Blackjack Basics Explained: How to Improve Your Odds in Every Situation

Blackjack is meant to be played with a strategy. It has an RTP of over 99%, providing players with extremely high chances of winning. But, this high RTP is only for those who play in the optimal way.

So, what does it mean to play optimally? It's an approach where you always make the best choice. The idea is that there's a mathematically right move for each hand that lowers the house edge and boosts your odds. That's what the blackjack basic strategy actually offers.

How Can Blackjack Strategy Improve Your Odds?

To show why you should play blackjack with a strategy, let's look at two situations where the right choice isn't immediately obvious.

For example, if you have a 12 and the dealer shows a 2, you might want to stand and hope the dealer goes over 21, instead of risking busting yourself. But what do the odds say?

  • Hitting: If you hit, there's a 30.80% chance you'll draw a 10-point card and lose right away. At the same time, there's a 38.46% chance you'll get a card that strengthens your hand.
  • Standing: You might stand hoping the dealer will bust, but if they start with a 2, this only happens 35.30% of the time. In 64.70% of cases, the dealer will score 17-21 points and win.

So, out of all the options considered, the best move is to hit, as it gives you a slightly better chance of winning.

Now, imagine you have 16 and the dealer shows a 10. This is a tough spot because you might bust if you take a card. But, there's also a good chance the dealer already has a winning hand. What should you do? Let's follow the math.

  • Hitting: With 16 points, you have a 61.54% chance of busting. But, there's also a 38.46% chance of getting a better hand with a card from Ace to 5.
  • Standing: If the dealer starts with 10 points, they'll end up with a winning hand 77% of the time. That leaves a slim 23% chance of them busting.

So, the smart move is to hit, even if you're worried about drawing a 10 and busting.

We've looked at close calls where the suggested play only slightly improves your chances. But in most cases, following the blackjack strategy will greatly boost your odds of winning.

BGaming Blackjack

Types of Blackjack Hands

Before getting into the blackjack strategy, we need to understand the different hands. They fall into two groups based on whether you have an Ace or not.

  • Soft hands have an Ace, making them favorable since an Ace can be either 1 or 11 points.
  • Hard hands include all other combinations. If you score over 21 points with a hard hand, you lose.

With soft hands, you can more confidently draw cards to improve your hand, whereas with hard hands, you'd be cautious due to the risk of busting.

How to Make the Right Decisions in Blackjack

Many players rely on blackjack charts that display all possible scenarios and the right moves for each. It's easy to use on a computer, but what if you're not at home or playing on a mobile? Pulling out a printed chart in a casino might not be well-received.

That's why it's a good idea to learn the blackjack basic strategy from the start. It helps you grasp the logic behind the chart. Then, you'll have all the correct moves in your mind, not on paper. Let's dive in.

Soft Hands

  • Ace, 2 (13): Double if the dealer has 5 or 6, otherwise hit.
  • Ace, 3 (14): Double if the dealer has 5 or 6, otherwise hit.
  • Ace, 4 (15): Double if the dealer has 4-6, otherwise hit.
  • Ace, 5 (16): Double if the dealer has 4-6, otherwise hit.
  • Ace, 6 (17): Double if the dealer has 3-6, otherwise hit.
  • Ace, 7 (18): Double if the dealer has 3-6, hit against 9, 10, and Ace, stand in all other cases.
  • Ace, 8 (19): Double if the dealer has 6, otherwise stand.
  • Ace, 9 (20): Stand in all cases.
Soft Hands Blackjack Chart

Hard Hands

  • 8 or Less: Hit in all cases.
  • 9: Double if the dealer has 3-6, otherwise hit.
  • 10: Double if the dealer has 2-9, otherwise hit.
  • 11: Double in all cases, except against an Ace.
  • 12: Stand if the dealer has 4-6, otherwise hit.
  • 13: Stand if the dealer has 2-6, otherwise hit.
  • 14: Stand if the dealer has 2-6, otherwise hit.
  • 15: Stand if the dealer has 2-6, otherwise hit.
  • 16: Stand if the dealer has 2-6, otherwise hit.
  • 17 or More: Stand in all cases.
Hard Hands Blackjack Chart

Splitting

The above scenarios work when your starting hand has cards of different values. If you get a pair, you can split it into two hands by making another bet. Splitting can change one weak hand into two strong ones, so it's wise to keep an extra bet aside for this opportunity.

  • 2-2: Split if the dealer has 2-7, otherwise hit.
  • 3-3: Split if the dealer has 2-7, otherwise hit.
  • 4-4: Split if the dealer has 5 or 6, otherwise hit.
  • 5-5: Don't split, play it as a regular 10-point hand.
  • 6-6: Split if the dealer has 2-6, otherwise hit.
  • 7-7: Split if the dealer has 2-7, otherwise hit.
  • 8-8: Split in all cases.
  • 9-9: Split if the dealer has 2-9, except 7, otherwise stand.
  • 10-10: Never split, stand in all cases.
  • Ace-Ace: Split in all cases.
Splitting Blackjack Chart

Insurance and Cashout

If the dealer shows an Ace as their first card, it's a tricky situation. You can protect against a dealer's blackjack by taking insurance. This requires betting half your original bet. If the dealer has a blackjack, the insurance pays 2:1, so you break even on that round.

However, the blackjack strategy suggests always skipping insurance. The reason is that when the dealer shows an Ace, they'll have blackjack less than half the time. So, adding half a bet actually lowers your long-term odds, even if you're holding 16 points against an Ace.

The case with cashout is similar. It's a version of the surrender option found in some modern crypto live blackjack games. With cashout, you can exit the game early, getting a payout based on the potential of your and the dealer's hand. But the payout will always be less favorable than actual winning odds, so it's not recommended.

Cashout Option in Live Blackjack

Is Playing Blackjack with Strategy Allowed?

Casinos have long battled players trying to win through dishonest means. Cheating or colluding with the dealer will lead to consequences.

However, using the blackjack basic strategy is not just allowed, but even recommended by casinos. It can boost your odds, though the casino still holds the long-term edge. Thus, you can use it without worry and should do so if see yourself as a smart player.

Card counting is not the same, though. It's still seen as unfair, and if a player is suspected of it, they'll probably be banned from playing blackjack at that casino.

What’s more, card counting doesn't work in Bitcoin blackjack. Most games use 8 decks, shuffled halfway through. So, just when you might get an edge, the game essentially resets. Plus, card counting takes a lot of skill and focus, so it's not worth the effort.

Learn Blackjack Basic Strategy and Start Winning

This blackjack strategy is called basic because it provides essential guidelines for your decisions at the table. To excel, you must also learn other vital skills like bankroll management and picking the best casino. But playing by the strategy means you are not a beginner anymore.

The best way to learn the strategy is by playing the game for free. We have demo blackjack games that let you sharpen your skills without any risk. Keep our guide handy at first and refer to it to make the right decisions.

Over time, you'll find yourself opening the the strategy less and less. And as you become more experienced, there will be no difficult situations left. This will get you ready and improve your chances when you decide to play blackjack for real money.

Once you've learned the basics, try different game variations with their own rules and tactics. A good next step is the Lightning Blackjack strategy. With payouts up to 25x, this game significantly raises the excitement.

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