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Blackjack Rules Strategies & Tips!

Blackjack Rules strategy tips and odds

Introduction to blackjack
Blackjack strategies can greatly improve your chances of winning at the casino. In this article, we’ll explore some of the basic techniques that players use to get an edge over the house. Understanding how to manage your bets and knowing when to hit, stand, double down, or split, are crucial skills in blackjack. We’ll break down these strategies into simple steps that anyone can follow. By the end of this article, you’ll have a good foundation to start practicing and applying these strategies in your next game.

How to Win at Blackjack

The Goal of the Game

How to Win at BlackjackUnderstanding how to win at blackjack is pretty simple. The main goal is to outscore the Dealer without going over 21 points, a situation called ‘Busting’. To do this, you need to carefully choose your cards to get your hand as close to 21 as you can without exceeding it. This approach is key in beating the Dealer.

Card values work like this

1. Cards numbered from 2 to 10 are worth exactly their number.

2. Picture cards, which are the Jack, Queen, and King, are all worth 10.

3. An Ace can be worth either 1 or 11, depending on what works best for your hand.

Getting Ready to Play

1. Decide on your budget – It’s a good idea to bring enough money for about 40 rounds of play.

2. Picking your table – Each table has a minimum and maximum betting limit. Choose one where a single round costs about 1/40th of your total money. For example, if you have £200, aim for tables where you can bet £5 each round.

3. Choosing your seat – Feel free to sit in any open spot. You can even take more than one seat if you like. The seat you pick doesn’t affect your chances of winning, but remember that the Dealer will start dealing from one end of the table and the game moves in order from there.

4. Converting money to Chips – Decide how much money you want to turn into Chips, which you’ll use to play. You can always turn these Chips back into cash and leave after any round.

Blackjack Rules

Blackjack Rules1. Start by placing your bet. If there’s space, you can play multiple hands at once, but you’ll need to bet on each one separately.

2. Two cards will be dealt to you face up, so everyone at the table, including the Dealer, can see them.

3. The Dealer usually gets two cards as well – one face up and the other face down. However, in some versions of Blackjack, the Dealer might take just one card initially (the second card is dealt face up after all Players have made their moves).

4. Next, decide how to play each of your hands. The main choices are ‘Hit’ (to take another card) or ‘Stand’ (if you’re happy with your cards and don’t want any more). If you choose to Stand, you won’t take any more actions in that hand. If you Hit, you’ll face the same decision after getting your next card. Occasionally, there are three other options: Double, Split, and Insurance, which I’ll explain later.

5. Once all players have finished their hands, the Dealer draws cards until reaching at least 17. Note that the Dealer must keep drawing cards until they have 17 or more, regardless of the players’ scores.

6. The Dealer will stop if their total is 17, 18, 19, 20, or 21. If they exceed 21, they bust, and all remaining players win.

There are also three additional actions you can take in certain situations:

Double Down

Double down, Split Cards, Blackjack InsuranceWhen you choose to double down, you double your bet by placing an additional bet equal to your first one. This move allows you to receive one more card, and then your turn ends, no matter what card you get. If you win with this hand, you’ll receive twice your total bet.

Typically, you’d double down if your hand totals 9, 10, or 11, and the Dealer doesn’t have an Ace or a 10. You can refer to the chart provided for further guidance on this strategy.

Split Cards

If your first two cards have the same value, you have the option to split them into two separate hands. For this, you’ll need to place an additional bet equal to your original one. Then, each of your split hands will receive another card. After that, you decide for each hand whether to ‘Hit’ (take another card) or ‘Stand’ (keep your current total). It’s important to note that if you reach 21 after splitting, it counts as 21 and not as Blackjack. Also, if you split Aces, you’ll only receive one more card for each Ace and then you must Stand. In most casinos, if you receive another card of the same value, you can choose to split again.

Blackjack Insurance Bets

When the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace, all players have the choice of taking Insurance. If you decide to use Insurance, you place a bet that’s half the amount of your original bet. If the dealer ends up having Blackjack, meaning their second card is worth 10, you’ll receive twice your insurance bet. If the dealer doesn’t have Blackjack, you’ll lose the insurance bet.

The Game Ends

The Game Ends1. Your turn in the game ends if your hand exceeds 21, which means you Bust and lose your bet. Alternatively, your turn can end after the Dealer finishes their actions.

2. After the Dealer completes their turn, all players still in the game receive their payouts.

3. If your total is higher than the Dealer’s and both are 21 or under, you win and receive double your bet. If your total is the same as the Dealer’s, the hand is a Push and you get your bet back. However, if one of you has a natural 21 (Blackjack) and the other reaches 21 with three or more cards, the person with Blackjack wins. If the Dealer’s total is higher than yours, but both are 21 or under, the Dealer wins and you lose your bet.

4. If the Dealer Busts (goes over 21), then all remaining players win double their stake.

5. Getting 21 with your first two cards counts as Blackjack. If the Dealer doesn’t have Blackjack with their first two cards, you win 1.5 times your bet, plus your original bet back. This equals 2.5 times your bet. If the Dealer also has Blackjack, it’s a Push and you get your original bet back.

How to Play Hard Hands in Blackjack

A ‘hard hand’ in blackjack is a hand where neither of your starting cards is an ace. Here’s how to play a hard hand effectively:

1. If your total is 8 or less, always choose to hit.

2. With a total of 9, double down if the Dealer shows a 3, 4, 5, or 6. Otherwise, hit.

3. If you have a total of 10, double down if the Dealer has anything from 2 through 9. If not, hit.

4. For a total of 11, double down if the Dealer has up to a 10. If they have anything else, it’s better to hit.

5. Holding a total of 12, you should hit if the Dealer has a 2 or 3. Stand if the Dealer shows a 4, 5, or 6. In other situations, hit.

6. When your total is between 13 and 16, the strategy varies. Stand if the Dealer has 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6, and hit for any other Dealer card.

7. If your hand is 17, 18, 19, 20, or 21, your best option is to stand and hope for a favorable outcome.

Understanding Soft Hands in Blackjack

A ‘soft hand’ is one where one of your cards is an ace, which contrasts with a ‘hard hand’ where there’s no ace. Experienced players follow specific strategies for soft hands. Here’s a guide to playing soft hands:

1. With an Ace 2 or Ace 3, double down if the dealer has a 5 or 6. If not, hit.

2. If you hold an Ace 4 or Ace 5, double down against a dealer with 4 or 6. Otherwise, hit.

3. With an Ace 6, double down if the dealer shows 3, 4, 5, or 6. In other cases, hit.

4. If you have an Ace 7, stand if the dealer has a 2, 7, or 8. Double down against 3, 4, 5, or 6. If the dealer has any other card, hit.

5. For an Ace 8 or Ace 9, your best move is always to stand.

Playing Pairs in Blackjack

When you get pairs in blackjack, it means both of your cards are the same, like two aces, two 10s, or two Jacks. Let’s explore the best ways to play when you’re dealt a pair.

How to play Pairs1. It’s commonly advised to always split a pair of aces and eights. Aces are hard to win with as a pair, and starting with a total of 16 (from two eights) is not ideal.

2. Split a pair of 2s or 3s if the dealer shows 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7. If the dealer shows anything else, it’s better to keep the pair and hit.

3. With a pair of 4s, consider splitting if the dealer has a 5 or 6.

4. For a pair of 5s, double down if the dealer has anything from 2 to 9. If the dealer shows anything else, hit.

5. If you have a pair of 6s, split them if the dealer’s card is 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. If not, hit.

6. With a pair of 7s, it’s recommended to split if the dealer has between 2 and 7.

7. Split a pair of nines against dealer’s 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9. Stand against a 7, 10, or an Ace.

8. When you get a pair of 10s, always stand. A total of 20 is a strong hand.

Blackjack Definitions

Hit

‘Hit’ is when you take another card. You can ask for a hit as often as you want, but be careful: if your total exceeds twenty-one, you bust and lose that hand.

Stand

‘Stand’ means you don’t take any more cards. Your current hand will be compared with the dealer’s to see who wins.

Split

When you have two cards of the same value, a ‘Split’ option becomes available. You can divide your cards into two separate hands and bet on each independently. Your original wager is matched for the second hand. Both hands are then played normally, except when you split Aces, as you’ll only get one extra card for each Ace. You can only use the split option once per hand – you can’t split a split hand. Any 21 you get after splitting pays out 1-to-1.

Double Down

Choosing to ‘Double Down’ does two things: you get exactly one more card, and then your turn is over. Also, your bet amount is doubled.

Surrender

Where it’s allowed, often at a Blackjack Surrender table, you can choose to ‘Surrender’ your first two cards and lose only half of your original bet.

Blackjack Payouts

In blackjack, if you win a hand, you get back the amount you bet, along with the same amount as your winnings. A hand that includes an Ace and a ten-point card is called a natural twenty-one, or natural blackjack. However, this doesn’t apply if the hand is formed after a split. If you win with a natural blackjack, you are paid out at a ratio of three-to-two. That means you receive your original bet plus an additional 150% of that bet as your profit. For instance, if you bet ÂŁ50 and win with a natural twenty-one, you’ll get back your ÂŁ50 bet plus ÂŁ75 (which is one and a half times your bet), totaling ÂŁ125.

Blackjack Odds

Understanding the odds in blackjack is key to becoming a better player and taking on the casino’s odds. Knowing the game’s odds is crucial for any effective gambling strategy. Generally, the odds favor the house – that’s how casinos, especially the big ones in places like Las Vegas, make money. Blackjack rules are set to give the house a slight advantage. However, the impact of this edge isn’t as big as you might think, and it can be countered. As a knowledgeable player, you’ll learn that the house edge in blackjack is manageable. It’s important to be able to figure out things like:

  1. Differences in blackjack odds
  2. Chances of going over 21
  3. How your hand stacks up against the dealer’s visible card

 

Blackjack Odds and Rule Variations

To play online blackjack effectively, it’s important to understand your odds for the specific game you’re playing. These odds vary based on different rule variations, and some of these variations might not be immediately clear, so paying attention is key. Your blackjack strategy can also be adjusted according to these rules. The following information outlines how different rule variations affect the player’s expected return, assuming you make the right strategy adjustments. These changes are compared to the standard rules often found in Atlantic City, which lead to a player’s expected return of -0.43%. These standard rules include using 8 decks, the dealer standing on soft 17, allowing players to double on any first two cards, permitting doubling after splitting, and allowing up to four hands in a split. I will go over some specific rule variations and their impacts below the table.

Rule VariationsEffect
Five Card Charlie+1.46%
Player with 21 points automatically wins+0.54%
Early surrender option against an ace+0.39%
Early surrender option against a ten+0.24%
Player may double on any number of cards+0.23%
Player can draw cards after splitting aces+0.19%
Six card Charlie+0.16%
Player can resplit aces+0.08%
Late surrender against a ten+0.07%
Seven card Charlie+0.01%
Late surrender against an ace+0.00%
Split to only 2 hands-0.01%
No-peek: ace showing-0.01%
Player may double on 9-10-11 only-0.09%
No-peek ten showing-0.10%
Player may not resplit-0.10%
Player may not double after splitting-0.14%
Player may double on 10-11 only-0.18%
Blackjack pays 6-5-1.39%
Player loses 17 ties-1.87%
Blackjack pays 1 to 1-2.27%
Player loses 17-18 ties-3.58%
Player loses 17-19 ties-5.30%
Player loses 17-20 ties-8.38%
Player loses 17-21 ties-8.86%
Dealer bust on 22 is a push-9.53%

 

Five, six and seven-card Charlie:

A Charlie means you automatically win. For example, in a six-card Charlie, you win if you have a six-card hand that doesn’t go over 21.

No-peek rule:

With this rule, the dealer does not check for Blackjack at the start of the hand.

Calculating the Odds: You begin with the basic Atlantic City blackjack rules, which have a -0.43% effect on your expected return. Then, adjust for specific rule variations in your game. For instance, “Player may double on any number of cards” adds +0.23%, and “Player may not resplit” subtracts -0.10%. So, the new expected return would be -0.43% + 0.23% – 0.10% = -0.30%. These odds (-0.30%) are more favorable for the player than the standard Atlantic City rules (-0.43%).

Chances of Busting in Blackjack

This information helps calculate the likelihood of busting if a player decides to hit. It’s generally understood that hitting on a 16 has a higher risk of busting compared to hitting on a 12.

Hand % Bust if hit
21100%
2092%
1985%
1877%
1769%
1662%
1558%
1456%
1339%
1231%
11 or less0%

 

Player Advantage Compared to Dealer’s Up-Card

This table is quite helpful as it shows how the dealer’s visible card affects your chances of winning and the dealer’s likelihood of busting.

Dealer Up Card Dealer bust % Player Advantage %
235.32%9.5%
337.58%13.6%
440.27%18.4%
542.88%23.1%
642.10%23.8%
726.00%14.6%
823.84%5.4%
923.34%-4.4%
10,J,Q,K21.47%-16.8%
A11.62%-15.9%

 

Blackjack Basic Strategy

To follow the Blackjack Basic Strategy, refer to the tables below. They provide guidance on the best actions to take with every possible starting hand you have against the dealer’s visible card.

It’s beneficial to remember these strategies as well as you can, as they help increase your advantage against the house.

If your hand includes an Ace, check the second chart. If you have a pair of cards with the same value, refer to the bottom chart. For all other hands, the top chart is where you should look.

Blackjack Strategy Chart

To get better at blackjack, the initial move we recommend is learning the basic strategy chart. This chart is a crucial guide, offering the best possible actions depending on your cards and the dealer’s shown card.

We advise either having a printed copy of the chart handy or keeping it open on your screen while you play.
 
blackjack Strategy

Strategy Card

Blackjack Strategy Card
 

Advanced Blackjack Strategy

Advanced blackjack strategy involves more than just following the basic rules; it requires an understanding of card counting and odds. By keeping track of the cards that have been played, you can get a sense of which cards are likely to come up next. This knowledge lets the player change their bets and how they play based on what cards are left in the deck. For instance, if there are many high cards left in the deck, they might increase their bet, as the chances of getting blackjack are higher. Additionally, learning when to deviate from the basic strategy, like hitting on a 16 when the count is in my favor, is crucial in advanced play. I wrote a whole article on it here.

Blackjack Tips

Taking Insurance or Even Money

Since blackjack is a game of chance, it’s not usually a good idea to play it safe by opting for Insurance or even money. Most of the time, about 7 times out of 10, when the dealer has an Ace, they won’t end up with blackjack. Therefore, taking Insurance often turns out to be a losing strategy in the long run and is generally best avoided.

Splitting Tens Against a Dealer’s 6

When the dealer shows a 6, it increases their chances of busting, so it’s often smart to raise your bets. Splitting tens can still earn you a profit, typically a bit less than $18 for every $100 bet. However, by simply standing on a total of 20, you can expect to make more, around $70 for every $100 bet. The dealer is likely to bust, so it’s usually best to stand on a hard 17 or more.

Standing on 16 Against a Dealer’s Ace

Choosing to stand on 16 when the dealer shows an Ace is generally less risky than if the dealer has a Ten. While there’s a high chance of busting if you hit on 16, you at least open up the possibility of winning or pushing the hand. Otherwise, to win, you would have to rely on the dealer busting with an Ace.

Standing on Soft 18 Against a Dealer’s 6

As mentioned above, the Dealer having a 6 is the best possible hand for the Player as it presents the best chance of the Dealer Busting. You need to, therefore, try and maximize your returns in this situation, so Double and try to take down a bigger win. You can’t bust by taking one more card, so go for it!

Standing on Soft 18 when Dealer shows 9

When the dealer shows a 6, it’s often the most advantageous situation for you because the dealer has a higher chance of busting. In this case, it’s a good idea to try and increase your potential winnings. Consider doubling down to aim for a larger win. Since you can’t bust with just one more card on a soft 18, it’s a safe move to take that extra card.

Hitting on 11 Against a Dealer’s Ten

In blackjack, you have the opportunity to decide when to increase your bet. When you have an 11 and the dealer shows a Ten, it’s often a good strategy to double your bet. By doubling, you can typically expect to make around $18 for every $100 you bet, compared to just about $12 if you choose to hit instead.

Standing on a 12 Against a Dealer’s 2

This situation often leads to different opinions among players, as many are hesitant to risk busting. However, the dealer has a good chance of improving their hand with a 2 showing. So rather than just hoping the dealer busts, it can be a better strategy to take another card and try to get a stronger hand.

Doubling on 11 Against a Dealer’s Ace

Whenever the dealer shows an Ace, it’s wise to be careful. In this case, just hit instead of doubling down. It’s not advisable to increase your bet when the dealer has an Ace.

Hitting 2/2 Against a Dealer’s 7

Starting with a pair of twos can be a decent position for a player. There’s a good chance the dealer has a “stiff hand,” possibly a total of 17. So, in this situation, it’s a good idea to split your pair of twos and try to increase your winnings.

Hitting 4/4 Against a Dealer’s 6

While many players suggest doubling down with a pair of fours against a dealer’s 6 to maximize winnings, since the dealer has a high chance of busting, it might be better to split the pair of fours. When the dealer shows a 6, it’s often a good strategy to play more hands, as the dealer is more likely to bust.

My Personal Stories and Wins
I once had a hand with a 10 and a 6, while the dealer showed a 9. I chose to hit, received a 4, and decided to stand on 20, which ultimately led to a win as the dealer busted with a 22. In another game, I was dealt a pair of 8s. I decided to split them, and luckily, I drew a 3 on one and a 2 on the other. I hit on both hands, ending up with 18 and 19, and beat the dealer’s 17. By sharing these wins, I can show how I put strategies into action in real scenarios, making the tips more relatable and useful for readers.

Conclusion
In conclusion, mastering blackjack strategies takes time and practice, but it’s worth the effort. By learning when to hit, stand, double down, or split, you can increase your chances of winning. Remember, no strategy guarantees a win every time, but it can definitely improve your gameplay. Keep practicing these strategies, and over time, you’ll become more skilled at making the right decisions at the blackjack table.

Related Blackjack Articles:

Counting Cards in Blackjack
Blackjack Multi-Deck vs Single-Deck
Real Money Blackjack Sites

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About the author

Richard Grant
Director
Richard has from an early age been interested in casinos and the thrill of playing casino games. After finishing his degree in Law and business he started this platform in 2007 as a complete resource to online gaming with the primary objective of reducing the house edge for players. Specializing in game guides, reviews, and strategic insights, Richard is devoted to helping you hit the jackpot.

FAQ

faq

What is the Goal of Blackjack?

The goal of blackjack is quite simple. All you have to do is beat the Dealer’s hand. To do this, you need to get as close to 21, without exceeding that number. Reaching an exact 21 is an automatic victory.

faq

How are Cards Valued in Blackjack?

In blackjack, numbered cards from 2 to 10 are also counted at face value. The Royal cards each count as a 10. This includes the Jack, Queen and King. The ace is unique, in that it can be counted as both a 1 and an 11, depending on the need.

faq

What Does Hit Mean in Blackjack?

Hit simply means requesting another card from the dealer. After the initial cards have been dealt, a player can decide whether they want to take a hit or stay their hand.

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What Does It Mean to Stay in Blackjack?

To stay is the opposite of to hit when it comes to blackjack. If taking a hit means taking an additional card, staying refers to leaving your hand as is. The higher one’s cards are, the likelier it is that they will stay their hand.

faq

Do I Hit on a 10 in Blackjack?

It is considered common knowledge among blackjack players that you should hit on an 8 or less. However, when playing certain games, you will have to decide whether taking a risk is worth it or not. If the dealer is sitting at a three, then hitting on a 10 comes highly recommended.

faq

Do I Hit on a 15 in Blackjack?

Another piece of common knowledge is that, while you hit on an 8 or less, you stand on anything over 12. But, as we said, every game is different. If the dealer seems to have taken the upper hand, sometimes you might want to hit a 15 as well.

faq

What is Splitting in Blackjack?

When it comes to blackjack, splitting refers to the practice of dividing a hand into two separate hands. This can be done when a player is dealt two of the same on the first hand. For example, if you are dealt two Aces in the hand, you can split your hand and play it as two hands instead.

faq

Should I Always Split in Blackjack?

Gambling is not a hard science. The best way to decide when to split cards and when not to, is during the game itself. You must weigh the pros and the cons of the split and make a decision right there and then. However, generally speaking, it is not a good idea to always split your hand in blackjack. However, there are instances when it is much better to split your hand, then to keep it as one.

faq

When Should I Split my Cards in Blackjack?

Most pros will tell you that the best time to split your cards is when you get two aces. The reason for this is because when you get two aces, one is considered an 11 and the other is valued at 1. This means that the only way to reach 21 is by getting a 9, which is highly unlikely. So it is much better to play with two different Aces, each valued at 11, because there are more cards valued at 10 than at 9. Another pair that you should always split is a pair of 8s.

faq

Why Should I Always Split 8s in Blackjack?

It is one of the most basic strategies in blackjack to split 8s, regardless of the Dealer’s hand. So why is this? Well, according to most top tier gamblers, a 16 is a breaking hand, and puts the player in an unfavorable position. It is much better to work your way up from an 8, then to hope for the best with a 16.

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