The Comprehensive Blackjack Strategy Guide Guide
Blackjack is the hallmark game that you will find in the casino world. Whether you’re playing at a land-based casino in Las Vegas, or via an online platform in the comfort of your home, you can bet your bottom dollar that a variety of blackjack & live blackjack games will be on offer.
The popularity of blackjack is mainly down to two key reasons. Firstly, unlike other casino games such as roulette or baccarat live, blackjack gives players full control over the game. Whether you want to stick or hit, the decision is down to you as the player, and only you as the player.
Secondly, blackjack actually offers one of the lowest house edges in the casino space. This means that if you play blackjack long-term, you have a much better chance of walking away a winner in comparison to other casino games.
Nevertheless, regardless of the above, it is still important that you implement a blackjack strategy. Whether you are are looking for a basic blackjack strategy or an advanced blackjack strategy, Fruity King has got everything covered in our comprehensive guide.
Why do I Need to Implement a Blackjack Strategy?
If you’re a relatively new entrant to the world of blackjack, then it's best that you get a full grasp of how a basic strategy works. In its most basic form, a basic strategy ensures that the player maximizes their long-term chances of winning, or more specifically, minimizing losses.
If you didn’t already know, you will be paid out at odds of even money if you beat the dealer. So, for a £10 bet, you’ll win £10, plus your original £10 stake. Alternatively, if you beat the dealer by landing “blackjack”, then you’ll be paid at odds of 6/4 (2.5). This means a £10 bet would yield £15 in profit, plus your original £10 stake.
The reason that we at Fruity King mention this with respect to a blackjack strategy is that these odds ensure that the casino always wins in the long-term. However, the strategy that you use will determine how much of your money the casino retains long-term.
While this might seem depressing, casinos wouldn’t be in business if they could not guarantee their profits. However, the good news for you is that by implementing a simple blackjack strategy, you can reduce the casino’s house edge to just 0.5%. In the next section, we’ll explain why.
Basic Strategy Blackjack: What is it and how Does it Work?
In a nutshell, the basic strategy theory reduces the casino’s advantage to just 0.5%. That means if you played 10,000 hands, in theory, you should only lose 50 hands. In order to help you along the way, the basic blackjack strategy chart tells you what you should do in each and every possible scenario. This includes whether you should stick, hit, double down, or split.
As you will see from the blackjack strategy table below, the chart illustrates what your initial move should be, once all of the cards have been dealt. The numbers at the very top of the chart represent the one face-up card that the dealer holds, and the numbers/letters on the left represent the two cards that you have been dealt.
For those unaware, the “hard total” table refers to a player’s starting hand that does not contain an Ace. On the other hand, the “soft total” indicates that the player has at least one ace in their starting hand. To make thing easier for you, we’ve also listed the strategy chart key below.
- S: Stick (don’t take another card)
- H: Hit (take another card)
- D: Double Down (double your stake but only receive one more card)
- Ds: Double Down (if allowed)
If this is your first time using a basic strategy, then the above charts might appear somewhat intimidating. However, once you learn how the chart works, you’ll find that the process is actually really simple.
Let’s look at a quick example.
1. Let’s say that you are dealt a "9" and a "3", subsequently giving you a total of "12”.
2. This (12) is the row that we need to focus on from the "hard total" chart.
3. The dealer, who only shows one face-up card, is dealt a 9.
4. As such, the basic blackjack strategy chart tells us that we need to hit.
5. Once we hit, we are then dealt a “5”.
6. The basic strategy tells us that because we now have “17”, against the dealer's “9” card, that we need to stick.
To ensure that you understand the different basic strategy tables, let’s see what happens if we are dealt a “soft total”.
1. Let’s say that you are dealt a "7" and an "Ace".
2. Although this gives you the option of taking the Ace card as a one-value or 11-value card, we don’t need to worry about this, as we will only be following the basic strategy chart.
3. Therefore, we need to look at the row that displays “A,7”.
4. The dealer, who only shows one face-up card, is dealt a “10”.
5. As such, the basic strategy chart tells us that we need to hit.
6. Once we hit, we are dealt a “2” card, and so we’ll then need to refer to the “hard total” table.
7. As we now have a total of “20”, against the dealer’s “10” card, the basic strategy table tells us to stick.
As you’ll see from the above example, although we initially needed to use the “soft total” chart as we were dealt an Ace card, because we took another card, we then needed to revert over to the “hard total” chart.
Before you can claim to master the basic strategy, you also need to make some considerations regarding the split. This is when you are dealt two cards of the same value, such as two “7s” or two “4s”.
Although the rules on splitting cards can vary depending on the specific version of blackjack you are playing, if the table tells you to split, then you should.
Don’t forget, regardless of whether the strategy table tells you to split or not, once the decision has been made, you then need to refer to the “hard total” table. The “soft table” total is not required here even if you land two “Ace” cards, as regardless of what the dealer has, you should always split.
To ensure that you understand how the splitting table works, let’s look at a quick example.
1. Let’s say that you are dealt two “7” cards.
2. The dealer is dealt a “3” as their face-up card.
3. As per the splitting table, we need to take the split. This will subsequently give you two new hands. For the purpose of simplicity, we’ll concentrate on just the first hand.
4. Your new first hand is dealt a "9" card, which now gives you a total of "16".
5. We then need to revert to the "hard total" table.
6. As the dealer has a "3", the basic strategy chart tells us that we need to stick.
7. For your second split hand, repeat steps 4-7.
As a side note, if your newly split hand was dealt an ace, you would then need to revert to the “soft total” table. Then, if the table tells you to take another card, you would then revert to the “hard total” table.
Ultimately, if you are a novice, then you are best utilizing the above on an online blackjack strategy basis. By playing at an online casino via software, you can set your own pace. As such, you can take as much time as you need to ensure that your basic strategy is implemented effectively.
Things to Consider When Using the Basic Blackjack Strategy
If you are planning to utilize the above basic strategy, then it is imperative that you follow some simple rules. As we at Fruity King mentioned earlier, the basic strategy ensures that the long-term house-edge is reduced to just 0.5%. However, for this to remain constant with the theory, be sure to consider the following.
Never, and we Mean NEVER Deviate From The Chart
Firstly, and without a doubt most importantly, you must never deviate from the official basic strategy chart. The overarching aim of the chart is to ensure that your house-edge is minimized in the long-run. The strategy is able to achieve this by putting the underlying odds of blackjack in your favor by as much as statistically possible.
With that being said, you must ensure that you only make a decision based on what the strategy table stipulates. The reason that so many players lose money at the blackjack table is because they try to defy the odds of mathematics. Much of this is down to the emotional effects of losing, subsequently motivating the player to make irrational decisions.
Unless you are looking to implement an advanced strategy that goes far and beyond the basic blackjack table strategy, then all your decisions must mirror the chart.
Never Play a Variation of the Game that Offers 6/5 for Blackjack
You might recall how we at Fruity King previously discussed the underlying mechanisms of the house edge. To recap, the reason that the casino has a slight advantage over the player is because of the odds that they offer. To clarify, the house edge can be reduced to 0.5% if you follow the basic strategy table. However, this is only on the proviso that you are playing a standard version of the game that pays 6/4 for blackjack.
Unfortunately, many casinos - especially those based in Las Vegas, have since reduced the odds on landing a blackjack to just 6/5. Now, to the “average tourist gambler”, they probably wouldn’t even notice that the odds have been reduced. Even if they did, they probably wouldn’t care as they are just playing for fun.
However, if you want to implement the basic strategy, and thus, reduce the house edge to 0.5%, then this will only work on a table that pays 6/4 for blackjack.
Ensure you have sufficient bankroll
It is important to note that the reduced house edge of 0.5% that the basic strategy yields is based on a long-term outlook. In fact, statistically speaking, the 0.5% house edge is obtained over millions and millions of hands. As such, you need to ensure that you have sufficient bankroll levels to ride out losing streaks.
The basic strategy will not protect you from bad runs, however, if you play consistently over the course of time, you should be able to obtain the long-term house edge of 0.5%.
Never Split a Pair of 10s
If you land a pair of tens, we understand that it can be tempting to split then in the hope that you’ll land another two ten-value cards. Even better, you could even hit that all-important Ace to land blackjack.
However, the fundamental rule of the basic strategy is to never split 10s. The mathematics are just not in your favor. If you land two tens, and thus, a total of 20, then your odds of winning that particular hand are highly significant. As such, follow the basic strategy table and take the win.
Ultimately, by following the above guidelines, you won’t need a blackjack strategy trainer or strategy calculator. Just follow the rules to the “T”!
So now that we’ve covered the basic strategy in depth, in the next section of our guide we are going to explore the advanced strategy.
Advanced Blackjack Strategy: What is it and how Does it Work?
As great as the basic strategy is for novice players, the fact of the matter is that long-term, it will still result in a statistical advantage for the house. In other words, over the course of time, you will always lose in the region of 0.5%.
If you see yourself as more of a seasoned blackjack player, then we would suggest taking things to the next level. Essentially, the advanced strategy does not have a magic blackjack strategy card chart to feed off of like in the case of the basic strategy.
On the contrary, the advanced strategy implements judgement in to the game by following some clear guidelines. Furthermore, an advanced strategy will also take into account the size of the deck, and how many cards have already been dealt from that deck, or decks.
Here’s some of the things you need to consider if you want to utilize the advanced strategy.
Understand how Card Counting Works
Card counting used to be a dirty little secret in the world of blackjack, however, multiple Hollywood movies have since made the phenomenon famous. For those unaware, card counting does exactly what it says on the tin. The player will keep a running tally of each and every card that has been dealt, with the view of gaining a statistical advantage over the casino.
Now, the player won't actually attempt to remember each and every card that is dealt, as that would be beyond the realms of possibility.
However, what they will do is keep a tally based on three key ranges.If the dealt card sits between 1 and 6, then the player will add a score to their tally of +1. If the card is to a value of 10 or higher, then the player will subtract -1 from their tally.
Alternatively, if the dealt card is a 7,8 or 9, then the card is ignored, and the tally in unaffected.
Ultimately, when casinos became aware of the card counting strategy, they quickly increased the number of card decks utilized in each game. As such, a single deck blackjack strategy would no doubt be perfect for card counting.
Choose Carefully When Taking out Insurance
The basic strategy is strongly against taking out insurance when the dealer shows an Ace. In fact, by doing it, you are effectively jeopardizing your long-term odds.
However, there might just be the odd occasion when advanced blackjack players take insurance. This links directly to the point of card counting, insofar that should the tally be at +4 or more, then insurance might statistically be the right move to take.
Don't Forget About "The Rule of 45"
The rule of 45 refers to a player's hand that contains a total score of 16. Now, according to basic strategy, the player should always hit on a 16 if the dealer is showing a 10 card. However, the rule of 45 dictates that the player should instead stand if the hand of 16 contains at least one 4 or 5.
For example, if the player gets a 4,5 and a 7, and thus, makes 16, they should hit. The reason for this is that it is likely that a 10-value lies in waiting, which would subsequently result in the player busting.
Once again, advanced blackjack optimal strategy is often based in judgement.
Split a Pair of Tens if the Dealer Shows a 5 or 6
If you’ve read our guide up to this point, then you’ll remember that the basic strategy states that you should never split a pair of tens - regardless of what the dealer is showing. However, smart players using an advanced strategy will likely split a pair of tens if the dealer is showing a 5 or 6 as their face-up card.
The main reason for this is that a 5 or 6 card for the dealer is a very weak hand. Statistically, there is more chance that the dealer will bust than post a 17+ score. As such, by splitting your two 10 cards, you stand the chance of doubling up.
Use Blackjack Tables That Offer a Lower Number of Decks
As we at Fruity King noted earlier, when casinos became aware of count counting, they quickly moved to increase the number of decks used. However, there is no hard-and-fast-rule as to how many decks a particular table uses. While some blackjack tables use 6 decks, others use 4. Some blackjack tables use even less.
However, as a side note, you should tread with extreme caution if playing Single Deck Blackjack. This is because in all but certainty, the game offers a pay out of just 6/5 when landing blackjack.
Best Blackjack Strategy - The Verdict?
If you’ve read our blackjack strategy guide all the way through, then you should now have a firm understanding of how you can increase your chances of winning long-term. Most blackjack players operate in a reckless nature, insofar that they do not utilize any systems or strategies during their gameplay. While this category of player might walk away a winner from time to time, long-term, the casino will always win.
However, and as we’ve discussed thoroughly in this guide, you can reduce the casino’s house edge by implementing some simple guidelines. If you opt for the basic strategy correctly, then you can get the casino’s long-term house edge down to just 0.5%.
On the other hand, if you fancy taking things to the next level, then you should implement an advanced strategy. Although this is very similar in nature to the basic strategy, advanced players make some slight tweaks to further increase their chances of winning.
Ultimately, moving from a basic blackjack betting strategy to that of an advanced one takes time, as much of the decisions required are based on judgement and experience.