The game of blackjack, also known as 21, is relatively simple to learn but can become quite complex depending on the level at which you wish to engage with it.
The basic blackjack rules can usually be learned in a matter of minutes, but mastering the game can take a lot longer. The game’s complexity can range from simple enjoyment as a casual player to a highly analytical, even mathematical endeavor for serious players.
Even if you’re a beginner, this basic blackjack strategy can lower the casino house edge to around 0.5%, which is one of the lowest on both land-based and online casinos.
Blackjack Rules of Thumb
Before we teach you how to read the basic blackjack strategy chart, let’s help you master the fundamentals first. This way, you have a solid foundation and you can make the correct decision for every scenario without relying too much on the blackjack chart.
Stand When You Have 17+
The golden rule in blackjack is that you should stand if you have a total of 17 or higher. Even when the dealer shows an Ace or a 10, you’re better off holding your hand rather than trying to improve it.
Don’t Split 10s
Don’t be greedy. You should never split 10s because a total of 20 puts you in a strong position to win the hand.
Skip Side Bets
Some blackjack variations offer side bets but these betting options usually come with a large house edge, sometimes exceeding 10%.
Never Use Insurance bet
Steer clear of blackjack insurance or “even money” option while you’re still a beginner as it rarely works in your favor.
Follow a Budget
Exercise responsible gambling by establishing a budget and adhering to it. Don’t bet money you can’t afford to lose and refrain from chasing losses with the hope of winning.
Don’t Drink and Play
The basic strategy in blackjack demands clear decision-making, so abstain from consuming alcohol during the session. Additionally, take a break if you feel tired or if the game is beginning to feel like a drag.
Celebrate Your Profits
Cash out your winnings if you feel you’ve had a successful session and feel content with your play. Part of winning in blackjack lies in knowing when to quit. What’s the point of winning if you’re not going to enjoy your prize?
Adjust the Bet Size
Don’t hesitate to alter your bet size based on the session, especially if you’re counting cards. When more high cards remain in the deck, expert blackjack strategy advises you to increase your bet size to leverage the lower house edge.
Single Deck Blackjack Basic Strategy Chart
The basic blackjack strategy depends on your hand. If your hand doesn’t have an Ace, you should follow the Hard Hand (or Hard Total) strategy. Otherwise, follow the Soft Hand (or Soft Total) strategy.
In the leftmost column, you’ll see your initial hand, represented either by its total value or by the specific combination of two cards. Once you recognize your hand based on the cards you’ve received, check the dealer’s upcard and the corresponding box on the right to find the best course of action.
Your options include standing, splitting, doubling down, or surrendering. If the blackjack version you’re playing doesn’t allow doubling down or surrendering, you can opt for hitting or standing. Games that allow doubling down and surrendering are generally the best to play.
Blackjack Basic Strategy for Hard Hands
- 17+ = always stand
- 16 = stand if the dealer shows 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6
- 15 = stand if the dealer shows 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6
- 14 = stand if the dealer shows 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6
- 13 = stand if the dealer shows 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6
- 12 = stand if the dealer shows 4, 5, or 6
- 11 = double down
- 10 = double down if the dealer shows 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9
- 9 = double down if the dealer shows 3, 4, 5, or 6
- 8 = always hits.
Blackjack Basic Strategy for Soft Hands
- A,9 = always stands
- A,8 = double down if the dealer shows 6
- A,7 = double down if the dealer shows 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6, hit if the dealer shows 9 or higher
- A,6 = double down if the dealer shows 3, 4, 5, or 6
- A,5 = double down if the dealer shows 4, 5, or 6
- A,4 = double down if the dealer shows 4, 5, or 6
- A,3 = double down if the dealer shows 5 or 6
- A,2 = double down if the dealer shows 5 or 6
Blackjack Basic Strategy for Pair Splitting
- Ace pair = always split
- 10 pair = never split
- 9 pair = split if the dealer shows 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, or 9
- 8 pair = always split
- 7 pair = split if the dealer shows 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7
- 6 pair = split if the dealer shows 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6
- 5 pair = double down if the dealer shows 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9
- 4 pair = split if the dealer shows 5 or 6
- 3 pair = split if the dealer shows 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7
- 2 pair = split if the dealer shows 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 7
When playing a blackjack game that allows surrender, you can only do so on your initial two cards. If you’ve already taken a hit card, surrender is no longer an option. Therefore, consider surrendering as the first decision to make when you’re dealt your hand. If you decide that you can’t or shouldn’t surrender, then move on to your next choice.
Read our guide about blackjack surrender if you wish to learn advanced tips on when to exercise this option.
How to Master the Blackjack Basic Strategy
The purpose of the blackjack basic strategy is to increase your winning percentage. Maximizing your earnings by learning when to double down is just icing on the cake.
But before you can reap the benefits, you must memorize and master the basic strategy chart. Here are tips to help you memorize.
Play for Free
Play online blackjack games in demo mode to test out betting strategies without risking any money. You can take as much time as you need to study the blackjack chart and make the correct decision.
You can play Bitcoin blackjack games here at Bspin. We’ve got dozens of games where you can sharpen your skills by playing the demo version. Don’t worry, you won’t be betting real money in any of the blackjack variations.
Have a Hard Copy
Printing the blackjack basic strategy chart next to you is usually a good idea. It allows for quick reference when you’re unsure of the right move, and helps you learn how to win more rounds effectively.
Make index cards featuring different hands and recite the correct strategies aloud. This exercise helps you internalize the information, improving your real-game performance.
Stick to the Plan
Making alterations based on intuition undermines the effectiveness of using a proven strategy. A trail has been already created for you so there’s no reason to blaze a new path.
Take the Next Steps
Once you’ve got the basic strategy down, you might consider reading blackjack books and studying more advanced techniques to lower the house edge even further. While some strategies like shuffle tracking can be complex, memorizing blackjack odds, multi deck strategy, and card counting are the easiest ones to learn.
Questions from Our Readers and Players
In blackjack, who wins a tie?
A tie between the player and the dealer is known as a “push.” In a push, the player neither wins nor loses; instead, the bet is returned to the player. So, essentially, no one wins in the event of a tie, and the player gets their original bet back.
Can you split face cards in blackjack?
In a standard blackjack game, you can split face cards as long as they have the same value, even if they are not identical. For example, you can generally split a King and a Queen, a Jack and a King, or a Queen and a Jack, since all these cards are worth 10 points. After splitting, you continue by placing an additional bet equal to your original bet and proceed to play each hand separately. Just make sure to follow the blackjack basic strategy chart shown above.
However, the rules for splitting face cards can vary. Always check the rules of the online blackjack game you’re playing to make sure you understand what’s allowed.
Can you split twice in blackjack?
In some multi deck game, you can split multiple times if you continue to receive cards of the same value on a split hand. For instance, if you initially split a pair of 8s and then receive another 8 on one of the split hands, you can usually opt to split again, creating a third hand. You would place an additional bet equal to your original wager for each new hand created by a split. Again, we suggest following the blackjack basic strategy chart above.
However, there are some limitations and variations. Some online casinos restrict the number of times you can resplit, and some single deck games may not even allow resplitting aces. Always consult the specific rules of the game you’re playing to understand the limitations of splitting and resplitting.
Can blackjack be profitable?
If you’ve seen the movie 21, then you know that blackjack can be profitable. It was loosely based on the story of a real group of MIT students who used card counting and other blackjack strategies to beat casinos.
Blackjack can be profitable but only for skilled players who employ a solid strategy, card counting, or other advantage play techniques.
Can blackjack be rigged?
Like any other casino game, blackjack has built-in odds that favor the house. This is commonly known as the “house edge.” In regulated online casinos, the games are generally not rigged in the sense of being dishonest or not following the stated rules. Casinos make their profits based on the house edge and the natural odds of the games. In regulated environments, the games undergo rigorous audits by government agencies to ensure fairness.
How do blackjack dealers always win?
It’s a common misconception that blackjack dealers “always win,” but this isn’t actually the case. Dealers follow strict rules for how to play their hands, rules that are generally established to give the house a small edge over players who use random or poor strategies. However, the house doesn’t win every hand; it simply has a statistical advantage over the long term.
Which is better blackjack or roulette?
Whether blackjack is better than roulette depends on your preference.
Roulette can be better than playing blackjack if you’re a casual casino player. Blackjack can be hard to master versus roulette, which relies purely on chance. Roulette games are also diverse but almost all have the same house edge.
Playing blackjack can be better than roulette because the former has better odds and a lower house edge compared to the latter. The player’s skill and strategy can reduce the house edge and even gain an advantage.