Perfect Blackjack Strategy – How to Play your Cards Right
If you have ever played the nation’s favourite casino card game, you will no doubt be aware that some strategic decisions are not particularly easy to make. Knowing how to win requires a blackjack strategy, so you can always make the best decision to optimise your winnings.
Even following the perfect blackjack strategy to the letter will not guarantee that you will win. The house will always have the edge, so following a best practice set of moves as explained below will only reduce the house edge – but it will never close the gap completely.
Blackjack Basic Strategy 4-8 Deck Table
There are many variants of blackjack that all feature different rules. There are two major differences that you may come across in online blackjack variants that will have an effect on the best move to make: whether the dealer will stand on a soft 17 or hit on a soft 17.
How to Win at Blackjack When Dealer Stands on Soft 17
This is the far more common set for blackjack as it has a slightly higher house edge, so if you intend on learning how to win at blackjack by committing the best blackjack strategy to memory, this would be the one. Of course, when playing at any online casino you can always refer back to this page and the tables while you play, so memorisation isn’t necessary. Each strategy is divided into three parts: for hard hands (without an ace), soft hands (with an ace) and pairs. Simply find the type of hand you have and open the correct sheet. Identify your cards and the dealer’s cards to find the statistically best move.
Many of the decisions are not surprising – they are the logical choice to make. The most interesting scenarios are those with pairs. As you can see, the actions change depending not only on the type of pair you have but also on the card the dealer has. It could be argued that with a pair of 10s, and a relatively poor dealer card, it would be most beneficial to split, thus providing the possibility to win twice. However, the perfect blackjack strategy would tell you to stand. This is because split hands will often lead to hands of less than 20 points, and more chance therefore of losing.
Best Blackjack Strategy When Dealer Hits on Soft 17
One of the most common variants on the standard setup is that the dealer must draw another card if they have a soft 17. This impacts the best action to take for certain combinations. For this reason, another table is needed which shows the best decision to make where this rule is in place.
As you can see, there are not many differences between this blackjack strategy and its more common cousin. However, you can certainly track down games with this rule and take advantage of the slightly improved return to player (RTP) rate that comes with it. For example, the Microgaming title Vegas Single Deck Blackjack and the mobile-friendly Single Deck Professional Series variants both will see the dealer hit on a soft 17. It is worth paying attention to these subtle differences when playing so you can squeeze out every last percentage point you can to maximise your winnings.
I know that it can be tricky to understand some of these charts and tables. There are a lot of numbers, and the pressure to make a decision can be intense. To help you understand some of these more complicated situations a bit more clearly, I’ve put together this video showing you a step by step play of real examples, and explain what moves are statistically more likely to win.
Example Scenarios Explained
The video shows a few of the trickier scenarios, clearly outlined so you can experience the whole situation. It’s important to understand that even the statistically-best move will not guarantee that you win. Now that you’ve seen exactly how it will look and feel to make these moves, you should be ready to move on to some more advanced strategic gameplay advice.
Simple Tips for Memorising Blackjack Strategy
The advantages of using these strategy tables are clear. If you play online blackjack, you can open the tables and ensure that you make the optimal decision with every hand. Of course, there are no time limits to take your turn when playing online, so you can take your time, check the charts and make the best choices to increase your chances of winning. Yet if you play in a land-based casino, it is not as easy. Many casinos will not allow you to bring such strategy guides to the game with you, so you have to memorise an awful lot of details in order to play optimally. For those who find that they’d prefer to memorise a blackjack basic strategy, I have developed a simpler version of the table.
|Dealer’s Card||Player’s Hand|
|2 to 6||7 to A||Hard|
|H||H||4 to 8|
|D with more than Dealer||10 to 11|
|S||H||12 to 16|
|S||S||17 to 21|
|Dealer’s Card||Player’s Hand|
|2 to 6||7 to A||Soft|
|H||H||13 to 15|
|D||H||16 to 18|
|S||S||19 to 20|
|Dealer’s Card||Player’s Hand|
|2 to 6||7 to A||Pairs|
|Y||N||22, 33, 66, 77, 99|
|N||N||44, 55, 10-10|
- Surrender 16 when dealer has 10
- Never take insurance
- Don’t split
At first glance, you can see that this simplified version is much easier to memorise. There are of course some differences between this shorter table and the detailed versions, but they are minimal. By using this shorter strategy table from memory when playing in a real casino, you may not always make the optimal move. However, chances are that when you play in a brick and mortar casino, you will be in the company of friends and looking to have some fun. Therefore, it is not vital to squeeze the few extra hundredths of percent chance of winning from each game. If your aim is to play blackjack seriously with the maximum chance of winning, then you should opt for online casinos, such as Betway. This way you can use the detailed tables and take your time to ensure you are making the best decisions.
Advanced Blackjack Strategy
Learning the how to win blackjack with a basic strategy is a fantastic starting point and will go a long way to reducing the house edge. However, there are still a few extra factors that you can account for that will improve your odds by a tiny amount. The following strategic moves will only be helpful if you first have fully memorised the best actions to take, as outlined in the basic strategy tables.
This section will expand on the basics by looking more in detail at the cards that have been dealt. Rather than purely seeing a hand’s total sum, you can also consider exactly how that sum was achieved. The benefits of the composition dependent strategy are not huge, and don’t factor in very much when you’re playing in a game that uses more than one deck of cards at any one time. However, there are only a few scenarios to remember, so if you’ve already got the key moves down pat then it’s not a lot to add. These examples are all only appropriate in the standard rules wherein the dealer stands on a soft 17.
Player 16 Against Dealer 10
The total of 16 can be created in a few different ways: with a ten-value card and a six; or a nine and a seven; or a four, five and seven; or a pair of eights. If the dealer has a 10, then basic blackjack strategy tells you to hit the first three and split the eights.
However, in a perfect blackjack strategy, you’re actually better off standing if your hand is comprised of three cards. This is because the fact that there are three low-value cards in your hand reaching a low total means that there are fewer low-value cards left in the deck than when at the start of the game. Just these few cards being dealt are enough to change the odds and make it statistically better to stand.
Player 15 Against Dealer 10
The Composition Dependent twist on this combination of hands assumes that the variant you are playing offers the option to surrender. The blackjack strategy card above would tell you that if you have a 15 against a dealer 10, the best option is to surrender.
However, if your 15 is comprised of an eight and a seven, then the statistically-better option is to hit. The original strategy remains if your hand’s 15 is made up of a 10 and a five or a nine and a six, though, as surrendering is the better choice.
Player 12 Against Dealer 4
A slightly more complicated Composition Dependent hand to note is if you have a total of 12 against a dealer four. There are five different combinations that can make up a 12, and three different options you will take, depending on the composition. If you have a pair of sixes, you should split; this doesn’t change from the base strategy. Nor does the strategy change if you have a nine and three; eight and four; or a five and seven. If you are dealt a ten-value card and a two, however, you are slightly better off hitting against a dealer four – as long as the variant is played using fewer than eight decks. Having just the one ten-value card in your hand lowers the odds of you busting enough to change the statistically-advantageous play.
Composition Dependent strategy means taking note of the exact cards that are in your hand, and how the makeup of your hand effects the best action to take. By incorporating the Composition Dependent Strategy into your basic gameplay, you can reduce the house edge by up to 5.3% when compared to the basic strategy alone.
Adapting to More Players
The cards held by other players can also impact the decisions you should make in an advanced technique. As explained in the Composition Dependent strategy, the cards that have been dealt on the table can change the statistically-advantageous action to take because it changes which cards are left in the shoe for the dealer to draw from.
In some variants such as European Blackjack, the dealer’s second card is not drawn until all players have completed their turn. In a land-based casino, other players at your table may feel inclined to criticise you for your decisions, as it ultimately affects the card the dealer draws. For example, if you stand, rather than hit, then the dealer’s hand would be different.
Of course, you cannot predict which card comes next and so this “tip” should be ignored. You should always base your decisions on the optimal action for the cards you have, compared to the dealer’s visible card, while considering the composition of those already on the table. Understanding the full importance of the cards already dealt would require card counting, which is an even more advanced type of blackjack strategy.
Following the perfect blackjack strategy as outlined strategy tables shown above will give you the best chances of winning, but still the house has a small edge. By using the card counting method, you can overcome this house edge and increase your profits further. This method is not a completely new technique; it is in fact an extension of the optimal moves using the strategy tables. You can learn more about how card counting works in my dedicated article.
Legality of Using Blackjack Strategies
When people ask me if it is legal to use these techniques for how to win at blackjack, they’re generally referring to card counting. Hollywood movies like 21 portray the protagonist being discovered to be card counting and immediately dragged into a back room for a beating. However, this far from the actual truth. Card counting and all other blackjack strategies described on this page are completely legal. The worst-case scenario may see you excused or banned from a casino should your winnings become higher than the operator would like. You do not have to worry about using these strategic moves when playing blackjack. Understanding the rules of the games and the statistically-best moves to make is perfectly legal.
Understanding how to win at blackjack means recognising the best move to make in any given circumstance, taking the composition and total of your hand, the hands of other players, and the dealer’s hand into consideration. Playing the perfect blackjack strategy still does not guarantee that you will win every hand, it only reduces the house edge and removes losses due to player error.
The other type of strategies commonly used in casinos are for how to make your wagers. Betting strategies in blackjack should generally be considered as something entirely separate from your playing strategy. The only times when your bets and your gameplay overlap is if you need to place more money on the table, for example when doubling or splitting. For these actions, you will only need to make sure the table limits will allow you to place such wagers on the table. The following betting strategies have nothing to do with understanding how to win at blackjack.
The Martingale is one of the most popular and well-known betting strategies. It is most commonly used on even-money bets in roulette but can also be applied to blackjack. This approach means doubling your bet when you lose a game. So, if you bet £5 and lose, your next bet will be £10. You continue to double your bet with each loss until you win a game. At which point, you would return to your original bet amount of £5. By using this system, when you win a game, all your losses are won back, plus a small profit.
There are certain limitations on using this system for blackjack, just as there are for roulette. You can only double your bet so many times before you reach the maximum betting limit. What’s more, in blackjack, it is not unheard of to have a losing streak that can last for 10 games in a row. This would mean betting very big sums of money using this system. Yet overall, it is quite an easy strategy to apply, and you could give it a try to see if it works for you.
The D’Alembert blackjack betting strategy was named after a French mathematician and is a negative progression betting system that is also commonly used for roulette even-money bets. It involves choosing a base betting amount, then increasing the bet with each loss by that base amount and decreasing the bet with each win by the same sum.
Another negative progression system, the Labouchere blackjack betting strategy involves changing on wins and losses based on a cyclical system. It begins with identifying a pre-determined profit potential, and mathematically increasing and decreasing bets until that profit is achieved, then the cycle ends.
Based on the mathematical sequence of the same name, the Fibonacci system is a negative progression betting system. With each losing bet, you should increase your original sum multiplied by the next number in the Fibonacci sequence. A winning bet would be followed by moving down two numbers in the sequence.
The 1-3-2-6 system is a progressive betting strategy that has been compared to the Paroli technique. It involves increasing bets on winning hands in a 1-3-2-6 pattern, where you multiply your base bet by the appropriate number in the pattern when you win.
The Parlay blackjack betting system is a progressive system that involves wagering the takings from winning bets. Also known as ‘Let it Ride’, the theory is to leave your winnings on the table and include them in the wager for the next hand. The benefit is that a winning streak will grow profits faster than in a negative system, but the downside is that it has no system to recoup losses.
The Paroli technique is another progressive betting strategy. It requires the player to double their bet with each win, until there have been three wins in a row. If there is a loss, the wager is reduced back to the original bet.
Also known as Hoyle’s Press, Oscar’s Grind is a relatively new betting system that involves increasing bets by a factor of one for each win, until any losses are recouped and a profit matching the base bet has been won.
This betting technique is a bit of a side-step from the standard way of wagering on blackjack and is really only possible in a land-based casino, not in an online game. This is because it is a strategy that involves interacting with other players at the same table. The basic premise is twofold. First, it revolves around watching other players at a table and piggybacking from their good hands.
For example, if the dealer is showing a 10-value card and a player is dealt a hand equalling 10. The correct strategic move for the player is to double down, as seen in the strategy cards above. However, some less-well-informed players might be hesitant to put down more money when the dealer is showing a 10, thanks to the common blackjack myth that the dealer always has ‘one in the hole’. When playing with Hand Interaction in mind, a discerning gambler could front the wager on the original player’s behalf, and therefore take advantage of a good hand after it has already been dealt.
Another, slightly more controversial type of hand interaction involves cutting your losses by ‘selling’ part of a bad hand to a novice player at your table. This is a sort of ‘insurance’ that wily players can use when given a bad pair against a dealer Ace, for example. By having another player front some cash on a losing hand, you can relieve yourself of some financial liability. However, the general unspoken rule is that it’s “all players against the house”, and that ‘snookering’ another player is betraying a teammate.
Insurance and side bets
Side bets such as insurance should also not have any effect on playing the perfect blackjack strategy as they do not interfere with the main hand. However, one very credible tip is to avoid making insurance and side bets. This is because the expected payout for these types of bets is significantly lower than the normal game. The main game of blackjack has an expected return to player (RTP) rate of around 99%, side bets tend to vary between just 95 – 97%. Therefore, if you are looking for the optimal betting strategy to maximise your profits, side bets and insurance should always be ignored. They are not favourable for the player, and although you may win in some cases, in the long run, you will lose your money faster. To learn more about side bets, have a read of my blackjack rules article.
Yes, there is a science to playing the perfect blackjack strategy, which will help the player to close the house edge between winning and losing as much as possible. However, while many betting systems offer some mathematical potential on the surface, the reality is that they have no effect on the luck that is still required to win the game. The problem that many players will face when attempting to use betting systems is the unfortunate reality that a run of bad luck could be catastrophic.
Take the Martingale: Doubling your bet with every loss will soon see you rack up some big losses. Starting with a £5 bet will add up to you losing £1,275 in only eight hands, should you hit a losing streak. Perhaps this is still within your budget, however, you may soon reach the table’s maximum betting limit and be unable to continue to double your bet. The problem with betting strategies in all types of casino games is known as the ‘Gambler’s Fallacy’, which is one of the many myths that I’ll explain further down the page.
Using any betting system will not change the house edge on the game itself. They are merely offered as a method of controlling your losses and profits based on the types of wagers that you make. However, they will not stop you from losing money in a streak of bad luck.
How to Practise Your Strategy
As I’ve already explained, there are a lot of different variants of the classic rules online, so you need to carefully analyse which one offers the rules that apply to your strategy. For example, there is no point trying to use the rules for when the dealer hits on a soft 17 when the game you play will see the dealer stand on a soft 17. I’ve outlined a few of the most popular variants below, and which strategies you can practise on them.
- RTP: 99.28%
- Eight Decks
- Double After Split
- RTP: 99.59%
- Six Decks
- Dealer Peek
There a lot of other variants reviews available on my introduction to blackjack page, so feel free to read their individual reviews and investigate their rules to see which ones will match your preferred strategy. There also are lots of different blackjack strategies as the recommended gameplay actions will differ based on the rules of the variant that you’d like to play, so it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the different options by first perusing the blackjack rules guide. You’ll be able to investigate many more varieties to play blackjack online with the many free to play demos and get your mind around all of the different strategic moves before you play blackjack for real money.
How to Choose a Good Blackjack Casino
Once you have memorised the blackjack basic strategy, downloaded the helpful charts that I have prepared and played a few practise games from one of the suggested variants above, you’re ready to raise the stakes and use your blackjack strategy with for real money wagers at an online casino. There are a few important things to look out for when deciding which of the hundreds of operators is the best one for you, which I’ll outline quickly in the table below.
First and foremost, it’s crucial that the casino you’re inspecting has a lot of different blackjack tables in both its library of random number generated (RNG) games, as well as in its live dealer suite. This will ensure that you’re never left wanting for a place at a table that offers the right rule set to match the strategy sheets you want to use.
Next, is the return to player (RTP) rates. While blackjack, as a standard, has one of the best RTP percentages of all casino games, every variant will have a slightly different percentage based on how they are designed by the software developer, and which point the rules are put in place. The difference may only be between 99.29% and 99.80%, but the whole point of using a strategy is to close the house edge as much as possible, so you may as well start off at a high point. To give you a bit of a helping hand, I have done the research already and found the three best operators for playing blackjack, as you can see in the table below.
|Casino||Blackjack Games||Special Variants||Minimum Bets||Bonus|
|32Red||29||Blackjack Switch||£0.50||150% up to £150*||Play Here!|
|betway casino||17||Vegas Strip Blackjack||£1||Up to £1,500*||Play Here!|
|Roxy Palace||31||Blackjack Perfect Pairs||£3||100% up to £100*||Play Here!|
*T&Cs apply to each of the offers. Click ‘Play Here!’ for more details. Please gamble responsibly! You must be 18+.
These three online casinos all have a fantastic selection of blackjack variants for you to play, all boasting high average RTP rates. They also tick the last two points of the judging criteria, all holding an operator licence from the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC), which is the industry’s regulatory body. They also offer their own unique welcome bonuses, each with fair wagering conditions – which you can learn more about on my guide to casino bonuses.
Common Mis-plays and Misunderstandings
There are a few false facts floating around about some aspects of the game. This is understandable, considering the long history of blackjack and how many different rules and variations have been introduced over the years. Unfortunately, many of these are taken as truths, and can have a negative effect on your gameplay strategy, so I have taken this opportunity to right a few wrongs and ensure you have the best blackjack strategy.
1/5 Get to 21 This is a common misunderstanding about the aim of the game. You are not trying to reach 21, you are trying to have a better hand than that of the dealer, and 21 is the best possible total.
2/5 Split 10s Novice players often believe that a ten is a strong base to start a new hand, especially when the dealer shows a weak upcard. However, 20 is a very strong total that will win the hand 78% of the time.
3/5 My Turn to Win This is known as the Gambler’s Fallacy, which is the belief that what has already happened will effect what will happen next. However, the cards in the shoe are dealt without any impact from previous hands.
4/5 One in the Hole The assumption that a hole card is likely to be a 10-value card is based on the fact that there are more 10-value cards in a deck than any other number. However, only 16 cards out of 52 count as a 10, while the remaining 36 are something else.
5/5 Betting Systems Work Betting systems have zero effect on the cards you are dealt and the actions you choose to take. In a lucky situation, they can be used to minimise losses, however a run of bad hands could result in a catastrophic loss.
You’ll come across many of these common myths in your time playing blackjack. Knowing the many rules of blackjack also means knowing that some sayings that sound like rules, actually are just bad advice. Being able to recognise the two – even when a self-proclaimed ‘expert’ is telling you that “splitting your tens is a great idea” – is key to winning as much as luck will allow.
I have covered a lot of different things about how to win at blackjack by using both basic and advanced strategies, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you are a little bit lost. That’s why I have collected all the most important resources to help you through your journey into this next section of the page, including all of the strategy sheets, a glossary of important terminology, up-to-date news and a section full of frequently asked questions.
Downloadable Blackjack Resources
There have been a few PDF sheets outlining the different strategies you can play in blackjack throughout this page. To make things as simple as possible for you to access, I have collected them all into this table for you. Trying to wrap your head around the best times to hit, stand, double or split your cards can take a bit of getting used to. There is an enormous amount of combinations that could be in play between your hand and that of a dealer. What you need is a resource to help.
I’ve put together a selection of blackjack strategy tables that show you all possible combinations of your own cards, and those of the dealer. Simply cross-reference the two hands in play to see the best action to take for maximum chances of winning. The following tables are for blackjack games played with four or more decks, the mathematics of which is well known and has been in existence for many years.
As with any niche topic, you’re sure to come across some terminology that you haven’t heard before. This glossary should describe them all to you, so that you can ensure you have a holistic understanding of the game.
- Advantage Player A gambler that has the statistical advantage mathematically over the casino.
- Blackjack system A set of techniques that players can use either to improve their betting or playing strategies.
- Bust When a hand’s total is over 21.
- Deck Penetration The amount of cards, in a percentage, that is dealt before the decks are shuffled.
- Gambler’s fallacy Also known as Monte Carlo fallacy, is the mistaken belief that the probability of an outcome has changed when it hasn’t.
- Hole cardThe downward facing card that a dealer draws for their own hand.
- Labouchere A complicated betting system also known as the Split Martingale, Cancellation System and American Progression.
- Let it Ride A progressive betting system that involves leaving winnings on the table for the next hand.
- Oscar’s Grind A negative progression betting system also known as Hoyle’s Press.
- Ploppy A player who disregards the basics of blackjack strategy.
- Shoe The apparatus in which the decks of cards used in the game sit before they are dealt.
- Strategy table Also known as a strategy chart, a resource to help players see the best strategic move in any one hand.
- Surrender An option some blackjack variants offer that allows you to give up your hand and reclaim half of your initial bet.
Blackjack in the Media
Further than the entertainment value of the game itself, blackjack is also featured frequently throughout mainstream media channels. This is because, unlike many other casino games like slots or roulette, this is a game of skill that requires mathematical knowledge or a photographic memory to understand the perfect blackjack strategy.
Books Explaining Blackjack Strategy
As there is a difficult – though possible – way to improve your skills at the game, there are a plethora of books that have been written about how to win at blackjack. Many mathematicians have tried their hand at explaining the best strategic manoeuvres through the textbook-style format, such as Basic Blackjack by Stanford Wong, which covers much of the simple strategy I’ve outlined above and some of the varieties found in different casinos across the globe. More technical titles include Million Dollar Blackjack by Ken Uston, who invented some very advanced card counting strategies such as the Uston Advanced Point Count.
Movies About Blackjack Strategy
The glitz and glamour of the casino industry has given Hollywood a lot of inspiration for blockbuster movies over the years, with blackjack often the focus. Hit movies 21 and Rain Man depict the complexity of the game’s card counting strategy, while classic films such as Robert De Niro’s Casino focus a little more on the gangster side of the industry.
Latest Blackjack News
The online casino industry is an ever-changing sector, with ongoing advances in technology. There are new games released all the time, huge payouts from various operators, and other important breaking information that you can see in the table below.
This table will update automatically whenever any of my team of online casino specialists updates the news page, so make sure you check back regularly. This way, you’ll always be right at the forefront of innovation in the online blackjack industry.
Frequently Asked Questions
This guide to the best blackjack strategy can be a little confusing, especially if you’re something of a beginner. In that case, I’d recommend you check out my step by step guide before attempting to fully grasp these advanced techniques. However, if I’ve not fully explained any of these methods and you’d like to know more, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll update the below frequently asked questions when necessary, so be sure to check there before writing out a message.
What is the basic strategy in blackjack?
Basic blackjack strategy is very simple and involves only understanding whether the best action is to hit, stand, split, or double. I have provided two simple strategy cards in the article above to help you understand when to do so.
How do you count cards?
Counting cards usually involves assigning a value of -1, 1, or +1 to clusters of cards based on their values. This helps the player keep track of which cards have already been played at a table, and therefore the statistic possibility of which cards remain. You can learn more on how to use this technique here.
What does it mean to split in blackjack?
When you are dealt two cards with the same value, you are offered the option to ‘split’, which will turn one hand into two, each with one of the cards from the original hand. You will need to place another equal wager on the table and will now effectively be in control of two hands. You can learn more about splitting cards here.
What is the difference between hard and soft?
A hard hand means that you do not have an Ace in your hand, while a soft hand will include an Ace. You can learn more about what this means in the rules of blackjack article.