Blackjack Strategy

Blackjack is a well-known casino game which appeals to hundreds of players all over the world for various reasons. It offers an exciting game play and a very low house edge which gives players the chance to make a profit while getting a high level of entertainment. It is one of the oldest card games that are still played today as its origins can be traced back to the 17th century.

Throughout the years, many people, including mathematicians, players and gambling experts have had a keen interest in the game which led to the invention of various different strategies.

Julian Braun, Edward O. Thorp and John Scarne were some of the people who managed to discover impressive findings of the game. They take credit for various essential theories which completely changed the way the game was perceived. Thanks to the basic strategy and the card counting, players could make the game even more beneficial and reduce the house edge. In fact, the card counting method turned out to be so successful that in 1964 all casinos in Las Vegas were forced to change the standard rules of the game as many players could gain the upper hand.

However, this measure put off a number of players and as a result, the rules were altered once more. It is observable that blackjack has always been in the public eye for one major reason – this game gives players the opportunity to influence its outcome by using a strategy. Therefore, let’s have a look at some of the most popular strategies for your moves and bets which can help you improve your game and minimize your losses.

Basic Strategy

When it comes to blackjack, luck plays a crucial role but so do your skills and knowledge. Since your actions affect the outcome of every hand to a great extent, it is possible to make a profit in the long term. However, in order to succeed in achieving this goal, you need to use a reliable strategy. The most popular blackjack strategy is the basic strategy which is suitable for all types of players. In other words, even if you are new to blackjack, you can still take advantage of it as it is very straightforward and easy to understand.

The basic strategy is essentially a chart which helps you make better moves for your hand. Its move suggestions are based on two main factors – the dealer’s up card and the total in your hand. Blackjack is a card game and as such, the possible card combinations and outcomes that can occur are limited. Every time you play, the game uses a particular number of decks and cards which imply that there is a predetermined probability for you to get dealt a certain card.

This is the reason why such a strategy can be beneficial, even if it takes into consideration only these two factors. According to them, the chart suggests the most appropriate move – hit, stand, double down or split, that you can make under certain circumstances. When it comes to the surrender option, only some charts show when to take advantage of this move because not all casinos offer it.

This strategy can help you reduce the house edge to some extent and make better choices for your hand. It should be noted that the basic strategy chart has many variations due to the fact that in some situations, more than one move is acceptable. Moreover, there are many blackjack versions which require a different strategy because of the rule changes they feature.

Basic Strategy Chart
Players’ Hand Dealer’s Up Card
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
8 H H H D D H H H H H
9 H D D D D H H H H H
10 D D D D D D H H H H
11 D D D D D D D H H H
12 H H S S S H H H H H
13 S S S S S H H H H H
14 S S S S S H H H H H
15 S S S S S H H H H H
16 S S S S S H H H H H
A-2 H H H D D H H H H H
A-3 H H D D D H H H H H
A-4 H H D D D H H H H H
A-5 H H D D D H H H H H
A-6 H D D D D H H H H H
A-7 S D D D D S S H H H
A-8 S S S S S S S S S S
A-9 S S S S S S S S S S
A-A SP SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H
2-2 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
3-3 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
4-4 H H H SP SP H H H H H
5-5 D D D D D D H H H H
6-6 SP SP SP SP SP H H H H H
7-7 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
8-8 SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP
9-9 SP SP SP SP SP S SP SP S S

When to Split a Pair

blackjack splitting pairsMost of the today’s blackjack variations are played with more than one pack of 52 cards which increases your chance of getting two cards of the same rank. The only way to tackle such situations successfully is to prepare yourself in advance for them. For this purpose, you can use the basic strategy chart as it has a section dedicated to splitting pairs. Many inexperienced players are often misled by the popular belief that whenever they have a pair, they have to always split it.

However, this couldn’t be further from the truth as each pair requires a unique approach. What is more, there are even some pairs which should be never split – a pair of 10’s and 5’s. If you ever get dealt a pair of 10’s, all you need to do is to stand, regardless of the up card of the dealer. The reason why is that you have the second best total in your hand which you can possibly get in blackjack. If you are lucky enough to get a pair which totals twenty, you should simply retain your position as it is extremely advantageous.

If you have a pair of 5’s and the dealer shows any card from two through seven, it is best to double down. For the rest of the cases, you should try and improve your total by choosing to hit. In order to remember the strategy for splitting pairs easily, you should group the card combinations in a suitable way for you. For instance, some players find it easy to learn the pairs that should never be split along with the pair that has to be always split, regardless of what the dealer shows – a pair of 8’s.

If you have a pair of aces in your hand, it is recommended to split them, unless the dealer has a nine, a ten or an ace as then, it is best to hit. The strategy for a pair of 6’s is almost the same, the only difference is that when the dealer shows a seven or an eight, it is advisable to hit instead of splitting. If you happen to receive a pair of 2’s, 3’s or 7’s and the up card of the dealer is from two through seven, splitting is your best option. As you might have already gathered, for the rest of the cases, you should request an additional card and hit in an attempt to improve your total.

The last pairs left to discuss are a pair of 4’s and 9’s. The approach for the latter is fairly easy to remember – always split unless the dealer shows a seven, a ten or an ace. For the rest of the cases, it is best to stand and let the game unfold, hopefully, in your favor. If you happen to get a pair of 4’s, you should always hit, unless the up card of the dealer is a five or a six.

When to Double Down

blackjack doubling downThe basic strategy chart also provides information about the situations in which it is best to make the amount of your initial bet twice as much by taking advantage of the doubling down option. If you happen to have soft hands, you should know that most of them are suitable for doubling down, however, only under particular circumstances. In order to find out whether the situation is appropriate, you should consider the up card of the dealer.

If you have a soft sixteen, fifteen or fourteen and the dealer shows a four, a five or a six, it is recommended to double down. If you have a soft seventeen or eighteen, doubling down is appropriate only when the dealer’s up card is a three, a four, a five or a six. You should also make this move when you have a soft thirteen and the dealer shows a five or a six. If you have a hard eleven and the dealer has any card from two through eight, it is recommended to double down.

The same goes for the cases when your hand totals ten with the exception that when the dealer’s up card is an eight, you should hit instead. If your hand totals nine, you should double down when the dealer shows a three, a four, a five or a six. In case that the total of your two cards is eight, it is advisable to double down when the dealer’s up card is a five or a six.

When to Adjust the Basic Strategy

adjusting to basic strategy graphicsBlackjack has many variations which feature different rules and game play. Therefore, the basic strategy chart might not be suitable for a particular game if it contains major changes to the rules. This is the reason why prior to trying a new blackjack variation, you should take your time to adjust the basic strategy. Of course, this only applies to the variants which differ greatly from the classic game. If the only difference between the variation of your choice and the traditional game is that the former features a side bet, there is no need to make any changes to the basic strategy.

However, if you are about to play extraordinary variations such as Blackjack Switch or Double Exposure Blackjack, you need to consider altering the basic strategy. In Blackjack Switch, you play with two hands simultaneously and you are allowed to exchange cards between them. You are given the opportunity to make otherwise forbidden moves and as a result, you need a new strategy and approach. The suggested moves in the matrix are no longer adequate because of the rule of the two hands involved in the gaming process.

Double Exposure Blackjack is another variation which offers an extraordinary and different game play. In this version, you and the rest of the participants are able to see both of the dealer’s cards as they are exposed. The fact that there is no longer a face-down card gives players a huge advantage but it also renders the basic strategy ineffective. The reason why is that the suggested moves in the basic strategy chart take into account the dealer’s up card and the probability of his/her hole card being a high-value or a low-value one. Since you are able to see both of them, you need a new strategy how to gain an advantage over the casino.

Card Counting

blackjack card countingCard counting is another popular strategy which is predominantly used by more proficient players because, in order to apply it, one must be familiar with the basic strategy first. When it comes to card counting, there are various misconceptions and myths which put off many players from learning this method. Some believe that in order to be able to count the cards successfully, you need to have an advanced photographic memory. Others tend to consider that card counting is illegal and it will only cause them trouble.

These statements couldn’t be further from the truth as they have simply emerged from misleading sources such as movies and magazines. If your ultimate goal is to become a consistent winner in blackjack, then you need to learn card counting as this technique has proven to work. Combined with the basic strategy, card counting can be extremely efficient and it can help you reduce the house edge to a huge extent. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you will win every time you play on the blackjack table, but that your chances of doing so are much higher.

Thanks to this method, you can determine the ratio between high-value cards to low-value ones and this way, get a general idea of the upcoming cards. This valuable information you can derive from the cards which have already been dealt. In other words, you have to keep track of the cards on the table by using a card counting system. If you figure out that most low-value cards are removed from the deck, you can conclude that more high-value ones are coming and thus, increase your bets and alter your moves according to this information. You should view card counting systems as a tool which can help you gain the upper hand.

Popular Card Counting Systems

In order to be able to keep track of the cards successfully, you need to learn a card counting system. There are various such systems which differ from one another in their level of difficulty and the way they assign values to the cards. Depending on their type, card counting systems can be also balanced or unbalanced. In order to be able to use a card counting system, you have to know how to determine the true count and how to convert the running count to true count if needed.

Running count is basically what you count every time a card is placed on the blackjack table. In order to figure out the true count, you need to divide the running count over the number of packs the variation of your choice uses. Balanced card counting systems require this conversion, whereas unbalanced systems don’t. This is the reason why the latter type are considered less complicated which makes them suitable for novice players.

Hi-Lo System

Hi-Lo is one of the most popular card counting systems as it is not only easy to learn but also very effective. Its level of difficulty is one so if you are new to card counting, you can start off by learning this system. It assigns new values of the cards, meaning that each card receives a positive, a negative or a zero count.

In order to further clarify the principle of this card counting system, it is best to have a look at its plan. In Hi-Lo, each card that ranges between two and six gets a plus one count and each card from seven through nine gets a zero count. The value all 10’s, aces and face cards get is minus one. You should keep track of the cards on the table according to the assigned values this system suggests. If you determine that the count has a positive value, then you need to place larger bets as you are in a favorable position and vice versa.

Blackjack Hi-Lo Card Counting System
Cards Count
22
33
44
55
66
+1
77
88
99
0
1010
JJ
QQ
KK
AA
-1

Omega II

Omega II is a card counting system whose level of difficulty is two, meaning that if you compare it to the Hi-Lo, you will most likely find it more advanced. Even though this system might be more complicated, bear in mind that it is also more accurate and efficient. In fact, its betting efficiency is approximately 99% which is a good indicator that this system truly works. It should be noted that the Omega II betting system is a balanced one which implies that in order to use it, you are required to convert the running count to true one.

While it is true that it requires further estimations, at the end, it will be all worth it because you will be able to get the valuable information you need to become a winner. The plan this system uses for assigning values of the cards consists of plus two and one, minus two and one and zero. If you want to learn this card counting system, make sure to master the Hi-Lo one first in order to get used to the general idea and principles these types of systems use.

Blackjack Omega II Card Counting System
Cards Count
44
55
66
+2
22
33
77
+1
88
AA
0
99
-1
1010
JJ
QQ
KK
-2

Wong Halves

Wong Halves is a balanced card counting system which is considered to be one of the hardest to learn. Its level of difficulty is three because of its complicated plan which besides whole numbers, also features fractions. The plan of this system is very intriguing which makes it worth mentioning – all 2’s and 7’s get a plus 0.5 count and all 9’s get a minus 0.5 count. All 5’s get a plus 1.5 count and all 8’s get a zero. As for the face cards, aces and 10’s, they get a minus 1 count and the rest of the cards – 3’s, 4’s, 6’s get a plus 1.

As you can imagine, this makes the whole counting process quite difficult to conduct and the only way to achieve your goal is to be extremely concentrated. Furthermore, you are also required to make more advanced calculations which are a challenge on its own. However, if you manage to master this strategy, your efforts and time won’t be in vain as you will be able to determine with an impressive accuracy the ratio between high-value cards to low-value ones.

Blackjack Wong Halves Card Counting System
Cards Count
55
+1.5
33
44
66
+1
22
77
+0.5
88
0
99
-0.5
1010
JJ
QQ
KK
AA
-1

Betting Systems

blackjack betting systemsEvery betting system offers a plan according to which you can place your bets. This way, you won’t have to wonder anymore about the size of your wagers which enables you to focus on the decisions for your hand. Statistically speaking, using a betting system can be very beneficial, however only over short periods of time. In the long term, you are expected to lose more than you will win. Furthermore, bear in mind that the betting systems don’t reduce the house edge in any way. This means that in skill-based games such as blackjack, they are simply not sufficient.

In general, there are two types of betting systems – positive and negative progression systems. The latter calls for increasing your wagers when you lose and decreasing them when you win. The positive progression ones operate on exactly the opposite principle – they require you to decrease your bets when winning and reduce them when losing.

Popular Blackjack Betting Systems

Generally speaking, the negative progression betting systems are considered to be riskier because they can cause you to lose your bankroll in no time if you happen to experience several losses in a row. The idea behind them is that the probability of losing multiple times in a row is very low, meaning that you will inevitably win at some point. The question you need to ask yourself is whether your bankroll is sufficient to last long enough so that you can recoup your losses and make a small profit. The popular Martingale betting system is a good example of a negative progression system.

In contrast to the negative progression systems, the idea behind the positive progression ones is to prevent you from placing large bets when your hand loses against the dealer. Its approach is much more conservative and it aims at helping you make the most of every game. In other words, if you are on a winning streak, you need to bet more in order to increase your winnings and if you are on a losing streak, you need to be careful and bet less.

Martingale Betting System

The Martingale betting system is one of the most popular systems when it comes to blackjack. If you decide to use it, you need to increase the amount of your wager every time you lose and decrease it in case you win. Before each session, you are required to determine the amount of one betting unit which should be in accordance with your bankroll.

This system is a good option for players who like to play quick sessions and at the same time, they have a solid bankroll. If you are on a limited budget and you lose several hands in a row, your bankroll will be gone before you even realize it. It should be noted that there are three different versions of this system – Mini Martingale, Grand Martingale System and Anti-Martingale.

Blackjack Martingale Betting System
Bet # Bet Size Hand Outcome Net Winning
1 50 Win 50
2 50 Lose 0
3 100 Lose -50
4 200 Lose -250
5 400 Win 150

Paroli Betting System

Paroli is another widespread betting system which is used by many blackjack players. As a positive progression betting system, it calls for increasing your wagers when winning and reducing their amount when losing. However, what sets Paroli apart from the rest of the systems of this type is that you have to keep increasing your bets until you manage to win three hands in a row.

In such cases, you should start from the beginning of the system or in other words, bet the amount of the initial betting unit you have set in advance. Bear in mind that the initial betting unit is the minimum bet that you will be required to place every time and thus, it is extremely important to set a reasonable amount. This system is suitable for risk-averse players who have a limited budget as its plan doesn’t call for large bets. However, if you are a card counter, it is best to refrain from using it as it simply doesn’t match the principle on which all card counting systems are based.

Blackjack Paroli Betting System
Bet # Bet Size Hand Outcome Net Winning
1 50 Lose -50
2 50 Win 0
3 100 Win 50
4 150 Win 200
5 50 Lose 150

Parlay Betting System

Many blackjack enthusiasts also opt for the Parlay betting system as it has proven to be secure and simple. As already mentioned, its plan suggests that you need to double your bet when you win a hand and decrease it when you lose against the dealer. According to its plan, you have to use your winnings in order to place bets. This significantly reduces the risk involved in this system as the approach for its suggested wagers is less aggressive.

Just like most betting systems, this one is efficient but only in the short term. This means that if you like to play blackjack for hours on end, this system is not your best option. Furthermore, it should be noted that in order to make a profit by using it, you need to win several consecutive hands. However, if you lose even once, you won’t be able to achieve this goal. Also, in order to manage to retain your winnings, it is important to set a win goal and stick to it throughout the game.

Blackjack Parlay Betting System
Bet # Bet Size Hand Outcome Net Winning
1 50 Lose -50
2 50 Win 0
3 100 Lose -100
4 50 Win -50
5 100 Win 50

FAQ

Which is the best card counting system you can use?

In general, all of the betting systems basically do the same thing, they just differ in their level of difficulty and plans. Therefore, the best card counting system you can use depends on you, in particular, on your experience, commitment and personal preferences. Many players prefer to use the Hi-Lo system as it is simple to use, yet it is efficient enough to help them improve their game.

Is it necessary to learn a strategy in order to play blackjack?

The answer to this question depends on your intentions and goals. If you aim at simply having fun and getting a high level of entertainment, it is not necessary to apply a strategy. However, if you want to make the most of every game and become a consistent winner, using a reliable strategy is a must. The basic strategy in combination with a card counting system can work wonders as these methods can help you reduce the house edge to a huge extent and increase your chances of winning.