The Basic Rules of Blackjack
To join a blackjack table and enjoy the experience you just need to know the basics and have a little bit of practice to gain confidence. This game is super simple for beginners to learn but leaves plenty of room for improvement. Mastering a basic blackjack strategy or basic strategy blackjack is a key achievement at the beginning of anyone’s blackjack journey.
Beating the house is the ultimate goal and players do that by accumulating more points than a dealer has. The challenge is the total can’t exceed 21. That’s the dilemma players face. Sometimes they are unsure whether they should risk getting another card to improve the hand or stop before it’s too late.
Dealer is in charge of all card handling. Every participant at the table gets 2 cards. But one of the dealer’s cards is face down, making the situation less favorable for gamblers. During the game, players just need to know a few words to explain their decisions.
- Hit/Stand. Two cards that every participant receives at the beginning aren’t the only cards they can have. In some cases, getting more cards is the best option. If you need an extra card, simply say/click Hit. A dealer will give you another card and wait for your next decision. When you are satisfied with your hand, say Stand.
- Double Down. This option is an integral part of every blackjack variant. When you Double, that means you want to double the stake and take only one extra card. The opportunity comes only once after two initial cards are released. After a player Hits at least once, there’s no more Double Down option for that hand. It’s also impossible to take another card after Doubling Down. So, only make this decision knowing that it is final.
- Split Pairs. When two cards have the same face value, the option to Split can be used. One hand is split into two separate and played one by one just like any regular hand. It’s possible to Hit/Stand or Double and in some cases Split again.
Once all players at the table are fine with what they have or go bust, a dealer reveals its face-down card. Some game variants are played with all dealer cards visible from the beginning. But less favorable rules get introduced as well to balance this out.
Does Blackjack Strategy Really Work
Blackjack is a game in which player decisions play a major role and strategies can make a real difference. Not all of them, however, will have a positive effect. In the early stage of your blackjack journey, you should know only one strategy, which is truly proven to be effective and is based on pure math and not false assumptions.
But even the best strategy won’t make you win on average more than 99.5% theoretical return. The reason why blackjack is considered to be a source of income for some players is that in physical casinos there’s a chance to count cards and get an edge over the house because card counters keep track of all cards and know when the chances of winning/losing change.
Blackjack Strategy Chart
One way to play the blackjack optimal strategy is to memorize all the scenarios and decisions to make. But there’s an easier solution. Learn to use a blackjack basic strategy chart that explains all the moves to be taken in all of the possible situations. It’s very easy to use and allows applying the basic strategy even by complete beginners. The chart will also give plenty of time to effortlessly memorize the strategy.
How to Read blackjack charts
Below is one of the versions of the strategy chart blackjack. There are many of them but the main difference is usually in the styling while the content is the same. Since different blackjack versions have specific rules, you’ll find different tables if there’s an additional rule.
At the top of the table, users locate a dealer’s card. At the left side of the table is a player’s total. Look at the top line and find there a dealer’s card value. Then locate your total in the first vertical row of the table. Find the point of their intersection and it will say what to do in this situation according to the basic strategy. For instance, dealer’s got 7 against your 14. At their intersection, you’ll see H, which stands for Hit.
Another example is a dealer’s 5 and a player’s 12. That’s a confusing scenario as 12 isn’t a favorite hand and many players will want to hit, but the table says Stand, because the scenario is unfavorable for the dealer as well.
There are a couple more things to know about blackjack. Soft hand is when Ace is present. This type of hand is called Soft, because Ace can give 1 or 11 points, and this characteristic changes many things in the strategy. Hard hands are those that don’t have an Ace and their value is fixed. So, blackjack rules chart will give a separate set of instructions depending on whether the hand is Soft or Hard.
The most common version is a six-pack blackjack. But some game variants are played with a single deck. Because the number of cards in a shoe is important, the basic strategy is adjusted depending on the number of decks. The rules of the single deck variant are the same as those of multi-deck versions with the only difference being that 52 cards are used. That makes it easier to remember which cards come out and which cards are left and decision making becomes easier.
The chart reads the same way as described above. Look up the dealer’s card at the top and your hand at the left. The chart is largely similar to the common six-deck chart but they disagree on what to do when players have 8 or 9 and a dealer has less than 7. As a single deck gives more confidence, instead of Hitting, players should Double Down when they have 8 against the dealer’s 5 and 6.
4- to 8-Deck
The chart that is generally used is designed for multi-deck (4-8) games. One rule that you need to know and that should be mentioned in the chart description is whether the dealer Stands/Hits on Soft 17. The difference is in how situations are managed when the dealer has A against player’s 15 and 17. In the case of Stand on Soft 17 rule, players are advised to surrender if possible because the chances of the dealer beating the player increase when the rule is to do the opposite.
Some charts are more sophisticated and include a variety of additional scenarios. For instance, they say what to do if surrender or split and double are possible and what to do if these options aren’t available. For instance, Rh in the chart below says that players should surrender or hit otherwise. The surrender type of blackjack allows players to quit in case the game isn’t in their favor.
The RTP in this case is 99.62%. The cost of escaping bad situations is 50% of the bet. That might sound discouraging, especially knowing that it’s possible to improve the hand. But the surrender option is available only after two initial cards are dealt. In some situations, it’s better to save at least half the money.
What Is Blackjack Basic Strategy
Intuition isn’t your best friend when it comes to making the most optimal decisions in blackjack. You might seem that what you do is right, but in the long run, it’s a losing game. Basic blackjack strategy allows making the best decisions at all times. This strategy isn’t biased and is based purely on math. When implementing it, players get the highest possible RTP, or in other words, minimize the house edge.
The basic strategy is simple and effective. It says what to do in every possible scenario. It’s usually presented in the form of a table. Once you learn how to use it, you don’t need to remember anything.
Can I/Should I Surrender
Being able to quit is a great option and is used in the basic strategy. Players should surrender when the dealer has a high card (9, 10 or A) while they have a total of 15 and 16. In case a dealer hits on Soft 17, players are recommended to surrender when they have 17. Look at the table provided earlier, R stands for surrender.
Can I/Should I Split
Instructions to split are usually presented in a separate table. There are many splitting rules and it’s easier to use the table instead of memorizing them. Again, the rules will vary slightly depending on whether the dealer Stands or Hits on Soft 17. You might be playing different blackjack versions so you should know that whenever you see Rh, it means Surrender and if not allowed, Hit. Rs and Rp stand for Surrender or Stand and Surrender or Split, respectively.
Can I/Should I Double
There are also different rules for doubling and more sophisticated basic strategy tables will have all these situations covered. In the table presented on this page, Dh and Ds stand for Double or Hit and Double or Stand. That means if doubling isn’t possible, then you hit/stand.
Should I Hit or Should I Stand
Hitting and Standing are straightforward. H stands for Hit and S stands for Stand. Use the table to know when a certain decision should be made. You generally want to hit when having a low-value hand against a high-value dealer’s card.
Advanced Blackjack Strategy
The basic strategy is simplified to make it more convenient to use and remember. It fails to recognize some situations when advanced considerations must be made. But it is still great for the majority of blackjack enthusiasts. Those who want to take one step closer to being a professional should consider advanced blackjack strategy charts, which is more complicated, but more accurate.
The biggest difference is that the basic strategy does consider the cards player’s hand is made up of. For instance, when the dealer has 10 against the player’s 15, the basic strategy recommends hitting. But it completely disregards the number and values of the cards. If it’s made up of low-value cards such as 5, 4, 3, 3 then the risk of going bust increases because there are fewer cards that will make you win. In this case, the advanced strategy recommends to Stand. Some other differences are described below.
- Insurance is also dealt with differently. One of the pillars of the basic strategy is insurance is always bad. But when you move on to the advanced level there are few exceptions to this rule that can be applied by card counters. When a deck is favorable, you should consider taking insurance against the dealer’s Ace. A favorable deck means more low-value cards (2-6) are out compared to high-value cards (those that are worth 10). +1 is added to the count every time cards 2-6 leave the shoe, and when the count is +4 or higher, insurance is a good idea, because the chances of a face-down card worth 10 increase.
- Another move that contradicts the basic strategy is recommended for advanced players, and it too is possible if the player counts cards. In situations when there’s a pair of 10s, the rule is to Stand. But when card counters know that the deck has many 10s, splitting against the dealer’s 5 or 6 is justified because the dealer is more likely to bust.
These are just some differences between basic and advanced blackjack strategies. There are more of them that you can start exploring once the basics have been mastered.
How to Learn These Strategies
If you are a novice player, it might be intimidating to learn lots of rules. What you can do is learn how to use a basic strategy table and look up the moves there. Over time it’s easy to remember most of the rules. Practicing blackjack in a demo mode is a great option. This can be a great starting point if the goal is to master the basic strategy to then play offline.
Tips for Memorizing
Some techniques help to memorize the basic strategy. For instance, you can look at the table and start with the lines recommending the same move. It’s always Hit when a player has 4-8, regardless of what the dealer has. Or you should always Stand on 17+. This way you’ll easily remember part of the strategy.
Another method is to memorize every line. For instance, when players get a hard 9, they Hit on dealers 2 and 7 to A and Double on 3 to 6. It’s easy to memorize lines one by one instead of trying to memorize all rules at once.
There are pieces of software that are designed to teach blackjack players the basic strategy. Use them for practicing. Unlike regular demo mode in online casinos, these programs will tell you if you make a right or wrong decision.
How to Use a Blackjack Strategy
For beginners, there’s nothing better than implementing the basic strategy. All decisions should be made according to it, even those that seem to contradict your intuition. Stick to the defined rules to minimize the theoretical house edge. The more you deviate from the rules, the less effective the strategy becomes.
You might want to claim bonuses, to make your deposit last longer when you play blackjack. But this game isn’t the most bonus-friendly. The problem is blackjack usually doesn’t contribute to bonus wagering. Meaning if you play this game, you’ll never clear bonus credits to turn them into cash and bonuses become useless unless you wager them in slots.
- Pick the Betting Strategy that Suits Your Bankroll. Do not expect magical results from the basic or the most advanced strategy. You’ll lose and win just like every player does. The fact that it’s the optimal set of rules, doesn’t make it a guaranteed winning strategy. So, get ready for losses and have your bankroll management in place. Decide in advance how much to spend in a session and per round.
- One Strategy Does Not Fit All. Multiple blackjack variants usually require small basic strategy adjustments. It’s not that a single set of rules will be great for all of them. For instance, single-deck and multi-deck versions each have their own basic strategy. Another significant rule to keep in mind is what the dealer should do on Soft 17, Hit or Stand. So, be careful and always look at what basic strategy chart you are using.
- Memorize It Perfectly. When playing offline memorizing the strategy is a must because you don’t want to be the one who disrupts the game by slow responses. For online blackjack, memorizing isn’t necessary since you can always have a chart to use as a guide. But it’s always faster if you remember everything.
Why Follow a Blackjack Betting Strategy
Because it’s effective and will help you win on average more than you would otherwise win. Other strategies aren’t based on math, such as Martingale. It’s a popular roulette system that is sometimes used in blackjack. It does not improve the chances of winning and only puts your money at more risk.
One single benefit that the basic blackjack strategy offers is the maximum possible theoretical RTP. The house will have only a tiny edge of 0.5%, which is ridiculously low in the world of gambling. But the major issue is not all players will enjoy following strict rules without making personal decisions that influence the outcome. Even though the average return must be higher, for some players it’s less fun.