In terms of casino and table games at land-based and online casinos, it doesn’t get much better than blackjack. Blackjack games are some of the most popular types of games played in casinos all around the world – and are favoured by those looking to play from the comfort of their own homes. However, if you are looking to play blackjack, then it is vitally important that you understand the importance of the basic blackjack strategy and how blackjack strategies affect your games and your chances of winning. This can be the difference between being a player familiar with winning streaks – or a player familiar with losing streaks!
On this page, we will be guiding you through how to use a blackjack strategy to increase your winning potential – whether it’s a basic blackjack strategy or one of the more advanced blackjack strategies. We will help you to get the lowest house edge possible when you play a blackjack game simply by using the right betting strategy for you.
The Basic Blackjack Strategy
Unlike slot machines, playing online blackjack successfully is all about the decisions that you make as a player. The decision you make when you get dealt your blackjack hand is the difference between whether you win money or lose money. The good news is, that although there is not necessarily a ‘perfect blackjack strategy’, there is a very good blackjack basic strategy that gives players the best possible advantage as it is mathematically proven. This involves using the blackjack strategy chart that you should use every time you play blackjack – which will give you the best chance of winning.
This blackjack strategy is simple because you don’t need to memorise anything yourself, just simply download a copy of the blackjack strategy charts that can be found below:
Basic Blackjack Strategy Chart
The Blackjack Basic Strategy Broken Down
This blackjack strategy chart basically guides you on exactly what decision you should make based on your dealt hand and the dealer’s hand in order to get the best chance for success. This is a matter of trusting the maths and stats and not being too cautious. If you are new to this gambling game then it’s quite easy to be cautious and worry that you will go bust. However, if you use the mathematically formulated chart, then this is one of the best blackjack strategies to ensure that you have the best possible odds of beating the dealer.
With blackjack, as with all other casino games, the house will always have the advantage because any casino, whether it’s an online casino or whether it’s a brick and mortar casino, will need to turn a profit. However, the beauty of blackjack is that most blackjack games have the lowest house edge of them all – especially when you use the correct basic strategy.
With many blackjack games, the house advantage (house edge) is approximately 0.50% – but this is when players use the blackjack charts for their basic strategy. In layman’s terms, this means that for every NZ$100 you bet, the casino will expect to get about $0.50 of that in profit. It is important to remember that if new blackjack players do not use the standard blackjack strategy then they will get significantly less favourable odds and the casino will get more money from your bets. The house edge could go up to as much as 2.5%.
As such, whether you’re playing blackjack at an online or a land-based casino, we would always recommend you use the basic strategy.
The Top 10 Blackjack Betting Tips
- Always double down on a hard 11
- You should always split a pair of 8s or a pair of Aces
- You should NEVER split a pair of 5s or a pair of 10s
- Your blackjack strategy should mean you always hit a hard 11 against a dealer’s 2 or 3 face-up card.
- Your blackjack strategy should see you stand on a hard 16 against a dealer’s 10 face-up card if you have a multi-card 16 hand.
- You should always surrender a hard 16 against a dealer’s 9, 10 or Ace Face up card – and a hard 15 against a dealer’s 10 face-up card.
- If it is a single deck game, you should always double down on an 8 against a dealer’s 5 or 6 face-up card.
- Your betting strategy should mean you always double down a 2 through to a 7 if the dealer has a face-up card of 5 or 6.
- If the dealer’s face-up card is a 7 then you should always stand with a pair of 9s.
- If the dealer’s face-up card is 9 or less, then you should always double down on 10.
It’s worth noting that all of these above strategies can be used in all the standard blackjack game variations. However, these are also for those using the basic strategy and not for those players who want to take it to one of the more advanced of the blackjack betting strategies – card counting.
Advanced Blackjack Strategies – Card Counting Systems
If you have learnt all about the above strategy and are looking for a more advanced blackjack strategy then you may want to take a look at card counting. If you are familiar with casino games such as video poker and blackjack, then you have quite probably heard of a player who ‘counts cards’ and attributes their constant successes to the card counting system. This is a system that actually swerves the house edge in your favour. As such, although card counting isn’t necessarily ‘illegal’ per se, many casinos will kick out blackjack players that they think are counting cards because they can really cause problems to the casino if they are good and are having a winning streak.
How to Count Cards
Well, a player that counts the cards is a player that uses their memory to keep track of what cards have already been dealt in the blackjack game. At most casino blackjack table variations, the cards are dealt from a shoe and there will only be a set number of games in play in every round. As such, if you can remember which cards have been dealt, you can get more of an idea of what cards will be coming up when card counting.
Nearly all card counting systems use a -1, 0, +1 system. This is a system that gives all of the cards a value. The normal system gives cards of 2 to 6 a +1 value, cards 7 to 9 are given a 0 value and faces and aces are given a value of -1.
When the dealer deals the cards, the blackjack player will keep track using this number system so they can get a better understanding of the value of cards left in the shoe. Because most blackjack variations are multi-deck games, the card counter will need to divide the running count by the number of decks of cards they think are left in the shoe. This will then provide the ‘true count’.
When a player has this ‘true count’ number, then they know what size initial bet to make to beat blackjack. When the value is high then they will make their original bet high, because they have the best odds of winning the game. However, if the value is low, then they will bet low because their odds of winning are lower. Unlike the basic strategy, this is a much more tricky strategy and will take a lot of practice to perfect. However, this system does give players an advantage over the casino in most blackjack variants.
Who Can Card Count?
If you have watched movies such as Rain Man, you may be under the impression that card counting is only for a mathematical genius. However, this isn’t quite true.
Card counting is just a more intense version of the basic strategy – it doesn’t require a degree in mathematics. Counting the cards is a skill pretty easy to master. The hardest part is not getting kicked out of most casinos! Players are much more likely to get away with this strategy at an online casino.
Online casinos make it much easier for players to count cards and have the advantage over the house for a more prolonged period of time. Simply put, players need to know when their odds of winning are high so they can bet more and when their odds of losing are higher they can bet less.
How to Start Counting Cards
Blackjack – whether it’s a single deck game or a multiple deck game, is a basic player v dealer card game. Although there are many different blackjack variations, the aim of the game is to get to a hand totalling 21 (or as close to 21 as possible) without going over (going bust). For all cards, their face value is the same value as their point value apart from Jack, Queen and King which are all ten-valued cards. The Ace can either have a value of 11 or 1, depending on what the player wants.
First of all the dealer deals every player with two cards, both faced down and they deal themselves with two cards – one face up and one face down. The player can then see the dealer’s face-up card and try to guess what the dealer’s value might be.
Whether there are multiple decks or whether they are single-deck games, the cards should only be shuffled at the start of the game. This means that if a player has a super memory, they can make note of the different cards that they see as they are dealt. They can then deduce which cards are left in the shoe as well as the cards that have been dealt.
Using this knowledge, a player can decide whether they should bet high or low. For instance, if you see a lot of low-value cards being dealt, then the chance of getting Royal cards in the next hand is greater – and it might be a good time to make your original bet high. However, if lots of high cards have already been dealt, then you should consider betting low as there is more chance you can hit without going bust.
Understanding Which Cards Favour the Player
Before you start to play blackjack, it is vital to learn the basic strategy to understand exactly how the mix of the cards in the deck will directly influence the chance you have of winning your hand. The chances of a player winning increases when there are more large cards in the mix – such as tens, Jacks, Queens, Kings and Aces. If there are more low-value cards in the mix then the odds will remain in favour of the dealer.
The main reason that more large cards in the mix favours the player is that it is more likely to yield a blackjack winning hand. Although this is also true of the dealer’s hand, if a player gets a blackjack hand they will win a bonus payoff at odds of 3:2.
Should the dealer get dealt a stiff hand (12-16), then the dealer hits and has to draw a third card. If most of the large cards are left in the deck, then the dealer may well bust. However, if the player has a stiff hand, they are under no obligation to draw and can stand.
As such, any player that doubles down with a large card mix, more often than not, comes good. Also, if the dealer has a poor face card then players can also take advantage of this by splitting a pair into two separate hands. However, the dealer has more of an advantage if they are dealt a stiff hand and there are more low cards left in the mix as they are more likely to get closer to 21 without going bust.
It is by card counting that a player is best placed to know whether there will be more high-value or low-value cards left in the mix.
Understanding The Basics of this Advanced Blackjack Strategy
The whole foundation of this card counting strategy is the odds that come with all cards that are in the deck. When a hand has been dealt with and played, the cards are put into a discard tray and the next hand will come from the remaining cards in the shoe. On average, around half to three-quarters of the cards will be used before the dealer reshuffles.
Generally, players who count cards will base their calculations on the odds of drawing a card with a value often based on the cards that are still left in the deck. This means that if you can keep track of the cards that have already been played in previous rounds then it becomes much easier. This is where ‘tagging cards’ comes into it.
The most popular counting card system is the Hi-Lo tagging system. As stated previously, this involves ‘tagging’ low cards (favourable to the dealer) with a +1 value, ‘tagging’ high cards (favourable to the player) with a -1 value and tagging the rest (7, 8 and 9) with a value of 0.
The player watches as each card is played and adds the values together. Starting at 0, the values will normally seesaw between positive and negative values. So for example:
- Player A has a hand of 3 and 5. You ‘tag’ these low numbers +1 and +1 so your total value is +2.
- The player then needs to keep tagging the cards as they see them. So, if the next card dealt is a 3, then they would add +1 to take the value to +3. However, if the next card dealt is a Queen, they would tag the card -1, taking the overall total value back down to +1 again.
- As the game goes on, the player keeps tagging cards – increasing and decreasing the value based on the value of the card. The total at the end will either be a positive value or a negative value.
If the value overall is negative, then this means that more high-value cards have been played and therefore there will be more low-value cards left in the deck. If the overall value is positive, it shows that more low-value cards have been played and that there are more high-value cards in the deck. This gives the player higher odds of winning and this means you should place a bigger bet next time.
Placing Your Online Blackjack Bet
In the first round, when counting cards normally you would place a lower value bet. Then, you place your bets based on the total running count. The higher the value of the running count, the more aggressively you can bet – for values of +4 or higher, high bets are recommended. However, if the values go lower than 0 – or the dealer reshuffle, then the bets should be a lot more restrained.
Practising Your Online Blackjack Strategy
Reading about these strategies is all well and good – but you need to put these best blackjack strategies into practice.
To do this, shuffle a deck of cards. Then, turn one card over at a time and tag it. Keep doing this until you become more familiar with the different cards and their associated tags.
Then, go through the deck of cards and practise adding and subtracting the tagged values. By the time you reach the end of the deck of cards, then you should have a 0 value. This shows that you are being accurate when counting cards.
The success of this strategy all lies in how good at it you are and how quickly you can do it. You should be able to do it, ideally, in under 30 seconds. Once you have mastered this, you need to hone other skills including:
- Understanding your bankroll to make sure you have enough money for the strategy.
- Deciding what bet to place using this strategy and your bankroll.
- If you should stop using the basic strategy and deviate away from it.
- How to be sensible and continue playing without making it obvious you are card counting and have the edge.
The Legality of Card Counting
Although there are many negative associations with card counting, and although many casinos will kick you out for card counting, it is not illegal. There have been numerous attempts made by casinos to make it illegal but none, so far, have been successful. As it stands, using your mental ability and using the past information skilfully enough to give you an edge is still permissible by law.
However, just because it is legal, does not mean that casinos will accept it. These are private businesses and can decide whether or not they allow you to play at their casino. So, whether or not it’s legal is irrelevant. If the casino believes you to be card counting, they can refuse to let you continue playing. A player is normally flagged if the player keeps playing for so long and having such a win streak that the casino starts using substantial amounts of money. This could lead to a player being kicked out of that casino and blacklisted by others.
Most land-based casinos will hire specialists that can spot players that they think are counting the cards and eject them from the establishment before too much money is lost. They also share information with other casinos which means that if your blackjack strategy is card counting, then once you have been kicked out of one casino, you may well be unable to gain entry to others.
Our Top Blackjack Betting Strategy Takeaways
So, if you are looking to play blackjack and want the best chances of winning, then here are the top ten tips that we would recommend you follow:
Only Play Blackjack Games with More Liberal Rules and Fewer Decks
You should always look for those blackjack tables that have the most liberal rules. Pick tables where blackjack plays 3:2 – and definitely avoid even-money payoffs! Also, look for soft 17 rules, rules that allow players to double down on any cards and those that allow players to double down after splitting.
Learn the Basic Strategy
Blackjack isn’t just about luck or guessing. You need to know the basic strategy which will increase your chances of winning a huge amount. Every hand has an optimal way of being played and when you know this, you have a better chance of getting those wins coming in.
Download and Use the Betting Strategy Card
Using a strategy card is just common sense. There are so many out there and they are so easy to get your hands on that it would be nonsensical to not play with one to hand. This card will make sure that you always play the hand with the optimal way of winning.
Refuse to Make an Insurance Wager
Never make the insurance wager, even if you have made big money bets. Ultimately, this is a bet that pays out at 2:1 but the actual odds of winning are much worse than this, so this is not a value bet and should be avoided at all costs. So, if you have a blackjack and the dealer offers you even money, turn it down.
Don’t Get Distracted by Other Players
No matter what happens, the game of blackjack is really a competition between you and the dealer so what happens to or with other players is completely irrelevant in the scheme of things. No matter what other players do with their hand, simply stick to your basic strategy. Keep to your game plan no matter what every other player does!
Play at a Casino that Rewards Loyalty
There are so many top NZ online casinos out there that offer blackjack games. If you intend to be a regular player, then we would recommend you choose an online casino that rewards its regular players with different types of casino bonuses and promotions. You can get even more out of your game this way.
Always Play with a Clear Mind
This isn’t a game of luck and you will be playing for real money – so always go in with a clear head. Never play angry, distracted or intoxicated. The best players will have their heads firmly on the game at all times.
The Basic Blackjack Etiquette
It used to be the case that in order to play blackjack you had to don your finest gear and head over to your closest casino. However, with more people than ever being able to play from home thanks to the introduction and rising popularity of online casinos, this is no longer the case. It is now possible to enjoy blackjack sitting in your PJs and eating chips. However, if you are heading over to play blackjack at a land-based casino then you will certainly need to look a little more suitable.
Whether you are online or not, with all casino card games, there will be table etiquette expected of you. If you are playing blackjack at a live casino then you need to consider how much banter and chat is appropriate. Blackjack etiquette is vital to make sure that all players are comfortably enjoying the game in a way that suits them the most.
Understand the Game
Before you go to any blackjack table to play for real money then you need to be sure that you understand all of the rules applicable to that variation of the game. When employing any blackjack strategy, you have to know the rules of that variation. You should, at all tables, find a small sign that lists the rules of the game and how it is played.
Look at rules such as soft 17, hard 17 or all 17s, insurance bets, and the payouts of the game to see what games you can expect to win more money. Before joining any table, you should have the courtesy of taking the time out to learn the rules of that game. Not only will that mean you don’t have to keep asking questions, but you will also be better able to choose your blackjack betting strategy.
Whichever game you play and whatever casino you play at, the rules will differ. If you play at a casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, then the dealer will deal your cards face down and you will be able to touch them. However, at many London casinos, the dealer will deal your cards face up and you will not be able to touch them. If you don’t know the rules and break them, then you can get removed from the game and some casinos may even remove you from the building.
You also need to make sure that you make your bet before the game starts. When it has started, you cannot touch your bet again. If you do opt to double down, then you must place the best beside your original bet, not on top of it.
Also, if you decide to buy an insurance bet then there is a special area on the table to do so. If this is not the case then again, you need to place it beside your first bet. Remember, for the basic blackjack strategy we would not recommend making insurance bets.
Betting strategies aside, you really need to be respectful of the other players at the table. Whether or not their move affects what the dealer does, if you stick to your blackjack strategy then it isn’t relevant. Blackjack is a game of dignity and respect. Sometimes another player’s hand can impact the dealer’s hand – whether they win or go bust, but you must not blame the player, but react respectfully.
How to Treat the Dealer
First of all, be respectful of the dealer. If you find that your betting strategy isn’t working and you are having a bit of a losing streak, you cannot take it out on the dealer. If you find yourself getting angry then simply take a break or move to a different table.
If you are having a good time with a successful blackjack strategy then you could also tip the dealer as this is allowed. However, you should avoid doing so regularly. Every chip you flip to the dealer is taking away from your bankroll, which means you are depleting your chances of getting the bigger win. The best idea is to tip the dealer when they are moving to another table or if you get a big win.
Blackjack Strategy Questions
What is the Soft 17 Rule?
A soft 17 is a hand that is worth 17 and it includes an ace (so an Ace plus 6 for example). Because the Ace can be counted as an eleven or one, the hand cannot bust if the player or dealer takes another card. Now, this is important because the soft 17 rule changes from table to table.
In a Hard 17 game, the dealer MUST hit with a soft 17 and can only stand on a Hard 17 (hand of 17 that doesn’t include an Ace). In a Soft 17, the dealer stands on a soft 17 and must draw only up to 16. However, in either type of game, a player can do exactly what they want with a soft 17. Make sure you check the table rules so you know what type of game it is. This can affect your betting strategy.
What Other Ways Are There to Win at Blackjack Apart from The Card Count Betting Strategy?
Out of every blackjack betting strategy, the most successful has always proven to be counting the cards. However, there are certain other methods of helping players to beat the odds when playing different variations on the blackjack game. Betting and blackjack strategies also worthy of note include comps, front-loading, shuffle tracking, side bets, casino promotions and more. However, we always suggest you learn basic strategy blackjack and then, if you are confident, try out the card counting betting strategy.
When Should You Take an Insurance Bet?
If you are playing a blackjack basic strategy then you should avoid making an insurance bet. Only if you are a good card counter should you consider whether or not taking an insurance bet will be profitable and worthwhile or not. So, if your dealer serves you up with a blackjack hand and has a face-up card of an Ace, then you should politely decline any offer of an insurance bet.
You should refuse to take even money because as a player, you have a bigger advantage if your payoff is 3:2 most of the time instead of winning even money for all of your wins.
Can A Player Have the Best Odds Playing Blackjack?
Despite what you may think about house edge, the player can have the best odds depending on the rules of the blackjack game you are playing, the rules of that game, and, of course, the skills and the blackjack strategy of the player. If you are playing with the Las Vegas Strip rule, if playing a single deck game and using the basic strategy then you can double down after splitting which will give you a 0.1% advantage.
What Are Las Vegas Rules?
When playing different variations of blackjack, there will be different rules applied. The Las Vegas Rules are those rules that are usually applied to the games of blackjack that you might generally find at Downtown Las Vegas. These rules usually include:
- The dealer can hit on a soft 17
- Players can double down on their first two cards
- Players can re-split
- Insurance bets are allowed
These Las Vegas rules give the players slightly better odds because the dealer has to stand on a soft 17 hand.
What is Best – a Single Deck or Multi Deck Game?
Well, there is no real definite answer here. With everything else being equal, and all the same game rules there is around a 0.5% to 0.6% disadvantage when playing a multi-deck game over a single deck game. This is because removing one single card in a multi-deck game is minimal, whereas removing that one card in a single deck game has a much bigger effect.
However, generally, the best games with the most player-friendly rules and regulations are the multi-deck games. As such, although single deck and double deck games have a certain advantage, they can also more easily be manipulated to benefit the casino. So, when choosing your game, look at the rules as opposed to the number of decks and base your decision on that factor.
How Can You Win at Blackjack?
Basically, winning at blackjack is all about adopting the perfect blackjack strategy. If you make sure you learn the basic strategy perfectly then you will be well on the way to getting the best chances of winning. Simply read up on the game and practice your strategy. While you are learning the game and practising your betting strategy you should make sure you keep your bets to a minimum.
Additionally, try to avoid progressive betting and money management systems. Most importantly, it is vital that you play responsibly, be disciplined and remember that your funds are always at stake.
What Factors Should I Look at When Choosing a Blackjack Game?
This very much depends on your betting strategy. If you are employing the card counting betting strategy then it is best to find the blackjack game that offers the best conditions for this strategy. However, if you look to use the basic strategy then we would suggest you look for single-deck games that have the best rules most favourable to the player. Also, look for games that have slower dealers, a fewer number of players, full and single-deck games etc. These are often your best bets!