The Best Blackjack Strategy
The game of blackjack has been a global sensation for centuries. Its inclusion in online casinos only boosted its popularity, and it has since become one of the top most played Live Casino games. The game’s objective is to form a hand with a value as close to 21 as possible without surpassing it, and while beating the dealer’s total. Like other live dealer games, online blackjack is a game of chance; however, there are actually a few blackjack strategies that may help boost your odds of winning.
In this article, we will take you through some of the most popular blackjack strategies that you can adopt whether you’re a novice player or a blackjack boss. Bear in mind that these blackjack strategies do not offer the keys to success, as there is no guarantee that you can win at blackjack — they just simply give you slightly better odds.
Basic Blackjack Strategy
The basic blackjack strategy is arguably the easiest strategy to pick up as you play. It is often recommended for beginners as it is a mathematically calculated set of decisions that may help you make the best possible decision in any situation and possibly win at blackjack. With this blackjack basic strategy, blackjack players can potentially slice the house edge in half and bring it down to as low as 0.20%. For this reason, this system is considered as the best blackjack strategy to adopt.
With the help of a blackjack strategy chart, you can memorise when to split, double down, hit or stand. This basic strategy is influenced by a number of factors, including the dealer’s drawing and standing rules, the number of decks used, whether surrendering is available, and whether you can double down after splitting pairs, so the exact basic strategy may vary.
With that said, the following is a list of key basic strategy plays that can be used in all blackjack games played with more than two decks:
- Always double down on a hard 11 — Doubling down on a hard 11 yields positive results, on average, against a dealer’s upcard of lower values, with one exception. If you are playing a multi-deck blackjack game where the rules specify that the dealer stands on soft 17, you are better off hitting against a dealer’s ace rather than doubling down. That said, doubling down on a hard 11 (or 10) is a relatively safer play, as it is impossible to bust when doubling down on this hand.
- Always split aces and eights — Regardless of the dealer’s upcard, it is always best to split a pair of aces or eights. In the case of two eights, your chances of winning are greater when splitting rather than hitting a hard 16, which is considered to be a weak hand. The ace card in blackjack has a value of either one or 11 so having two cards in one hand gives you a soft 12 — having two hands at 11 is far more advantageous than a soft 12. It is so favourable to the player, in fact, that casinos often impose additional restrictions on splitting aces, such as allowing you to hit only once and prohibiting resplitting aces a second time.
- Never split a pair of fives or 10s — A split hand of two fives has too low of a value for it to be successful, so it is always best to play two fives in one hand. The same applies to a pair of fours; splitting fours runs a greater risk of ending up with two weak hands. Choosing to split a pair of 10s can be successful, but much harder to improve than a strong start of 20.
- Always hit a hard 12 against a dealer’s two or three upcard — In the long run, you will always lose money against a dealer’s two or three upcard, but if you choose to hit rather than stand you will lose less money over time — which is why it is the more optimal choice.
- Always hit an A-7 when the dealer’s upcard is nine, 10 or ace — Holding a soft 18 puts you as the underdog whether you hit or stand, but hitting gives you a better chance of winning since the ace can count as 11 or one. In the case of a single-deck game, you are better off standing when the dealer’s upcard is an ace.
- Always double down on 10 when the dealer’s upcard is nine or less.
- If the dealer must hit a soft 17: Double down on a hard 11 against the dealer’s ace, double down on a soft 19 against a dealer’s six and double down on a soft 18 against the dealer’s two.
- Always double down A-2 through A-7 against the dealer’s five or six.
- Always stand with a pair of nines against a dealer’s seven — On average, splitting against a dealer’s seven is not favourable to the player, but splitting and doubling down (if allowed) on two through six, eight or nine may be.
- Always surrender hard 16 against a dealer’s nine, 10 or ace, and a hard 15 against a dealer’s 10 — A hard 15 and 16 are two of the worst hands of blackjack, especially when the dealer shows a strong upcard. Minimise your losses by surrendering.
- Always double down on eight against a dealer’s five or six in a single-deck game.
- If the game allows doubling down after a pair split, split a pair of twos or threes against a dealer’s two or three, hit if not.
- Never make an insurance bet — It is not wise to take insurance bets with this strategy, as taking an insurance bet (even-money bet) basically means betting on the dealer hitting blackjack — which can increase the house edge! Even if you have blackjack you will only win your original bet.
These basic blackjack strategy actions are not universal and will have to be adjusted based on how many decks are in play, whether the table is S17/H17, DAS or NDAS. However, basic strategy is proven to be the most effective over the long run since it is mathematically calculated and based on probability and so, this strategy is considered the best blackjack strategy to adopt.
Surrender Blackjack Strategy
Early surrender is not very common among casinos as it proves to be very advantageous for the player. This rule allows you to opt out of the hand before the dealer checks for blackjack. There are a few exceptions to this blackjack strategy as your playing decisions depend on the number of decks being used as well as the rules of the blackjack table; however, when playing against a dealer’s 10 or ace, surrendering can significantly reduce the house edge.
The late surrender rule allows you to forfeit your hand and lose half your wager only after the dealer checks for blackjack. In this case, if the dealer has blackjack then surrendering will not be available. A late surrender also reduces the house edge, but not nearly as much as an early surrender; thus, you are more likely to see this option when playing at casinos. As a general rule of thumb, forfeit any 15 or 17 against the dealer’s ace, unless the dealer must hit soft 17; additionally, give up on any 16 against the dealer’s ace or 10-point card.
Having a little wiggle room with your strategy is important, since different blackjack games are played in different ways — which is where knowledge of more blackjack betting strategies comes in handy!
Know Your House Edge
When playing online, be it blackjack or any other game, it is important to consider the house edge and the impact that different bets and strategies have on it. Blackjack is one of the games with the lowest house edge, of about 0.50%, but that is under the assumption that players utilise perfect strategy. In reality, most players are inexperienced enough to give the casino a 1% freebie, simply due to common mistakes and miscalculated decisions.
The house edge refers to the advantage the house has over the player over time, so naturally, a lower percentage is much more favourable to the player. This can easily tie into your strategy as you would be actively seeking out the best possible odds for your play.
For example, optional side bets or insurance tend to have a higher house edge than the main bet, thus significantly increasing the odds of losing. At the end of the day, it is up to you to decide which odds are the best for you.
Flat Betting Method
The concept of this betting strategy is that you wager the same amount every hand. A system like this is often less risky than others as it gives you more control over your bankroll and helps prevent overspending. The main advantage is that you can limit your losses, but you might miss out on a great payout during a winning streak.
Positive Progression Wagering
A positive progression betting system is often used by those looking to maximise their payouts as much as possible. As its name may suggest, the idea behind this betting strategy is to increase your wager every time you win a hand and do so until you lose. Once this happens, you will go back to your initial bet. This method may increase your winnings, but good bankroll management is essential here. It is important to note that all positive progression betting systems do not yield positive results in the long run — use at your own risk!
The Martingale System
The Martingale betting strategy is a negative progression strategy that requires players to double their wager on a loss, and keep the bet the same every time they win. A method like this is quite risky as you can exhaust your bankroll pretty quickly if you hit a losing streak, so the Martingale is rarely a first choice for most players. Both negative and positive progression systems work best on even-money bets in games.
1-3-2-6 Blackjack Betting Strategy
This betting method doesn’t require a huge bankroll like the Martingale and so, it is often a better choice for players looking for a way to boost their odds without having to invest a fortune into the game. The numbers in this strategy’s name indicate what your bet value should be after you win a hand. So, after your first win, you need to increase your wager by one. After your second, increase your wager by three — and so on. If you lose, the sequence starts again. The 1-3-2-6 method is built to get the most value out of winning streaks.
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