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Blackjack Strategy

The basic strategy of how to win at blackjack is to have a hand value that is closer to 21 than the dealer, without going bust (going over 21). If the dealer goes bust as well, blackjack favors the dealer. It is based on mathematics that has been tested through computer simulations. With the basic strategy, it may reduce the House Edge (The percentage advantage the casino has over the player on a particular bet) to the minimum which is usually about one-half percent. Although others may be playing with you, you are not playing against them, only the dealer.

The game begins with a player placing their bet. The dealer will deal the player and themselves two cards. The players cards are usually given face up, while the dealer has one card face up, referred to as “The Up Card” and the other card face down, referred to as “The Hole Card.” There are a limited number of possible hands versus a limited number of potential dealer Up Cards so the basic strategy is something you can memorize.

The game may be played with one to eight regular cards decks. Cards 2 through 10 are scored exactly at their face value. Face cards, jacks, queens and kings are valued at 10 points. Aces are the wild card and can have a face value of either 1 or 11 points. A 10 point card with an Ace card is called Blackjack. The rules vary from casino to casino in which some may allow you to Double Down after Splitting (doubling the initial bet and taking only one more card. It is usually allowed after the first two cards are dealt - some allow it after splitting (doubling your bet and splitting your two matching cards to make two new hands) and some don’t.

Basic Terms

Soft and Hard Totals
There are two totals your hand will contain. The first is a Soft Total where you choose the value of the ace and avoid going bust; an example of this is your hand containing an ace and a nine would be called a Soft 20 because if another card when turned up would have your hand going over 21, you would be able to say your ace is worth one and you will not go bust. A Hard total is where an ace in your hand can only be worth one; an example is an eight, a nine and ace.
Hit or Stand
The term Hit means you draw another card from the dealer. If you Stand, you do not want any more cards.
Having a hand with a total over 21. Automatically a loss.
The player and the dealer have the same total. Usually the player’s bet is returned when there is a push.
Double Down
You are allowed to double your bet on the first two cards and draw only one more card after.
Splitting Pairs
As stated above, if you are dealt two cards that are a pair, you may split them and make two new cards.
Potential Double Down Hands
A good hand to have for a potential double down is a Hard 9 through a Hard 11.
Stiff Hands
Stiff Hands are Hard 12’s through Hard 16’s and you usually cannot beat the dealer with this hand and they usually go bust.
A term for the establishment that runs a game.

Strategy Charts
As was stated before, the goal is to beat the dealer by not going bust. Online blackjack strategy can be very useful because it may lower the chance of the dealer winning. Strategy charts are one way of achieving this. The following are standard Strategy Charts for Single Card and Multi-Card Decks.

Single-card decks table
(Dealer's hand on top - Player's hand on left side)

Multi-card decks table
(Dealer's hand on top - Player's hand on left side)

You will actually find basic blackjack strategy cards in any casino gift shop or online. Using these strategy cards can significantly lower the House’s edge

The first strategy is to know that Hitting a Hard 8 or less is something to always expect. Standing on a Hard 17 or better is something to always expect as well.

The player will only need to strategize for eight other hands. The rest of the hands will be played either like first strategy or the second strategy. The same strategy applies to any total of 13, 14, 15 or 16, which ends up leaving you with only 5 possibilities.

The basic strategy to follow is to look up your hand along the left side of the chart and the dealer’s Up Card on the top of the chart. Rules may vary and can effect some situations. Flexible rules are the number of decks you are playing with, if the dealer hits or stands on a Soft 17 and whether Doubling is allowed after Splitting

To use the basic strategy look up your hand along the left vertical edge and the dealer's up card along the top. In both cases an A stands for ace. From top to bottom are the hard totals, soft totals, and splittable hands. Rule variations can have an effect on some borderline situations. The most flexible rules are the number of decks, whether the dealer hits or stands on a soft 17, and whether doubling is allowed after splitting.

Card Counting
Learning to Card Count will allow your odds to become even greater. Blackjack Pros use a complex system to increase their winning odds. You keep track of the cards that have been dealt and to predict what cards come next. Low cards in the deck improve the dealer’s chances of winning; low cards favor dealers because they help the dealer to make wining amounts on his hands when he is Stiff. The high cards in the deck improve your winning chances. Blackjack Pros utilize this system to beat the house. If you learn to card count in blackjack you can play with even greater odds in your favor, against the house.

In card counting memorizing the entire deck or remembering how each card is played is not necessary. The method actually keeps track of higher value cards versus lower value cards. The advantage that the dealer has over you is they Hit last.
An Example
  • There are 7 players in the game.
  • You go bust and then 5 other players bust.
  • The 7th player Stands and the dealer acts on the House’s hand and busts.
  • The dealer pays the 7th player.
  • The players busted and so did the house.
  • The dealer took the players money because they busted first.
  • The House now has a 6.97% starting mathematical advantage over the player.
  • The House will establish a rule to make the game fairer and to keep players playing.
  • Paying 3 to 2 on a Blackjack will reduce the House Edge by 2.33%.
  • Allowing Double Downs, Splitting of Pairs, Double after a Split reduces the Houses Edge to where a player can actually play a basic strategy and card count to raise their advantage.
  • Card Counting can be successful because you can gain an advantage when there is a shortage of cards in a deck valued at 2 through 8. A deck that has a shortage of cards valued at 9, 10 and Ace places you at a disadvantage. However, if you recognize a deck has an overage of cards valued at 9, 10 and Ace, you have two choices. You can either bet more money when a deck is favorable to you or you can alter your basic strategy play to account for the favorability and increase your odds of winning a certain hand.

    Blackjack games can be won with the help of blackjack systems as it gives blackjack players real advantages and tips for playing. How to win at blackjack begins with general knowledge of odds of winning and game rules are beneficial for playing blackjack to be exciting and profitable; otherwise the game becomes a risk.

    In case you want to learn more about card game strategies our friends over at have a good poker strategy section aimed at beginners.