Mastering Blackjack Strategy: A Comprehensive Guide for Players of All Levels

Mastering Blackjack Strategy: A Comprehensive Guide for Players of All Levels

Online blackjack is a powerhouse within the iGaming industry, luring thousands of players to digital tables around the world. But do you know how to play like a pro? Many blackjack enthusiasts remain unaware of fundamental strategies that could significantly increase their chances of victory. We would like to change that. We've crafted a comprehensive blackjack strategy guide to unravel the game's nuances.

Whether you're a rookie looking to master online blackjack or a seasoned professional, our insights could give you an edge over your favorite online casinos.

Quick Overview: How to Win at Online Blackjack

There is no guaranteed way to always win at blackjack, but there are strategies that can increase your chances of beating the dealer and walking away with a decent amount of money. Winning at online blackjack requires following certain rules and guidelines. In this guide, we will provide you with a complete set of instructions on how to do it. Some tips can also help you get better at the game.

To get you started, here's a list of practical tips that'll improve your basic blackjack strategy:

  • Always Hit Aces and 8s
  • Always Double and 11 if the dealer has anything from 2 to 10
  • Playing with fewer decks tends to be better as it gives you better odds of predicting outcomes
  • Insurance tends to be a bad call in most cases
  • 6s and 5s on the dealer’s hand tend to end up in a bust – keep this in mind before betting
  • Always push on a soft 17. A hand with a soft 17 cannot mathematically bust!

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Blackjack rules may change based on your chosen strategy, but the basic strategy is easy to understand. Memorize the basics and use charts to level up your skills quickly. You're likely to see an improvement within a matter of days.

It is crucial to pay close attention when playing and to thoroughly memorize the rules and charts that we will provide you with. Although it may seem difficult at first, studying a few minutes per day can make it easier. The real challenge lies in putting your knowledge into practice under pressure.

Glossary: Blackjack Terminology

There are a few terms that every newcomer should understand, especially if you’ve never played the game before. Certain terms are exclusive to blackjack, which makes it difficult to understand even if you’ve played poker or baccarat before. As such, it's worth making sure you understand everything in the glossary below.

Basic Strategy

Basic Strategy, in blackjack, refers to a list of mathematical calculations that are made based on the current hand that you have. These calculations ensure that you make plays with the best odds possible. The math doesn’t fail.

Basic Strategy is incredibly popular in blackjack because it gives you the best chance of beating the house out of any other set of moves you can make.

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Doubling

Doubling is an essential blackjack play that allows you to double your original stake and bet again on the same round. For example, if you have a soft 19, you can double your bet against the dealer’s 6, as the odds will be in your favor.

Doubling should be done carefully. We’ll provide mathematical tips on when to split and when to double during a round.

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Insurance

Insurance can only be bought when the dealer gets an Ace as their upcard. In this case, there’s a chance that they’ll have a blackjack and thus beat you. Insurance is an additional bet you can make, worth half the amount of your original bet. This protects your original bet against the dealer's potential win.

So, if bet €5 on one hand and the dealer gets an Ace to kickstart the round, you can buy insurance for €2.50. If the dealer gets a blackjack, you will get your money back along with the insurance. However, if the dealer doesn’t get a blackjack, you will lose the insurance money and play the round with your original €5 wager.

Buying insurance will protect you 30% of the time, meaning that you will lose cash in the remaining 70%. In general, it’s a risk not worth taking.

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Splitting

Splitting is a common play in blackjack where you double your bet and play two hands with cards of the same face value. This type of play can be risky but also a lucrative option. We'll guide you on when it's appropriate to split and when to avoid doing so.

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Standing

Standing in blackjack means you're no longer taking any more cards. You can do this at any time, but the best time to stand depends on both your cards and the dealer's. The dealer is required to stand at a certain value, depending on the table and casino rules. Typically, you'll find that the dealer stands once they get 17.

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Soft and Hard Totals

Whenever there’s an Ace in your hand that holds two different values, your hand is considered a soft hand. This is because you take far fewer risks with an ace than you do with a K or any other 10-value card. For example, if you have a 7 and an ace, your hand could either be worth 8 or 18. This gives you far more maneuverability than you would have with a 7 and a J.

A hand with an Ace is almost always called a soft hand. A hard hand is any hand that doesn’t have an Ace. A hard 18, for example, would be a hand with a J and an 8.

Upcard

The Upcard is the one card of the dealer's that you can see. The dealer will always deal two cards, one of which will always be visible to the player. This gives you an idea of what to expect and how to play the round. If the dealer gets an Ace as an upcard, you will have the chance to purchase insurance.

Surrender

In blackjack, surrendering means forfeiting half of your initial bet. It can only be done under specific circumstances, and there are two types: late and early surrender. We'll explain when to surrender later, but first, let's define these terms:

  • Late Surrender: After the dealer checks for blackjack, the player has the chance to surrender and only lose half of their original bet.
  • Early Surrender: Surrendering early means that the player surrenders before the dealer checks for blackjack.

Not every blackjack game allows for surrenders to happen. Late surrender is far more common than early surrender, and there are ways to determine when you should do it.

Basic 4 to 8-Deck Blackjack Strategy

The basic blackjack strategy is the most effective way to win over time, especially in classic blackjack games using 4 to 8 decks. However, we do recommend you only use this strategy for traditional blackjack. Aside from that, memorizing the following tips is crucial for any aspiring blackjack champion.

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When to Surrender with Basic Strategy Blackjack

Surrendering in blackjack is typically an intuitive move, but there are only a few situations where surrendering a high number might increase your chances of winning. Any additional advice will be explained later on.

When to surrender:

  • If you have a 16 and the dealer has anything from 9 to Ace, you will be better off surrendering.
  • If you draw a 15, you should only surrender it against the dealer’s 10.

These are the only two occasions in which you should surrender relatively good hands to the dealer.

When to Split with Basic Blackjack Strategy

 Splitting a hand can be tempting, but it's essential to carefully consider the dealer's hand to avoid losing all your money. Caution should be exercised when making this decision.

These are the situations in which splitting is a smart choice:

  • If you have two aces, ALWAYS split them. It doesn’t matter what the dealer has.
  • NEVER split cards with a value of 10. It doesn’t matter what the dealer has, either.
  • You should always split 9s if the dealer has anything from 2 to 9 themselves. Do not split if they have a 7, 10, or ace.
  • There’s no mathematical disadvantage to splitting 8s. Always split 8s.
  • Always split 7s if the dealer has anything from 2 to 7.
  • Split 6s if the dealer’s upcard is anything from 2 to 6.
  • Split 5s if the dealer has any card that isn’t valued at 10, or an ace.
  • You should only split 4s if the dealer has a 5 or a 6.
  • Split 3s and split 2s if the dealer has any card from 2 to 7.

According to basic blackjack strategy, always split in the hands we've mentioned here. You should never stand in these situations. When the dealer's card doesn't support splitting your hand, opt to hit instead.

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How to Play Soft Hands in Blackjack

Chances are high that you will get an ace in most hands. Aces give you a lot of room to maneuver and make decisions on how to play. This allows you to take more risks than you would otherwise. Remember, aces have a base value of either 1 or 11.

As long as 11 won't make you bust, the ace will always be worth 11. If you keep hitting and you get a hand in which 11 points would make you have a total of 22 or more, the ace will then be worth 1. Any hand with an ace that could either be a 1 or an 11 is called a soft hand.

Here's when you should hit, split, double, or stand with a soft hand:

  • Always stand with a soft 20. It doesn’t matter what the dealer has. Never hit and never double.
  • If the dealer has a 6, double a soft 19.
  • Double a soft 18 if the dealer has any card from 2 to 6. If the dealer has anything from a 9 to an ace, you should hit.
  • You should double with a soft 17 if the dealer has a 3, 4, 5, or 6.
  • You can double a soft 16 or a soft 15 if the dealer has a 4, 5, or 6.
  • Double a soft 14 and a soft 13 if the dealer has a 5 or a 6.

If you have a soft hand and the dealer has any hand other than the recommended ones we just told you about, then you should always hit. You should neither surrender nor stand with any of these hands. Soft hands are actually some of the safest hands in the game, so it's best to play them.

How to Play Hard Hands in Blackjack

Hard hands don’t provide you with the same level of maneuverability that soft hands do. However, they still give you great odds if you stick to the basic principles of this guide.

Let’s take a look at how to play hard hands to your advantage:

  • Always stand if you have a hard 17 or anything above that. Never hit with anything above a hard 17 or you'll face a high risk of losing.
  • Always stand with a hard 16, hard 15, hard 14, or hard 13 if the dealer has anything from a 2 to a 6.
  • Only stand with a hard 12 if the dealer has a 4, 5, or 6.
  • It doesn’t matter what the dealer has – always double if you have a hard 11. Chances are high that you might hit 21 with your next card.
  • Double a hard 10 if the dealer has anything from a 2 to a 9.
  • Double hard 9s when the dealer has a 3, 4, 5, or 6.
  • Always hit a hard 8. Never stand or double.

Please note: if you happen to face any of these scenarios and the dealer’s hand is different from what we’ve suggested, then you’ll be better off hitting.

4, 6, and 8-Deck Blackjack Strategy Chart

To give you a clearer picture of the strategy in action, we've included a chart below to help you grasp the gameplay under different circumstances. This chart is designed specifically for 4-to-8 deck blackjack.

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Blackjack Strategy Trainers

Blackjack trainers are useful tools for beginners in online casino blackjack. They help new players perfect strategies and understand the rules as they develop their skills.

There are a lot of online trainers available to learn basic blackjack strategy. In this article, we will share our thoughts on the best free trainers available online.

What is a Blackjack Trainer?

Blackjack trainers simulate the game and provide odds guidance for players. They are not available in traditional casino games but can be found online or via mobile apps. Some trainers cost money, but there’s a handful of freeblackjack trainers that provide you with all the tools you need.

Are Blackjack Trainers Allowed in Online Casinos?

You can always open up your own app to keep track of each hand, but there’s no way to fully integrate a blackjack trainer into an online casino game while you play.

That would be like taking an odds chart into a land-based casino. It’s simply not logical and it isn’t allowed. The fact that you can access training apps when wagering online, however, does give every new player a fantastic advantage that cannot be had in any land-based casino.

Using trainers is one of the main reasons why we recommend beginners start playing online blackjack before graduating to land-based establishments.

The Best Types of Blackjack Strategy Trainers

We want you to get the best out of blackjack for free. There’s no need to pay any money for you to get access to the best trainers on the internet.

Keep in mind that these trainers may not have the same graphics as online casinos, as they are created by players for players. However, they are still great tools to help you improve your skills and get into the online blackjack scene.

1. Classic Blackjack Strategy Trainer

The classic blackjack trainer is the most frequently found type of trainer on the internet. Since this is the most common blackjack game found in online casinos, it's logical that most trainers are tailored to this type of game.

Our favorite classic blackjack trainer so far is the Blackjack Trainer website. As the name of this site suggests, the only objective of this domain is to provide blackjack enthusiasts with a tool to help them get better at the game.

2. Blackjack Drills

You'll also find websites that offer training drills to help you improve your blackjack skills. These drills simulate realistic scenarios you'll encounter while playing blackjack, and you'll need to respond appropriately based on what you've learned. Many of these drills will monitor your progress, so you can keep track of how well you're doing.

What we love about these sites is that, alongside classic blackjack drills, they can also train you to get better at things like card counting or deviations. Our favorite is the Blackjack Training Drill from the Blackjack Apprenticeship website.

Be careful when employing these tools in a real casino, though: you can get yourself banned if you're not careful. If it can happen to Ben Affleck, it can happen to any of us.

3. Mobile Blackjack Trainers

If you are playing blackjack on your mobile device, there are some great applications that can help you train and improve your understanding of blackjack strategy.

These apps allow you to train directly from your phone, giving you a huge advantage. The main purpose of these apps, such as the Blackjack Trainer Practice app, is to teach you the basics. As long as they provide you with "right and wrong" statistics, you will be able to learn and improve your game.

Odds of Winning Blackjack with Basic Strategy

Blackjack is a table game that requires skill and strategy, and the odds of winning depend on the risks taken and the way the cards are played. By using a basic blackjack strategy, players can significantly reduce the house edge and increase their chances of winning big.

However, it's important to note that the house edge cannot be completely eliminated. By using a basic strategy, the house edge can be reduced to as little as 0.50%, but this depends on the type of game and the strategy employed by the player.

Understanding the House Edge in Blackjack

Before you begin playing online blackjack, it’s important for you to understand that the house often has an edge of around 8%. If you don’t have a strategy or you’re just blindly trying your luck to see how things go, chances are you’ll end up losing a lot of money. The expected RTP of a classic blackjack game is 92% - lower than most popular online slots.

However, with a basic blackjack strategy, the RTP of the game could reach over 99%. It all depends on how you decide to play.

No matter how perfect your strategy may be, the house always has an edge. This is because you are always the one who plays first, allowing the house to react to your actions without taking any risks. As a result, you are at a disadvantage and it is crucial to use proper strategies to minimize this disadvantage.

Mathematics in Blackjack

In blackjack, the house edge can be decreased to less than 1% by applying mathematical concepts. Using strategy guides, you can tilt the odds in your favor by understanding how many cards are left in the deck.

Essentially, blackjack strategy involves applying a set of mathematical concepts to increase your chances of winning. Since the math never lies, it's best to stick to the basic strategy elements if you want to increase your chances of winning.

Which Blackjack Rules are Better?

There are various types of deck variants as well as house rules, which directly influence blackjack statistics. The house rules of a blackjack game can make or break the player's advantage and, in some cases, they can make it very difficult for the player to make use of the strategy guide we’ve provided here.

Let's take a look at some standard blackjack rules:

Standing or Hitting with a Soft 17

One crucial house rule that can significantly affect your chances of winning in blackjack is whether the dealer hits or stands on a soft 17. Some tables allow the dealer to hit a soft 17, while others require the dealer to stand.

If you want to increase your chances of winning, it's best to play at a table where the dealer is required to stand on a soft 17. While the mathematical advantage will still be on the dealer's side, you'll have a better chance of beating them if they don't receive an extra card with a soft 17.

Doubling After Splitting

Even though most land-based casinos allow you to double after splitting a hand, some online casinos forbid this practice. There are many fantastic hands for you to double after splitting, so you're probably better off finding an online casino that allows this. Most live dealer blackjack games tend to offer this practice, or at least the ones developed by the world’s most renowned online casino creators.

Classic Evo Gaming blackjack, for example, permits the player to split and double. If this option isn’t allowed by your online casino of choice, you will only be allowed to double as your first play – not after splitting and not after hitting.

Surrendering

Casinos that allow surrendering tend to be better for the player. In most games of multi-deck blackjack, you should be allowed to surrender. However, most casinos forbid surrendering when you’re playing with a single deck, and often when you’re playing double-deck blackjack too.

Surrendering is a fantastic way to cut your losses before the dealer gets more cards. You might surrender a winning hand unintentionally, but when the odds are stacked against you, surrendering can be a great way to prevent further losses.

Why You Should Use Basic Blackjack Strategy

Basic Blackjack Strategy gives you the best odds of winning the game. For example, let’s say that you use this blackjack strategy correctly, and your new RTP becomes 99.5%. In that case, for every €100 that you bet, you would only be expected to lose €0.50. That’s just assuming neutral luck, too.

If luck happens to be on your side, chances are that you’ll be earning quite a lot of money and, with even a bit more luck, you might even beat the casino at their own game!

Where to Play Blackjack Online

You can play blackjack online by visiting some of the world’s best online casinos. Players from all over the world can enjoy the finest blackjack games by visiting almost any site. Simply search for the best mobile casinos if you want to play blackjack on the go, or look for Evo Gaming casinos if you’d rather play Live Dealer Blackjack.

After learning all about blackjack's basic strategy and which are the best blackjack games you can play, it’s time to discover the best online casinos to play blackjack.

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We’ve made a point to only list online casinos that offer good bonuses, free blackjack no deposit bonuses, and promotions that allow every player to enjoy this classic card game using free money.

A Final Word on Blackjack Strategy

Understanding blackjack strategy can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to applying it to actual games that could result in real winnings. However, deepening your knowledge of this strategy is crucial.

If you're a beginner, you may be surprised at how quickly you can improve your game. So, stay focused on the satisfaction that comes with winning, especially those initial victories!

Last updated  January 4, 2024
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About the author

Marco

Marco

Chief Content Writer

Marco

Chief Content Writer

Marco is an experienced casino writer with more than half a decade of gambling-related work on his back. He took a keen interest in gambling as a young adult and started writing expert content for the casino and sports betting niche in 2015. Now, he specializes in online slots, table games, and sports betting – producing well-researched content on all fronts of the iGaming world.

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