Blackjack Strategy -'s Essential Guide

Blackjack StrategyOne of the most common table games in the world and also known for being a game with one of the lowest house edges, online blackjack is a game that even the most casual gambler has probably played before. While the game can be seen as deceptively simple, you can heavily increase your odds of winning big by memorizing some basic strategy and rules.

While it's a topic that can scrutinized and analyzed endlessly, below we have compiled the most important information and strategies you need to know in order to regularly win at real money blackjack.

Know What You Are Playing

Beware--not all blackjack games are created equal. It's a common assumption that any and all blackjack game is going to pay 3 to 2. However, more and more tables are popping up (both online and in real casinos) that pay at rates like 6 to 5, 7 to 5, or even money. Always check or ask about the odds before playing, and our personal recommendation is that you shouldn't settle for anything less than the traditional 3 to 2 payout.

Also be wary about whether or not a table has a soft 17 rule in play. This rule dictates whether or not the dealer must hit or stand on soft 17 (meaning if you hold an ace valued at 11, you can't bust by taking another card). If you see a table marked as H17, it means the dealer must hit; if it says S17 the dealer must stand and the house edge is decreased slightly. Finally, check to see how many decks a table is using. Generally, the less amount of decks, the greater an advantage you have as the player.

Basic Strategy

Blackjack StrategySome might tell you that the object of blackjack is to get as close to 21 without going over. In reality, the game is more about beating the dealer anyway possible. Once this is understood, then you are ready to employ what is called blackjack's "basic strategy" into your game. Basic strategy is a widely used method of playing blackjack playing that will lose you less than 1% of your total wagered amount if you have even just average luck.

The basic strategy will be slightly dependent upon how many decks are in play, whether the dealer stands on a soft 17, and a few other factors. It takes some memorization and logic to get down, but it's really nothing more than knowing what to do dependent upon your point total and the dealer's exposed card. Basic strategy tables are widely available online for you to memorize depending on what variation of blackjack you are playing.

Never Take Insurance

In blackjack, when the dealer's showing card is an Ace, a sidebet called insurance may be played that is a wager treated independently from the initial wager. Insurance becomes available when the dealer is showing an ace, and comes with a 2:1 payout. Since the dealer's next card has a nearly 33% chance of having a value of 10, the idea is to give you the chance to "insure" against this possibility by making this side bet, up to half the value of your original bet. This insurance makes up for the associated loss on your main bet.

If you have blackjack, you can also take out insurance, also called "taking even money". Doing this commits you to winning the same amount of your initial wager regardless of what happens to the dealer and is paid out before their hand is finished. But, because the odds of the dealer actually having blackjack are less than 33.33%, regularly taking either type of insurance bet would be expected to lose you money over time.

Card Counting and Advantage Play

Blackjack StrategyIn addition to basic strategy play, there are some other blackjack methods that can be used to give you an even greater advantage against the dealer. Although it is commonly thought to be illegal in casinos, the practice of card counting is completely legal if done in your head and gone "undetected" by casinos (i.e., don't be obvious about it). Basic card counting requires assigning a point value to each card (e.g., 1 point for 2-6; 0 for 7-9; -1 for 10-A). A running total is kept as cards come out which can help a counter make decisions on what to do next based upon a strategy table they have memorized.

Another form of advantage play is shuffle tracking. This involves tracking certain groups of cards as they get shuffled, then adjusting your betting strategy appropriately when they come up in the deal. Players with great eyesight and extreme attention to detail can also gain an advantage by learning to identify cards based on minute wear markings on the back of the cards.

Don't Do This

Be wary of some blackjack strategies that are commonly assumed to be correct but would be better off being avoided. The "never bust" strategy encourages players to never hit on a hard 12 or more, however advanced statistical analysis over time shows that this strategy actually greatly increases the house edge.

Similarly, the "mimic the dealer" strategy suggests you should always hit on 16 or less and stand on 17 or more, never doubling or splitting, just like the dealer would do. This also seems to inflate the house advantage to around 5.48%.