Blackjack Strategy and Tips for Beginners
Blackjack – also known as ‘twenty one’ – is by far the world’s most popular casino banking game. Not only does it offer players endlessly exciting gameplay, but also the possibility to implement strategies and tips that applied correctly can even tilt the odds in favor of the player and make the game quite profitable.
With that in mind, your friends at VikingSlots have put together a beginner’s strategy guide to Blackjack meant to teach you the fundamentals that will take your Blackjack game to the next level.
1. Play using basic strategy
Basic strategy is the first thing that you need to learn before you can start beating Blackjack. Playing with perfect basic strategy will allow you to reduce the house edge from 2.5% to a mere 0.5%, giving you a huge opportunity of leaving the table with big winnings if luck is on your side. Combined with other advanced tips and strategies, Basic Strategy can even manage to give you an edge on the house!
Basic strategy was formulated by using computer simulations that played millions of hands to determine the best decisions a player could take in any possible situation. Basic strategy is therefore the mathematically perfect way to play each hand, taking into account not only your starting two cards, but also the dealer’s up card to determine the most profitable decision you can make. While playing with perfect basic strategy doesn’t guarantee you will win every hand – or even every session- it will make a huge difference in how much you will win in the long run.
In the chart below, courtesy of Wizard of Odds, you will find the basic strategy for the two most popular variations of Blackjack:
According to the strategy charts above, on a 4-8 Deck table with the Dealer standing on Soft 17 and surrender being allowed, the strategy is as follows:
- Surrender hard 16 (but not a pair of 8s) vs. dealer 9, 10, or Ace, and hard 15 vs. dealer 10.
- Always split Aces and 8s.
- Never split 5s and 10s.
- Split 2s and 3s against a dealer 4-7, and against a 2 or 3 if Double after Split is allowed.
- Split 4s only if Double after Split is allowed and the dealer shows a 5 or 6.
- Split 6s against a dealer 3-6, and against a 2 if Double after Split is allowed.
- Split 7s against a dealer 2-7.
- Split 9s against a dealer 2-6 or 8-9.
- Double hard 9 vs. dealer 3-6.
- Double hard 10 except against a dealer 10 or Ace.
- Double hard 11 except against a dealer Ace.
- Double soft 13 or 14 vs. dealer 5-6.
- Double soft 15 or 16 vs. dealer 4-6.
- Double soft 17 or 18 vs. dealer 3-6.
Hit or Stand
- Always hit hard 11 or less.
- Stand on hard 12 against a dealer 4-6, otherwise hit.
- Stand on hard 13-16 against a dealer 2-6, otherwise hit.
- Always stand on hard 17 or more.
- Always hit soft 17 or less.
- Stand on soft 18 except hit against a dealer 9, 10, or Ace.
- Always stand on soft 19 or more.
The strategy when the dealer hits on soft 17 is the practically same as the above, with the exception of the following rules:
- Surrender 15, a pair of 8s, and 17 vs. dealer Ace.
- Double 11 vs. dealer Ace.
- Double soft 18 vs. dealer 2.
- Double soft 19 vs. dealer 6.
While ideally you will want to memorize these basic strategies, most land-based casinos will let you keep a basic strategy card at the table as long as you are not slowing down play too much. However, our online blackjack games are the perfect place for you to practice with strategy cards until you manage to memorize them, since there is no time limit on your decision and you can play at your own pace.
If you can only memorize one of the two strategies above, it’s best you memorize the one for Dealer stands on soft 17. The cost in errors from playing a Stand on Soft 17 game with the Hit on 17 strategy, is 2.3 times higher than the other way around.
Please keep in mind that these basic strategy guides are for the above games only. While they will certainly be similar to the basic strategies of other blackjack variants, every variation of a rule will require you to adjust your strategy slightly to ensure that you play the optimal decision every time.
2. Find the right table
Whether you are playing online or live, before you sit down you should make sure the table is playing with the rules and limits you are looking for. It’s important that the betting limits match your betting balance and that you understand and are comfortable with the rule variations the table offers.
If you are new to the game or still learning basic strategy, it’s always recommended you start out at a low limits table before moving to higher limits that will allow you bigger payouts.
3. Start Small
Getting a feel for the dealer and the table is always important. Sometimes the dealer will in the middle of a winning streak before you entered the table, and you could easily become another victim of that streak without knowing any better. Therefore, we recommend that you first bet small to get a feel of the table before you start raising your bets. New players will also want to start small while they get comfortable with the game’s dynamics and get used to implementing a basic strategy.
4. Don't sit in the first base seat
Whether you are still learning to implement your basic strategy or you are a seasoned Blackjack pro, it is always good to have time to fully consider your decision before making your move. Sitting in the first base seat will put additional pressure on you as you will be the first player required to act, whereas sitting further down the table will give you more time to fully consider your actions.
5. Don't play insurance
Whenever the dealer has an Ace or a 10 value card, you will be offered the chance to make an additional bet to protect your hand in case the dealer has a Blackjack- also known as an Insurance bet.
Playing insurance is simply not a good decision. Not only does the house have a 6% advantage on you on an insurance bet, but even if the dealer does have a Blackjack all you will get is a push – not a win.
6. Don’t listen to other players
If you are playing at our Live Dealer casino or a land-based casino, you will often find other “expert” players that are trying to tell you how you should play your hand. If you are following the basic strategy to a T, you should simply ignore their advice and be confident in your own game.
7. Set your limits
Every time you sit down at a table, you should set your limits as to how much is the maximum you are willing to lose. If you hit that limit, you must resist the temptation to try and win it back and simply walk away. When you are on a losing streak, it’s best to call it a day and try some other day.
8. Manage your bankroll
Finally, it’s important to manage your bankroll according to the tendencies you are seeing in the game. Whenever you are on a winning streak you should up the value of your bets, as well as lower their value when you find yourself constantly losing. Adjusting your bet sizes to your streaks will guarantee that you get the most profit out of your action.
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