Online Blackjack Strategy
When learning to play, it is better to know the online blackjack strategy. As players gain experience, they start realizing that the real goal is to get a higher total than the dealer, without going over 21. Blackjack is one of the few casino games that the player can actually turn the odds to their favor. The most efficient way is to learn the online blackjack strategy. Players can enjoy a round of blackjack at their favorite casino, but for those that want to win at blackjack, this page will provide the steps necessary to make that happen.
This guide will show you the need to reduce the house edge in order to make a profit and reasons why a basic online blackjack strategy is necessary if you want to win. Get to know the blackjack strategy chart, as this will be the foundation for becoming a better a player. Start to learn how to win at blackjack without the chart, as well as diving into more advanced techniques like card counting. Learn to implement the blackjack strategy while you play, and may the odds be ever in your favor.
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Why Basic Strategy Works
At the basic level, blackjack is a game that can be solved on a mathematical level. You can use a mathematical computation to determine the best play at the blackjack table every time.
The first people to do this attempted to make these calculations on paper. Now we have computers that can quickly determine the best way to play, so you don’t have to make any mathematical efforts.
Making the Right Choices
Not only do you need to make the most profitable play every time you can, you also need to make the least costly play sometimes. You’ll play many hands where you’ll lose money in the long-run no matter how you play, but if you lose as little as possible you save more of your bankroll, letting you play longer and with a better chance of getting to a profitable hand.The chart included below was developed by a computer program and it shows you the absolute best play in every situation. Once you go over it and learn how to use it, the next section will give you tips on how to practice and learn the basic plays without depending on the chart for the long term.
Before you get started, you might want to print the chart so you can keep it beside your computer or keep it with you if you’re on your cell phone or tablet. This also makes it easier as you read the rest of the page.
The way to use the chart is to go down the left-hand column until you find your starting cards. Then go to the top and find the dealer’s up card value. The best play is where the two cross on the chart.
Blackjack Strategy Chart
- Hit simply means hit or take a single additional card. It’s color coded green because green means go.
- Double means to double down. Simply slide an extra bet equal to your first wager out.
- Stand means stand or take no more cards. It’s color coded red because red means stop.
- Split means split. Put your cards side by side and slide an additional bet the same size as your first bet forward.
- The H stands for a hard hand. A H5 means a three and a two.
- The S stands for a soft hand, so each one includes an Ace counted as 11. If you have a hand with the Ace counted as one you have a hard hand.
Best Blackjack Strategy Example
You have a Six and a Seven, this comes together as a Hard 13. The dealer has a Seven showing.
You would simply look at the strategy chart and find where those two hands intersect and you will get the optimal decision to make.
As you go down the side to a Hard 13 and then across to where the dealer has a Seven, you see the correct play is to Hit.
Notice that if the dealer had a Six instead of a Seven, the correct play is to Stand.
Additional Rules and Strategy
You’ll notice that the chart doesn’t have anything listed about surrender. If your game allows surrender here are the additional rules you need to know.
In some games, you’re restricted from doubling after splitting your pairs. If this is the case where you’re playing the following rules are added.
For more information about blackjack charts and strategy, check out The Wizard of Odds blackjack guide.
Reducing the House Edge
Blackjack offers one of the lowest advantages for the house you can find in a casino. With proper play, you can reduce the house edge to below 1% unless the game rules are particularly bad. You can even get the edge down to a half percent in many games. If you don’t use the proper blackjack strategy, you give up a great deal of money to the casino. By not using the basic blackjack strategy you may be giving the casino an extra 1 to 3 percent.
What is House Edge?
Readers might be wondering what the house edge is. The Wizard of Odds defines the house edge as “the ratio of the average loss to the initial bet“. After the initial bet, players might make wagers when the odds dictate they do so. These additional wagers are variable for each new hand. The house edge is meant to determine how much a player will lose, so it is more accurate to base this calculation off the original bet.
Deck Sizes and the House Edge
Many blackjack rules affect the house edge of a game. Of all factors, the deck size affects the odds most. This is true for card counters, but also other blackjack players. Blackjack Hall of Fame inductee Arnold Snyder wrote,
“The more decks being used, the less profitable the game becomes, not only for card counters, but for basic strategy players as well.”
Snyder’s statement was made in a discussion of the effect “deck penetration” has on blackjack odds. Deck penetration refers to the percentage of the cards used before a reshuffle occurs. If half the cards are used, then the deck penetration would be 50%. This is why single-deck blackjack is best, all other rules being equal. The cards already played have a greater effect on future hands, but players can predict that effect better with a smaller deck.
Effects of Deck Size on the House Edge
Readers must be wondering at the effect deck size has on the house edge. The table below shows why players are so interested in playing single deck blackjack. The gulf between single-deck blackjack and double-deck blackjack is immense. The drop-down from double-deck to 3-deck blackjack is also significant. Once you get to four decks or more, the effect is negligible, though they’re all bad.
House Edge versus Basic Strategy Example
Say you play:
- $20 per hand.
- Play 50 hands per hour.
- Play four hours per session.
- Play 10 sessions a month.
If the casino has an extra 1% edge, you cost yourself an extra $400 a month, or $4,800 a year.
At a 2% extra edge, it’s $800 a month and $9,600 a year.
3% is $1,200 a month and $14,400 a year.
This can all be avoided by simply referring to a chart before every decision. Once you start doing this, you’ll quickly learn all of the basic plays so you won’t need to check for the best decision very often. Eventually, you’ll have every play memorized so you won’t need the chart at all.
Strategy Without the Chart
Rarely will you find basic blackjack strategy in written form. Usually, you just find a chart like the one listed above. But some players find it easier to memorize if they can read it, and visually impaired visitors that use a software reader program, may find it easier this way.
If you like the chart and don’t need to read the results, you can skip to the next section.
General Guidelines to Use
Insurance and Basic Strategy
When you learn basic blackjack strategy, the rule about insurance is simple. Never take insurance. It might seem like an insurance bet makes sense when you have your best hands, but the math behind the wager proves otherwise.You can find a situation where taking insurance may be correct, but only if you’re a professional card counter.
An insurance bet is simply a wager as to whether or not the dealer has a 10 valued card down. It doesn’t look this way at first and isn’t presented this way, but think about it for a minute. If the dealer has a 10 card down, you win the insurance bet; if they don’t you lose. It doesn’t have anything to do with your hand or your first bet.
Insurance Bet Breakdown
Now let’s look at this from a strictly mathematical viewpoint. If you win an insurance bet, you win 2 to 1 on your money. So for it to be a good bet you have to get at least 2 to 1 odds.
The deck has nine cards that make you lose and four cards that make you win. This makes the odds 9 to 4, or 2.25 to 1. These odds are worse than 2 to 1, so this is a bad bet.
Written a different way, 2 to 1 is the same as 8 to 4. Since 9 to 4 is worse than 8 to 4, you should never take insurance if you want to ensure long-term success.
How to Practice Basic Strategy
One of the things that turn’s many blackjack players off when it comes to learning basic strategy is they think they have to memorize the chart and all of the individual plays. While this is certainly one way to do it, most players can do it faster and easier another way.
Here’s a step by step guide to quickly mastering basic blackjack strategy.
Have the Strategy Chart Available
Print out the strategy chart listed on this page. I slide mine in a sheet protector.
For those that don’t want to print it out, simply save it on your computer and have it handy for when you do start playing blackjack online.
Sign In or Register at Online Casino
Sign up for a free account at any of the reputable online casinos listed on this site. You can read the reviews, but right now you won’t be playing for real money so any online casino will work. We only list ones we trust so you can click on any link and land on a trusted online casino. If you use a cell phone or tablet to play, find one that offers both online and mobile play.
Pick the Best Blackjack Table
Open up the casino lobby and pick a free or real money blackjack game and get started playing. We suggest you start playing for free to practice, but to start feeling the pressure to win, you should try playing blackjack for real money.
Check Chart for Optimal Plays
Check for the best play on your chart for every hand. This may seem tedious but as you check, the results are slowly getting ingrained in your mind.
As you continue playing, you’ll find that certain plays happen so often that you don’t need the chart for them. As this happens you can reduce the number of times you have to check your chart.
Best Play for Each Hand
Always try to determine the best play before checking the chart. By doing this you will train your mind to automatically recall the best play for each hand.
Eventually, you’ll find that you have the entire chart memorized.
Once a week, play a short session where you check every decision to make sure you haven’t forgotten a play or two. As you gain more confidence, you can stretch this out to once a month and eventually be able to stop checking yourself.
Play for Real Money
When you’re ready to play blackjack for real money you can play online or at your local casino with the confidence that you can reduce the house edge as far as possible.
Remember that with money at stake some players will feel the pressure to win and may make mistakes. Always follow the basic strategy.
Relax and Play with Confidence
Don’t panic or worry if you’re having problems with a few hands. You’ll eventually get them and there’s no shame in using a chart. You can even use one at the tables in Atlantic City or Las Vegas. It is better to use a proven tool to help you win than not due to pride.
If you use this step by step system you should be able to play correct basic blackjack strategy on over 95% of your hands in less than 20 hours of practice. You might be able to do this with less than 10 hours of practice. This is less than an hour a day for a month.
Is it worthwhile to invest a few hours in a month to get back the thousands of dollars you’re wasting at the blackjack tables from poor play?
Just don’t give up if you struggle. You’ll get it and the small amount of time and effort you put forth now will pay off for the rest of your life. Persistence will pay off in this situation.
Work on Your Trouble Hands
Many players have problems with the last 5% or so of hands. These situations don’t come up often and they can be hard to get down because they might not make sense at first. If this happens to you simply write these hands down on an index card.
You’ll know which ones are giving you trouble so all you have to do is quickly check your card when one of them comes up. Take your card out and read it every chance you get and you’ll have the best plays memorized quickly.
Slow but Sure Memorization
Another strategy for learning proper blackjack strategy is by memorizing one line at a time. If you plan to use this strategy, start with the pairs. Learn how to play each pair perfectly and then move to the hard hands.
It helps to write out the correct plays for the hands you’re working on and then read them every chance you have throughout the day. As you learn one hand, add another to your list.
Apply What You Have Learned
Once you learn how to play perfect strategy you’ll see other players make bad decisions all of the time. Don’t make the mistake of trying to correct them or help them unless someone specifically asks for your help.
At best they won’t appreciate it and you’ll run into some people who are just plain rude when you try to help them.
Card Counting and Advanced Strategy
We have an entire page dedicated to counting cards in blackjack. It’s easier than most players think, and worth looking into even if you’re not sure if it’s for you.
Before you even think about trying to count cards, you must have the basic blackjack strategy down pat. If you don’t make every single play correctly it can cost more than counting can make up for.
As you learned in the last section, it only takes time and practice to get basic blackjack strategy down perfectly. Use your chart every time you play until you can make the right plays in your sleep, then check out the card counting page.
AP Heat has a few excellent articles about card counting.
One of the largest advantages the player has in blackjack is when they get a blackjack they get paid 3 to 2, but when the dealer gets a blackjack the player only loses a single wager. This advantage is offset by the player always being forced to act first, which is why the Aces are so important. This is also why more Aces in the deck are more important to you than the dealer.
Once you learn basic strategy, you can add another tactic to your game to help you have a better chance to beat the casinos. If you simply start tracking the number of Aces played in comparison to the number of decks left you can get an idea of when you have a better or worse chance of receiving one.
You know that a deck holds four Aces, so a six-deck shoes holds 24 Aces. If you’ve played through a deck and haven’t seen an Ace yet, the odds go up that you’ll receive more Aces than normal the rest of the shoe. If you’ve seen eight Aces through a single deck the odds are you’ll receive fewer Aces for the rest of the shoe.
How Do You Use this Information?
You may not realize it, but this is a form of card counting. By learning how to track the Aces, you’re practicing card counting at a basic level. Card counters raise their bets when the deck is favorable to them and lower their bets when the deck isn’t favorable.
So if you’re playing in a game where the shoe is filled with extra Aces, double your bet; if the Aces have been played, cut your normal bet in half.
This won’t give you enough of an edge to beat the house in the long run, but you can and will cut the house edge to the lowest possible amount without learning how to count cards. Try it the next time you play. You may be surprised at how easy it is to accomplish.