Blackjack is the most popular casino card game in the world. There are a number of reasons for this, it is easy to learn, it is great fun and it offers the chance to win large amounts of money. In Blackjack, the dealer has no decisions to make, so the course of the game is dictated by the decisions the player makes.
Basic Blackjack Game Play Explained
The table below shows you the best possible course of action based upon the opening cards dealt. If you are new to the game you can print out this table so that you have it to hand when playing. However, it won’t take you long to start memorizing it and before you know it you will find that you no longer have to consult it for every hand.
There are some general rules that can help you memorize the chart quickly. For example, you should always hit when your hand is below 11 (as obviously you cannot go bust from this) and you should always stand on 17 and above. The best way to memorize this is not to sit and learn all the possible hands, but rather to concentrate on the borderline hands. For instance, if the dealer has 7 then the recommended move for the majority of hands is vastly different from when the dealer has 6.
Of course, this is not without risk. While following it closely will increase the theoretical Return to Play, it will never be able to make the RTP 100%. However, it is a very high RTP which goes a long way to explaining why Blackjack is so popular. One small disadvantage of Blackjack is that if you want to win big from a single hand you will have to bet big, on the whole Blackjack doesn’t offer payouts greater than 3:2 (for Blackjack). However, if you are looking to bet small amounts and enjoy a steady stream of winnings then it is the perfect game.
Basic Blackjack Strategy Chart
Dealer’s card 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
17–20 S S S S S S S S S S
16 S S S S S H H SU SU SU
15 S S S S S H H H SU H
13–14 S S S S S H H H H H
12 H H S S S H H H H H
11 Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh H
10 Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh H H
9 H Dh Dh Dh Dh H H H H H
5–8 H H H H H H H H H H
Dealer’s Hand 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
A,8–A,9 S S S S S S S S S S
A,7 S Ds Ds Ds Ds S S H H H
A,6 H Dh Dh Dh Dh H H H H H
A,4–A,5 H H Dh Dh Dh H H H H H
A,2–A,3 H H H Dh Dh H H H H H
Dealer’s Hand 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
A,A SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP
10,10 S S S S S S S S S S
9,9 SP SP SP SP SP S SP SP S S
8,8 SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP
7,7 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
6,6 SP SP SP SP SP H H H H H
5,5 Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh Dh H H
4,4 H H H SP SP H H H H H
2,2–3,3 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
S = Stand
H = Hit
Dh = Double (if not allowed, then hit)
Ds = Double (if not allowed, then stand)
SP = Split
SU = Surrender (if not allowed, then hit)
You should always split Aces. While you will only receive one more card to each hand, 11 is a very strong starting number so it is still the best decision to make. Similarly, you should always split a pair of 8s. For all other combinations refer to the table above.
While Insurance can seem a very attractive option, many will argue that you should never use it as in the long term it is mathematically more profitable to risk losing your initial bet than the protect against the dealer having Blackjack.
The ability to Double Down on hands is one of the best ways to reduce the house edge while playing Blackjack. By doubling your stake on a strong hand, you are making the most of the strong hand and swing the statistics in your favour. As a general rule, you should always use the Double Down option on 11, except when you are against an Ace, and you should also use it on a 10, except when the Dealer is showing an Ace or a 10. You should Double Down on a 9 if the dealer is showing 3, 4, 5 or 6. Some strategy tables restrict using the Double Down option to 9, 10 and 11, but there are a number of situations in soft hands when it is recommended to Double Down. Finally, if it is not possible to Double Down you should hit except for in four situations where it is best to stand, when the player has a soft 18 and the dealer has either 3, 4, 5 or 6.
Not all Blackjack games allow you to Surrender hands, the Surrender option allows you to escape from a poor situation when neither hitting or standing is preferable. These situations are rare, but when they arise if you can surrender and lose just half of your bet, it will save your money in the long term. The only situations where the Basic Blackjack Strategy recommends surrendering is when the player has hard 15 and the dealer has a 10 or when the player has a hard 16 and the dealer has 9, 10 or A. If the game you are playing does not allow surrendering then it is normally best to hit.
You will find a number of Blackjack games that offer a range of side bets that give you the chance to win significantly more than an average Blackjack hand. The most common of these side bets is Perfect Pairs, but there are many more. Side Bets are only recommended for those that enjoy risks. They are statistically very hard to win, but if you can afford it then it could lead to some hug returns. As with all online gambling, the issue of side bets is part of bankroll management so just be sure you factor it in if you wish to place them.
Number of Decks
You will find that different online Blackjack games use a different number of decks and this has an effect on the house advantage. The house advantage with a single deck is 0.17%, with two decks it is 0.46%, with four decks it is 0.60%, with six decks it is 0.64%, and with eight decks it is 0.65%. the difference is fairly small but as a general rule, the fewer decks the better. Most online Blackjack games use eight decks, but you do find single deck versions (such as Solo Blackjack at mr.play Casino).