Blackjack Strategy

Blackjack Strategy is a mathematical probability guide to your decisions at the blackjack table. If you follow basic strategy you will redice the house edge to less than 1%. Perfect play can reduce this to 0.5%.

Blackjack strategy takes into consideration the two cards you have been dealt along with the card the dealer has showing. Whether you take card, stand, split or double depends entirely in these two things.

Rules and limitations

Some casinos limit the actions you can take with different totals. These limitations can affect the blackjack strategy you should adopt. For example, sometimes you are only offered the chance to double down if your hand shows a total of 9, 10 or 11.

This is all fine for hard totals (totals without an Ace) but for soft totals (totals with an Ace) you will miss out on the chance to double down on the lower totals. Optimum blackjack strategy guides will recommend that you double on hands A-2 through to A – 6 when the dealer has a 5 or a 6 showing.

As a further limitation related to doubling down, some casinos will not allow you to double after a split. A split hand results in you turning one hand into two. If you cannot double these totals when strategy dictates then this severely limits your options.

Another issue that affects strategy is the surrender option. Surrender is sometimes not allowed, which means you then always have to play a weak hand. Blackjack strategy advises you to surrender if your first two cards total 16 and the dealer is showing a 9, 10 or Ace. If surrender is not allowed, you will have to risk your money playing out the poor hand.

Blackjack insurance bet

Casinos can also have different approaches to insurance. The traditional insurance bet allows you to insure yourself against the dealer getting a blackjack. In order to do this, you bet half your original bet again.

If the dealer gets blackjack, you then receive 2-1 on this insurance bet. If the dealer does not get a blackjack you lose your insurance wager.

Some casinos will treat this as offering ‘even money’ immediately if the dealer shows an Ace. Insurance and ‘even money’ offers are exactly the same in their results for the player.

Blackjack insurance bets can feel attractive to the player because it seems like you are simply insuring yourself against a blackjack for the dealer and so improving your chances of winning, or at least reducing the amount you could lose.

However, insurance bets are actually bad strategy. Insurance is in effect a bet that the dealer will get a natural blackjack. The dealer is of course more likely not to get a natural blackjack, so as all strategy guides will tell you, this makes insurance a bad bet.

It is always advisable to check out the exact blackjack rules at your chosen casino before playing so that you can prepare your perfect blackjack strategy.

Blackjack strategy table

Browse the table below to study basic blackjack strategy:

Player hand Dealer’s face-up card
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
Hard totals (excluding pairs)
17-20 S S S S S S S S S S
16 S S S S S H H SU SU SU
15 S S S S S H H H SU H
13-14 S S S S S H H H H H
12 H H S S S H H H H H
11 Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh H
10 Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh H H
9 H Dh Dh Dh Dh H H H H H
5-8 H H H H H H H H H H
Soft totals
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
A,8 A,9 S S S S S S S S S S
A,7 S Ds Ds Ds Ds S S H H H
A,6 H Dh Dh Dh Dh H H H H H
A,4 A,5 H H Dh Dh Dh H H H H H
A,2 A,3 H H H Dh Dh H H H H H
Pairs
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
A,A SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP
10,10 S S S S S S S S S S
9,9 SP SP SP SP SP S SP SP S S
8,8 SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP
7,7 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
6,6 SP SP SP SP SP H H H H H
5,5 Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh H H
4,4 H H H SP SP H H H H H
2,2 3,3 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
S = Stand
H = Hit
Dh = Double (if not allowed, then hit)
Ds = Double (if not allowed, then stand)
SP = Split
SU = Surrender (if not allowed, then hit except stand on 16v10 if not first two cards.)

Learn the above table and know exactly when to hit, stand, split, double or surrender and reduce the house edge on blackjack to 0.5%

Return to blackjack overview or read about blackjack rules

 

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