Blackjack Strategy

    Blackjack is an action-packed, fun and social game to play, and part of its appeal is that it's so easy to play. Draw cards until you hit a total as close to 21 without going over. It sounds simple, right?

    And honestly, it is! Basic addition is all you need to play Blackjack, and you will still have a great chance of winning.

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    Probability Means Profits!

    But where the best Blackjack players gain an edge is in the field of probability. You may never be able to determine for sure what the next card off the deck is going to actually be, but with a little thought you can play the probabilities and make sure you always give yourself the best chance to win.

    Blackjack strategy

    Good Blackjack strategy is not difficult to employ, and can make a huge difference to any player's bottom line. So what is basic Blackjack strategy, and how can you use it to your advantage?

    Developing Your Online Blackjack Strategy

    There are so many great casino scenes in movies, from classic dramas like Scorsese's Casino, to comedies like Swingers, or action blockbusters such as Ocean's 11. Casino scenes in movies often feature a 'card-counter' at the Blackjack tables, aiming to cheat the casino out of big bucks by surreptitiously keeping a running count of the cards coming out of the Blackjack shoe. It feels like we've seen this scene so often, it's becoming a cliché!

    But there are two things you should know about card-counting:

    • Card counting isn't actually considered cheating, but is rather a form of 'advantage play'. Casinos may ask suspected card-counters to leave, or refuse their business, but would rarely take any further action than that.
    • A card-counter isn't trying to remember literally every card that comes out of the deck; they're usually just keeping track of whether the remaining stub contains more high or low cards.

    Developing a sound online Blackjack strategy is based on this same principle, but without tracking the cards remaining. This is because any deck is likely to have more cards with a value of 10 than any other cards (with 10s, jacks, queens and kings all worth 10 points, that's almost a third of the deck).

    Even without counting cards, this is useful information to know. Especially when it comes to online Blackjack, where the 'shoe' of cards is virtual and effectively shuffled after every deal. This measure means that card-counting in online Blackjack is impossible.

    Using Blackjack Strategy

    Given the high proportion of 10-cards in any deck, it's reasonable to assume that a 10 is the more likely result for any random card than any other number. This is a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to online Blackjack strategy.

    Blackjack cheat card

    Once you realize that, you need to focus on your own two starting cards, but also crucially the up-card that the dealer is showing.

    Let's take a look at a couple of example hands:

    Hand One:

    Your cards: 8 8

    Dealer shows: 7

    In this instance the dealer is showing a 7, meaning there is a good chance (given all the 10s in the deck) they have a 17. This would beat your 16, but hitting on 16 is obviously a very risky play.

    The best Blackjack strategy would suggest splitting these 8s for two hands. We know that 10s are more common, so by splitting we have a good chance of making an 18, or even two of them. Statistically, split 8s are expected to win against any dealer up-card of 2-7, and to lose less against up-cards of 8 through ace.

    Hand Two:

    Your cards: J 2

    Dealer shows: 5

    Your 12 is not a very high hand, and many novice players would choose to automatically hit on such a low number. But wait, the dealer is showing a 5 – this potentially puts them in a difficult position, especially if (as the probabilities above show) there's a good chance they have a 10 with that 5 for a very awkward 15.

    A dealer showing a 5 has a strong chance of busting, so if that's the case there's a good argument for simply standing on 12 and letting the dealer do just that!

    Hand Three:

    Your cards: 6 5

    Dealer shows: 10

    We know from simple math that cards worth 10 are the most numerous in the deck and so more common than cards of any other value. That's why it's good advice to always double-down on 11: you have a great chance of hitting a 10 to make 21, with the added advantage that it is impossible to bust when drawing to 11. The odds are in your favour, so it's time to make this hand count and double your bet!

    Free Blackjack Strategy Guides

    Many casinos will offer patrons free Blackjack strategy 'cheat sheets' to help them improve their game. These take the form of tables, with the players cards down one axis, the dealer's up-card along the other, with the recommended play for each combination shown where the two meet.

    It is thought that most players who play without at least a simple Blackjack strategy in mind will give up an edge of around 2% to the house, while using a basic strategy table can reduce the house edge to around 0.5%.

    When there's such an obvious, easy and convenient advantage to be had, it makes no sense not to use Blackjack strategy! Search online for 'Blackjack cheat sheet' to find an at-a-glance Blackjack strategy guide you can use for all your online Blackjack sessions.

    And don't forget to visit our casino reviews section, where you can find all the details and deals for the best online Blackjack sites around.