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Basic Blackjack Strategy Guide

Master the Basics of Blackjack and Use the Right Strategy to Beat the Dealer

Blackjack is ultimately a game of chance: score 21, and you're a winner. But are there ways in which you can become a better player? Absolutely!

And this is exactly what we're going to talk to you about today. We're about to explain the basics, right through to the nitty-gritty. Playing Blackjack is about beating the dealer and knowing when to take the right approach.

Blackjack game rules will vary from table to table, casino to casino but the overall aim generally remains the same - scoring 21! The game may be down to luck, but there is a blackjack basic strategy that you can use to become a more experienced player.

We're going to show you the different kinds of bets you can make and the strategies to avoid. By the end of the blog, we're confident you'll have the knowledge to try and beat the dealer next time you play.

Basic Hit and Stand Approach

Learning the basics of Blackjack is your first step to beating the dealer. There are four basic bets when you play Blackjack, which means (depending on the table) you can either use a single deck blackjack basic strategy or a double deck blackjack basic strategy; either way, the bets remain the same:

  • Hit
  • Stand
  • Double Down
  • Split

We're going to discuss the basic hit and stand bets now and go into more detail with double down and split later. You may also want to check out more blackjack tips which go into further detail.

One of the biggest decisions you'll make is to either Hit or Stand, one wrong move, and the game is potentially over. 'Hit' is simply an instruction to let the dealer know that you want another card. 'Stand' is the opposite bet and lets the dealer know you are sticking with the cards you have, and your turn ends.

blackjack table

Knowing which approach to take depends on your hand and the dealer's hand. If the dealer has an Ace, this is the worst-case scenario for you, and you should try for a good hand with at least 17 or more to stand a chance of winning the hand. The same applies if the dealer has a 10 value card.

The best time to hit is when you have a hand that is valued between 9 or less or 10 and 16 but stand on 17 or more. If the dealer has an 8 or 9, it is harder for them to get 21, so your chances of winning increase. It's important to remember that if your hand is 11 or less, you cannot go bust on a hit; the best-case scenario is that you get a Blackjack. It's all about learning Blackjack basic strategy; the more you play, the better you'll become.

Basic Pair Splitting Strategy

It is possible when you're dealt your hand to have two cards of the same value. If you do, you then have the option to split the cards and form two new hands. You will then play both hands and place two bets at the same time (equal to your original bet).

This could be your secret weapon! Potentially you now have another chance to beat the dealer, albeit it's costing you twice as much, but it can pay off. Splitting can give you the advantage; however, you need to do it with the right cards.

You should consider splitting with:

  • Two Aces: You have a much higher chance of hitting a Blackjack with one ace as there are so many 10-value cards in the deck. Splitting your aces will give you better odds, whereas playing two aces in a single hand is considered a poor strategy.
  • Two Eights: It is always better to split two eights and aim for two hands worth 18 each.

You should avoid splitting with:

  • Nines or Tens: If you are dealt two nines or two tens, you've already got a strong hand (18 or 20 respectively) and there is little room for improvements on these hands.
  • Two Fives: If you're dealt two fives, your cards are valued at 10, and if you're given the option, you could consider the double down bet here. Splitting these could give you a 15 hand which is not a great position to be in.
  • Two Fours: If you are given a starting hand of 8, you could hit and get a 10-value giving you a strong 18. Whereas if you split and then get a 10-value, you're in a tricky position with 14, so avoid splitting this pair.

If you decide to split on any pair, you will be dealt further cards, and play will continue as normal where you either Hit or Stand.

Surrendering for Beginners

Perfecting a basic strategy Blackjack is also knowing when and when not to surrender. The surrender feature will be available in some versions of Blackjack, and even though the rules may differ slightly from table to table, it essentially means that you will be given a chance to surrender your hand. However, by doing so, you will lose half of your original bet while the dealer checks for Blackjack.

Depending on the version of Blackjack, you may be given an Early Surrender option or a Late Surrender option. However, the concept remains the same. If you think that your hand has less than a 50% chance of winning, then you consider surrendering. However, even if your hand has a 1 in 4 chance of winning, this is still better than using the surrender option. But, if the odds are clearly against you, then it is better to lose only half than all of your bet.

An example of when to surrender would be if your hand is 15 and the dealer's up-facing card is a 10. This is because chances are the dealer is most certainly going to beat your hand. Alternatively, if your hand is 16 and the dealers facing card is either a 9, 10 or ace. This could present another opportunity to surrender. However, if you have two cards at the value of 8 each, you may have a better chance of winning if you split them into separate hands (as explained above) and avoid the surrender option. Ultimately, you should only consider surrendering on your very worst hands.

Double Down Basics

The Blackjack double down bet is one of the most popular bets, but what does double down mean in Blackjack? In layman's terms, it is the chance to increase the total value of your initial bet by up to 100%. However, in return, you must stand after you take one more card.

Making a Blackjack double down bet, in essence, is a confidence call in your own bet. There is only one point in a game of Blackjack where you can use this bet, which is once you have been dealt your initial two cards. The Blackjack double down rules means if you Hit or Stand, you can no longer place this bet.

When to Double Down in Blackjack

Knowing when to Double Down in Blackjack is important, and there are three scenarios that make sense when considering this bet. In each of the following hands, you cannot go bust on your next card, and you are more likely to beat the dealer's hand:

  • You are dealt a hard nine (two cards that make up 9, not including an ace), and the dealer's card is a six.
  • You're dealt a hard 10 or 11 and the dealer has lower. This means your chances of winning are currently more than the dealers, and it is a good time to double down. The reason why is because the next card cannot make you bust, but the dealer has the potential to go over 21 as they need to hit until they reach at least 17.
  • You're dealt a soft 16, 17 or 18, and the dealer has a two to six card face up. You could potentially improve your hand with one more card as your hand contains an ace with a 5, 6, or (soft hand). This means it is an excellent time to double down as your ace has the option to be a 1 or 11.

Sometimes we know it can seem daunting reading all those figures, so we've included visual charts further down the blog, which may help you out more.

When to Use Insurance

Insurance in Blackjack is a side bet which you can use if the dealer's up-facing card is an ace. Insurance acts as a safety net. The bet will only be available once in the game when the dealer's up-facing card is an ace. This means the bet will not be available if their card has any other value.

The odds of an insurance bet is 2/1, and the maximum bet you will be allowed is half of your main bet. Insurance gives you the chance to break even if the dealer has Blackjack, even if you lose your main bet.

This may seem appealing as you will be able to win your money back without losing anything, but you need to be careful, and time your insurance bet right. If the dealer's up-card is an ace, there is a chance that their other card (hole card) is a 10, and when you use insurance, you are betting that the dealer has a Blackjack. If the dealer's hole card is not a 10, you will lose the insurance bet.

After reading about these bets, we know that you may be thinking about how to memorise Blackjack basic strategy, but you can use this blog at any time to help you. If you start to play Blackjack regularly, this strategy will soon become human nature.

Can Beginners Use Card Counting

The first thing you should probably know about card counting is that most, if not all, casinos ban this strategy. This means if you were to use it, it is very likely that you would be in breach of the casino's terms and conditions. Whilst the act of card counting is not illegal, it can result in your winnings being forfeited or a complete ban from the casino. If you were to use a device to help you card counting in a land-based casino, you could even face legal action.

The reason why is because, essentially, card counting gives you a bigger advantage over the casino as you could potentially predict your next hand. A player who is card counting will more than likely change their playing style in certain ways. They will bet high when the count is "high" and bet low when the count is "low". This kind of strategy can often be picked up by an online operator, which is how players get recognised as card counting.

Whilst this kind of strategy may help you win more rounds, as a beginner, it is always best to stick to the table rules and avoid using card counting.

Odds of Winning Blackjack with Basic Strategy

With all that being said, the odds of winning Blackjack with basic strategy is very effective. Is it a guaranteed way in which you can win? Absolutely not. However, going equipped into a game of Blackjack with a basic strategy gives you the best chances of beating the dealer. Don't forget that you can also refer to the Blackjack basic strategy table that we've included above for you too.

It is important to note that the ultimate goal of using the strategies we've mentioned isn't to help you win every single bet. It is to help you boost your chances of winning and minimise your losses. Playing the Blackjack basic strategy card is simply giving you a step in the right direction. The more you play, the more developed your strategy will become, but starting off with the basics is most certainly the right way to do it. You will be able to combine everything we've taught you with everything you learn on your own to become a pro!