Blackjack Strategy
Table Games

Blackjack Strategy

Blackjack Strategy Explained

Blackjack strategy is an essential component when it comes to playing one of the most popular table games ever created, as there are systems to suit various approaches. The key thing to remember, however, is that there is no Blackjack strategy that guarantees wins. If there was, then every land-based and online casino would have closed its doors a long time ago, or at least stopped offering Live Blackjack.

That said, the key aspects of Blackjack strategies are to maximise the opportunities to win, while limiting the chances of experiencing significant losses. Basic Blackjack strategy has been formulated over the years by experts, and essentially explains which moves to make depending on your hand value, based on laws of probability.

This Bet UK article is part of our wider guide about how to play Blackjack online, and can teach you a lot about the maths behind successful gameplay, as well as offering you handy Blackjack strategy charts so you know the best moves to make in any given scenario.

What is Basic Blackjack Strategy?

Basic Blackjack strategy essentially refers to the simple rules to follow that help to optimise your chances of winning as you play, as governed by the mathematical likelihood of a specific move being favourable. These rules of thumb can help to turn casual players - who may be playing Blackjack online with very little in the way of a game plan - into intermediate players, potentially even putting them on the path to becoming a professional player.

Speaking of professional players, many people who consider themselves to be experts still have a limited knowledge of basic Blackjack strategy, choosing instead to rely on intuition. While this may ultimately work for some people, it’s an attitude that will fail countless more, as whether you’re a “lucky” person or not doesn’t affect the possibility of a particular card being drawn to suit your needs, and knowing the mathematical side of things can assist you in making more valuable judgements in the long run.

However, with that in mind, knowing basic Blackjack strategy isn’t a magical way to guarantee big wins. It also still requires a degree of input from you as a player, in regards to setting your bankroll for a session of Blackjack, and knowing when to walk away from the table. Nonetheless, the standard strategy covers elements such as doubling down, splitting, and surrendering.

When to Double Down in Blackjack

Doubling down is the process of duplicating the initial bet on your hand in the middle of a round of Blackjack, in exchange for just one additional card. While it can be an appealing prospect, there are situations in which you shouldn’t even consider it as a tactic. As with all areas of Blackjack strategy, there are also moments in which doubling down is a mathematically sensible move.

A lot of professional players would advise doubling down if you have a hand value of 11 unless the dealer’s first card is an Ace. They would also probably advise you to double down on your wager if you have a hand value of 10, and the dealer’s up card is a 9 or lower. Finally, another strategy often seen at the elite level involves doubling down if your hand has a value of 13-18 (and contains an Ace), and the dealer’s up card is a 5 or 6.

When to Split in Blackjack

Splitting a hand is an available option when yours is made up of a pair. This pair can be of any value, but there are certain scenarios in which splitting is more likely to give you a tactical advantage than others. Therefore, when it comes to deciding whether or not to split a paired hand at the beginning of each round, there are also some general principles to guide you.

The first example is fairly self-explanatory, and involves a pair of Aces. If you receive this hand, you should always split, as it gives you a mathematically strong chance of winning with both of the new hands, given that you only need to draw one of the many cards with a value of 10 to achieve a natural Blackjack. A pair of 8s should also always be split. This may seem counterintuitive, particularly if the dealer’s first card is high, but probability suggests you will end up with two hand values that are better than the 16 that you began with.

On the flip side, there are a few circumstances in which it is inadvisable to split your hand. This includes a pair of 5s and a pair of 10s (or 10 valued cards; Jacks, Queens, and Kings). The former may seem slightly more obvious, given that drawing a high card on a hand valued at 10 is better than drawing a high card on two hands valued at 5. However, splitting 10s is one of the most common mistakes found at a Blackjack table, and is seemingly done so due to the allure of potentially forming two natural Blackjacks. While splitting 10s is more often than not a winning move, keeping them as a combined 20 is more likely to return a win.

When to Surrender in Blackjack

To a lot of Blackjack players, the concept of surrendering isn’t even considered, as many have a hardline approach of thinking every hand has the potential to be a winner. However, the most experienced players who have studied Blackjack strategy in depth know that surrendering can have its advantages during an extended session of gameplay. Remember that a key component of the basic Blackjack gameplan is to minimise losses, as well as maximise wins.

There’s a relatively clear dividing line between when to surrender and when not to, in accordance with the optimum Blackjack strategies. Statistically speaking, a hard 15 and a hard 16 are two of the worst hands you can have, particularly if the dealer has an up card with a value of 9, 10, or Ace. In these positions, it is generally suggested that you should surrender if possible.

It’s important to note that the option to surrender isn’t available in every instance when playing Blackjack online, and is dependent on the specific game. However, if it is an option, then just like doubling down and splitting, there are situations where the suggested best move is to surrender your hand.

What is the Best Blackjack Strategy?

While using the Blackjack tips covered here as part of your strategy makes it more likely to win a hand, using them in tandem with other areas of the game can help to create an even better tactical approach when it comes to gameplay. Various Blackjack side bets can be considered in addition to navigating each round in a traditional way, and if used correctly they can raise your winnings significantly.

For example, as a strategy for maximising wins during a session of playing Blackjack online, many experts would recommend not taking an insurance bet. The main reason for this is that the payout odds of 2/1 are lower than the odds of the dealer having a 10-valued card as their second. For a similar reason, you should also turn down ‘even money’ if it’s offered. To find out more about insurance and other Blackjack side bets, read the Bet UK guide.

Learn More About Blackjack Side Bets

Blackjack Strategy Charts

Here are some handy basic Blackjack strategy charts so you know the most mathematically viable moves to make in any given situation. The advised moves depend on the value of the dealer’s up card, and the precise structure of your own hand. Note that any moves that are in brackets are the recommended ones to make if a certain action is not permitted in the version of Blackjack you are playing.

Hard Hands

Hard hands are made up of any two cards that aren’t an Ace. Here’s how you should play each hard hand in Blackjack based upon the dealer’s up card.

PLAYER HAND VALUE UP CARD IS 2 UP CARD IS 3 UP CARD IS 4 UP CARD IS 5 UP CARD IS 6 UP CARD IS 7 UP CARD IS 8 UP CARD IS 9 UP CARD IS 10, J, Q, K UP CARD IS ACE
5 Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit
6 Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit
7 Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit
8 Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit
9 Hit Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit
10 Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Hit Hit
11 Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Hit
12 Hit Hit Stand Stand Stand Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit
13 Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit
14 Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit
15 Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Hit Hit Hit Surrender (Hit) Hit
16 Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Hit Hit Surrender (Hit) Surrender (Hit) Surrender (Hit)
17 Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand
18 Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand
19 Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand

Soft Hands

Soft hands are made up of an Ace and one other card (except for another Ace), and depending on the dealer’s up card the mathematically recommended course of action is listed below.

PLAYER HAND VALUE UP CARD IS 2 UP CARD IS 3 UP CARD IS 4 UP CARD IS 5 UP CARD IS 6 UP CARD IS 7 UP CARD IS 8 UP CARD IS 9 UP CARD IS 10, J, Q, K UP CARD IS ACE
Ace & 2 Hit Hit Hit Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit
Ace & 3 Hit Hit Hit Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit
Ace & 4 Hit Hit Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit
Ace & 5 Hit Hit Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit
Ace & 6 Hit Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Double (Hit) Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit
Ace & 7 Stand Double (Stand) Double (Stand) Double (Stand) Double (Stand) Stand Stand Hit Hit Hit
Ace & 8 Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand
Ace & 9 Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand Stand

Paired Hands

Any hand with two cards of the same value should be played differently to soft and hard hands of the same total, with splitting now a possible option.

| PLAYER HAND VALUE | UP CARD IS 2 | UP CARD IS 3 | UP CARD IS 4 | UP CARD IS 5 | UP CARD IS 6 | UP CARD IS 7 | UP CARD IS 8 | UP CARD IS 9 | UP CARD IS 10, J, Q, K | UP CARD IS ACE | |:------------ |:---------------|:------------| |:------------ |:---------------|:------------| |:------------ |:---------------|:------------| |:------------ |:---------------| | Pair of Aces | Split | Split | Split | Split | Split | Split | Split | Split | Split | Split | | Pair of 2s | Split | Split | Split | Split | Split | Split | Hit | Hit | Hit | Hit | | Pair of 3s | Split | Split | Split | Split | Split | Split | Hit | Hit | Hit | Hit | | Pair of 4s | Hit | Hit | Hit | Split | Split | Split | Hit | Hit | Hit | Hit | | Pair of 5s | Double (Hit) | Double (Hit) | Double (Hit) | Double (Hit) | Double (Hit) | Double (Hit) | Double (Hit) | Double (Hit) | Hit | Hit | | Pair of 6s | Split | Split | Split | Split | Split | Hit | Hit | Hit | Hit | Hit | | Pair of 7s | Split | Split | Split | Split | Split | Split | Hit | Hit | Hit | Hit | | Pair of 8s | Split | Split | Split | Split | Split | Split | Split | Split | Split | Split | | Pair of 9s | Split | Split | Split | Split | Split | Stand | Split | Split | Stand | Stand | | Pair of 10s, Js, Qs, Ks | Stand | Stand | Stand | Stand | Stand | Stand | Stand | Stand | Stand | Stand |

Blackjack Strategy FAQs

Does Progressive Betting Work in Blackjack?

The progressive betting Blackjack strategy is the idea of increasing your bet exponentially, by doubling it each time your hand loses. The honest answer is that it works in some cases, but you’re only ever likely to win back the amount that you wagered in the first place, whereas you swiftly run the risk of playing through your entire balance in just a few hands. Make sure that you don’t chase any losses.

What is the Most Common Mistake in Blackjack Strategy?

Arguably the most common mistake regarding Blackjack strategy is splitting a pair of 10s in the hopes of achieving two natural Blackjacks, or two highly valued hands. This can backfire spectacularly. Another common mistake is playing each hand with the intention of getting as close to the value of 21 as possible, a problematic approach found commonly in new Blackjack players.

Should I Surrender Whenever I Have a Bad Hand?

Using our Blackjack strategy tables above, you can see that surrendering your hand is rarely a recommended course of action, except in a few instances of having a hard 15 or hard 16. Use these guides to play your hands according to probability, as even a seemingly poor hand can quickly become a winner.

Bet UK Blackjack Strategy Guide

The Bet UK Blackjack strategy guide is all you’ll ever need if you’re looking to find out which move to make in a particular situation, based on the most likely outcome. The Blackjack strategy charts are useful if you’re in need of a quick refresher, while more in-depth analysis of when to surrender, double down, or split your hands is also readily available.

If you now feel ready to try out some of the things you’ve learned here, you could test out your new-found knowledge in Microgaming’s European Blackjack or Evolution’s Power Blackjack. However, if you’re still keen to learn about other aspects of playing Blackjack online such as when to hit and when to stand, you’ll find all of that information throughout our how to play Blackjack guides.

Learn More About Playing Blackjack Online

06/09/2021