Blackjack Strategy: The Best Way to Win Consistently

Blackjack may be a skill-based game but, unless an advanced technique such as card counting is used, it still favors the house rather than the players. Since it is played with a known set of rules and uses standard 52-card decks, mathematically correct moves have been determined for every possible hand in this game. This is where the key for winning in blackjack lies – rather than relying on luck, successful blackjack players should follow the correct strategy for the particular version of 21 they play.

Blackjack strategy is the best method to get as close as possible to the incredibly low house edge of around 0.50% in most variations of blackjack. However, even using a perfect strategy does not change the odds of the game and blackjack fans should know that the only way to gain an advantage over the casino is to count cards. Since card counting is a difficult technique for more advanced players and is certainly not tolerated by casinos, most casino patrons prefer memorizing the basic strategy for the game.

In this article, we have described the basic strategy common for most blackjack variations. However, even the slightest change in the standard rules typically requires a change in the strategy, too, so before players sit on the blackjack table, they need to consider the specific rules under which they would play.

What is Basic Strategy for Blackjack?

1Basic Strategy Intro

The simplest and most fundamental system for playing blackjack is referred to as “basic strategy”. It uses the predetermined probabilities for different outcomes in every possible scenario to make mathematically correct suggestions for actions. In other words, the basic strategy for blackjack helps players decide when to draw more cards, when to pat, surrender or double their bets based on what is most likely to happen.

2Maximize Your Chances of Winning

For some players, this does not seem a very reliable, sound tactic for guaranteeing a profit. And in fact, it does not guarantee winnings every time. It does, however, maximizes the chances for long-term success by determining the best possible actions against the dealer. The strategy includes several main suggestions – players should always Stand on totals of 19 or more and Hit on weak hands of up to 8. Only two hands should be surrendered, namely 15 against dealer 10 and 16 against dealer 9 through Ace. Players should always split Aces and 8s and never split pairs of 5s or 10s. Bets should be doubled when having a hard 11.

3Exceptions

There are, however, plenty of exceptions to consider. Typically, the basic strategy is displayed as a chart where we can find the correct play for every possible player hand and dealer’s upcard. In addition, every variation of blackjack has a slightly different strategy. For this section of our blackjack guide, we have chosen a basic strategy that could be applied to most versions of the game. It is based on the following rules – the game uses 4 to 8 decks, dealer hits on soft 17, surrender is allowed, and players can split to four hands.

Player Hand Dealer’s Up Card
Hard 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
5-8 H H H H H H H H H H
9 H D/H D/H D/H D/H H H H H H
10 D/H D/H D/H D/H D/H D/H D/H D/H H H
11 D/H D/H D/H D/H D/H D/H D/H D/H D/H D/H
12 H H S S S H H H H H
13-14 S S S S S H H H H H
15 S S S S S H H H SU/H SU/H
16 S S S S S H H SU/H SU/H SU/H
17 S S S S S S S S S SU/S
18-20 S S S S S S S S S S
Soft 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
13-14 H H H D/H D/H H H H H H
15 H H D/H D/H D/H H H H H H
16 H H D/H D/H D/H H H H H H
17 H D/H D/H D/H D/H H H H H H
18 D/S D/S D/S D/S D/S S S H H H
19 S S S S D/S S S S S S
20-21 S S S S S S S S S S
Pairs 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
2-2, 3-3 SP/H SP/H SP SP SP SP H H H H
4-4 H H H SP/H SP/H H H H H H
5-5 D/H D/H D/H D/H D/H D/H D/H D/H H H
6-6 SP/H SP SP SP SP H H H H H
7-7 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
8-8 SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SU/SP
9-9 SP SP SP SP SP S SP SP S S
10-10 S S S S S S S S S S
A-A SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP
Legend
H Hit
S Stand
SP Split
SU/H Surrender if allowed, otherwise hit
SU/S Surrender if allowed, otherwise stand
SU/SP Surrender if allowed, otherwise split
SP/H Split if double after split is allowed, otherwise hit
D/H Double if allowed, otherwise hit
D/S Double if allowed, otherwise stand

 

Tips for Basic Strategy Players

Practice Play
Decision Hands
Action Order
Short Pays Blackjack
Insurance

Composition-Based Strategy

Basic Strategy Adjustments

Composition-Based Strategy Examples

All blackjack players start with the basic strategy charts, which may be quite a few since there is an enormous range of blackjack variations offered by both online and brick-and-mortar casinos. But the basic strategy is never enough for those who want a reliable income from blackjack. Casino patrons who want to play the game at a professional level eventually learn how to adjust the basic strategy to the specific composition of their hand and the cards that have already been dealt or “burnt”.

This method of play is known as composition-based strategy, whereas the strategy charts are used for total dependent strategy. The dynamic nature of the game requires players to not only consider the total of their hand but also the particular cards it is composed of. The composition-based strategy techniques are more beneficial to the player when the game uses 1 or 2 decks. When used correctly, they can reduce the house edge even further and decrease the variance of the game.

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How to Play Tricky Hands

There are several hands considered by many players – mostly recreational blackjack players, of course, particularly difficult to master. Those who have memorized the basic strategy and have an idea of what composition-based strategy is would probably immediately see the correct action. Still, certain hands in blackjack could be tricky.

8-8 vs Dealer 10
16 vs Dealer 7
11 vs Dealer 10
12 vs Dealer 3
Soft 18 vs Dealer 9

Blackjack Strategy Charts

As soon as players master the basic strategy for multi-deck, H17 blackjack, they can try adding some changes that would be more appropriate for the particular variation they play. There is a wide variety of blackjack games and each of them comes with a slightly different set of rules that could change the odds for certain hands.

The basic strategy presented above benefits those who play a 4 to 8-deck game where the dealer Hits on soft 17. While this is the variation that is most commonly played at land-based casinos, there are other versions of blackjack with better odds and different house edge. The basic strategy for them would differ in some cases.

Multi-Deck Blackjack, Dealer Stands on all 17s
European Blackjack
Single-Deck Blackjack