesn’t rely on a mathematical edge or depth, but that’s part of its charm and what makes it so accessible in the first place.

The Martingale Strategy

Martingale is one of the timeless classics you will use to improve your blackjack winnings – or at least give yourself the best statistical probability of doing so. The idea in this blackjack strategy is again to bet conservatively – just place a minimum bet and play.

Use the reference charts to advise you on the best play in each case and use them well. Every time you win, just bet the same – minimum – amount, and do so until you lose.

Now that you have lost, it’s time to get your last bet back. Just double up; if you lose again, don’t worry. You can double back until you win back everything you have lost. Once you do, you not only have your original winnings, but you have also made back your losses, too.

This blackjack strategy sounds bulletproof and it almost is. However, because of the small advantage the casino has, you will need to realize that in the long term, you are eventually going to hit a bunch of losing hands.

To avoid this, the best thing to do is use the Martingale blackjack strategy and quit while you are ahead. This is not the most exciting game plan, but it’s one that brings you steady results over time.

1-3-2-6 Blackjack Betting System

This is another viable blackjack strategy that has been used time and time again; clearly, it works. Now, there are no ultimate solutions, and our guide’s goal is to instruct you well. Therefore, the 1-3-2-6 system can be quite useful, but only on the condition that you understand and accept the risks.

Basically, the strategy asks you to bet in a sequence. Based on the numbers here, this sequence (assuming your bet is $1) would be $1, $3, $2, and $6. Does this make sense? It does, because it’s mathematically proven to help you recuperate part of your losses and keep you betting according to a pattern.

Now, this strategy should be restarted once you lose, or each time you reach the $6 bet. If you lose on $3 (based on the previous example), then you should go back to $1, not fast-forward to $2 or even $6. This blackjack strategy only works if you stick to it without unnecessary deviations.

Another big plus here is that you don’t really have to own a big bankroll to make it work and, even if you lose, you can control your bankroll to the point where your losses will be negligible, in theory.

FAQs

  • Where did the basic strategy come from?

    The blackjack basic strategy is actually a computer simulation. Once upon a time, a computer was taught to play blackjack, and it played through several hundred million hands, coming up with a cornerstone blackjack stratagem to use in your games. Basically, today’s ground-zero blackjack strategy is the result of analyzing a computer play.

  • How to memorize blackjack basic strategy?

    To commit everything to memory, you will need patience and determination. You shouldn’t exactly rush into it, but you shouldn’t give up one week in. You need to keep rote-learning and play-testing. The Internet is full of blank strategy sheets you can use to actually lay down the strategy as a form of exercise. This is the answer to how to memorize blackjack basic strategy.

  • Is using a basic strategy table legal?

    Yes. You can even use a basic blackjack strategy chart legally in Las Vegas casinos, and they are more than happy to have you try to outsmart them. If you start winning too much, you might be asked to hand over your sheet for inspection or the casino might look into whether you are counting cards.

  • What is the optimal size of the bet?

    Some blackjack pros advise betting around 3% of your total bankroll when you sit down at a table. Others suggest betting 25% if you are the only player playing. Both of these could work, but we recommend you stick to smaller amounts. In fact, if you are playing according to a blackjack strategy, even a minimum bet should do.

  • What’s the percentage of winning by using a basic strategy?

    Using a basic blackjack strategy and betting $25 per hand for six has been proven to lead to losses between $10 and $100, which is pretty decent, given how much time you have spent playing. However, because the game is based on chance, you can end up winning 5%, 10% or more of your original bankroll before you quit your session.

  • How to win and not lose?

    You can only win by sticking to a repetitive blackjack strategy and quitting while you are ahead. This is the main condition of winning. Nobody can beat the casino over the long term if they continue playing. However, by calling it quits early on, you will be able to collect your winnings and move on.