Blackjack Basic Strategy Beginners Guide | LeoVegas Blog

A Beginner’s Guide to Blackjack Basic Strategy

Summary: Blackjack Basic Stratergy is the theoretical model used to recommend the best way to play every single hand in a game of blackjack. Our guide covers topics such as the variations in strategy based on different table rules, how to read a blackjack basic strategy chart, and common mistakes to avoid. It also provides tips on how to learn and apply blackjack basic strategy effectively, such as when to hit, stand, split, or double down.

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If you’re interested in learning how to win at blackjack, look no further - the blackjack basic strategy is the perfect place to start! This theoretical model will guide you to taking the most optimal move in any given situation at one of every live casino’s most popular games. If this sounds far fetched - it isn’t! The blackjack basic strategy is free to use, legal, and very easy to follow - if you know how. Lucky for you, you’ve come to our beginner’s guide to blackjack strategy, so all you need to do to get started is read on!

Before understanding how to implement the basic blackjack strategy, it’s important that you are first able to understand how to play blackjack online. If you still struggle to understand the way things work, have a look at our easy guide to live blackjack, where we go over all the basics making sure you are ready to hit the tables. Once done, come back here and learn how to play the blackjack game using basic strategy!


What is Blackjack Basic Strategy?

Applicable to any and all types of blackjack tables, the blackjack basic strategy uses a theoretical model to show all the possible combinations of cards and recommend the best way to play every single hand that could possibly come up in a game of blackjack. Basically, it’s the answer to many moments spent contemplating whether to hit, stand, split, or double down! Getting familiar with this strategy doesn’t guarantee a 100% success rate with every hand, but theoretically improves the RTP when playing blackjack (that means, it improves your chances of winning!).

While the way to use basic blackjack strategy is the same no matter the table, the chart itself may vary since the strategy changes depending on the following table rules:

  • How many decks are used (single deck blackjack or multi deck game)
  • Whether dealer stands on a soft 17
  • Whether players can double after split
  • Whether players can re-split
  • Whether surrender is permitted
  • Various peek/no peek rules

This is also true at LeoVegas, where from table to table the optimal strategy might vary slightly. In this blog post, we’re going to be looking at a blackjack strategy chart which was created with the following basic rules in mind:

  • 6 to 8 decks used
  • Dealer stands on a soft 17
  • No Double after split
  • No re-split
  • No surrender option
  • Dealer peeks for Blackjack with an ace up

Our Blackjack Basic Strategy Chart


Reading a Blackjack Basic Strategy Chart

A chart similar to the one above is what you usually find when looking at a basic strategy illustration. The column on the left shows your own possible hand combinations and values, while the row at the top shows the dealer’s face-up card. So, what should you do?

Once you have received your hand and the dealer has dealt his own upcard, look for your hand in the column that shows your hand on the left. It might be useful to keep one finger here, as you then move across the top row to search for the dealer’s hand value. The place where these two meet on the grid is where you’ll find the advice basic strategy suggests you follow: D, H, S or Sp. These abbreviation stand for:

  • D - Double Down
  • H - Hit
  • S - Stand
  • Sp - Split

Simple! If you look closely, you’ll see that the blackjack strategy chart can be split up into three separate sections:

  • Hard Values: Ranging from 4 to 21, the Hard Values represent any hand value consisting of two separate cards, neither of which is an ace.

  • Soft Values: These are hand values that include an ace, ranging from A & 2 (worth 3 or 13) to A & 9 (worth 10 or 20).

  • Pair Splitting Values: This covers any hand where the cards are identical in value, meaning the option to split can only ever be suggested in these kinds of hands. In fact, A & A (worth 2 or 12) is not considered a Soft Value for this exact reason.

How to Learn Blackjack Basic Strategy

You may want to keep your blackjack charts handy around you when you’re hitting an online casino, but many prefer to commit the basics to memory. That way, they are able to place bets more quickly and effectively. The first thing you need to do is understand the simplified version of the blackjack strategy below:

  • Always hit on a Hard 8 or lower.
  • Always split a Pair of Aces.
  • Never split a Pair of 4s, 5s or 10s.
  • Always stand on a Hard 17.
  • Always stand on a Soft 19 (A & 8).
  • Always stand on a Hard 13-16 if the dealer has 2 to 6. Otherwise, hit.
  • Double down on a Hard 9 if the dealer has 3 to 6. Otherwise, hit.
  • Double down on a Hard 10/11 if the dealer has anything but an Ace or a 10. Otherwise, hit.

Blackjack Strategy - Common Mistakes

DO split a pair of 8s (most of the time)

A pair of 8s might be seen as a breaking hand in blackjack, if you only consider the hand value (16) - any card over 6 (excluding an ace) will make you go bust, and staying means the dealer still has a good chance of getting a better hand.

However, you could still split. This way, you now have two different hands with an 8 in each, and a new card coming in from the dealer on each hand. There are four ways this could play out:

  • You receive a 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King or Ace, giving you a better hand.
  • You receive an 8, remaining in the same situation as you were before splitting.
  • You receive a 2 or 3, resulting in a hand value of 10 or 11. You can now hit and possibly end up with a high-value hand.
  • You draw a 4-7, giving you an average hand (considered favourable when compared to a 16).

Thus, if the casino uses the No-Peek rule (the dealer is only allowed to check the facedown card if they have an ace), you should always split a pair of 8s since 12 of the 13 possible cards you could receive will put you in a better situation that you would have previously been in. There is, however, one caveat - the dealer mustn’t have a 10. In this case, the basic blackjack strategy guide would recommend keeping the pair of 8s together, since the chances of the dealer drawing an ace and beating your hand is higher.

Now, if you are playing at a blackjack table where Peeking is allowed, the dealer first checks for a blackjack before letting the players place their bets. If it turns out that the dealer does indeed have a blackjack, your initial wager is collected and the round ends. This means that, against a 10, doubling your stake in order to split the 8s means you risk losing the entire bet if the dealer does end up with a blackjack. Thus, you’re better off hitting a pair of 8s against the dealer’s 10 and hoping to improve your hand without risking another wager.

DON’T double down on 10/11 when the dealer is holding a 10/ace

In this scenario, there’s a good chance that the dealer may pull a natural blackjack (needing an Ace or 10 respectively), and the same applies to you with your own hand value.It may be tempting to double down, but consider the following outcomes:

  1. You end up with a better hand than the dealer’s, doubling your initial wager.

  2. It’s blackjack for both you and the dealer, and you get your stake back.

  3. The dealer ends up with a blackjack, taking your initial stake as well as your second wager.

It is evident that the chances of winning nothing from doubling down are fairly high - in fact, you may even lose more than you originally wanted to risk! As a result, hitting on a 10/11 is considered the best option when the dealer has a 10/ace.

DON’T hit on 16 with 3 cards when the dealer is holding a 10

If you’re holding multiple cards that add up to 16, it’s likely that the dealer has handed you a few low-value cards. This means the chances of the next card being a high-value one increase. If you receive any card of value 6 or over, you will go bust. Have a look around the table - do the other players also have low values in their hands? If they do, you’re best off standing, as you remove the chance of going bust while retaining the chances of a pay out if the dealer busts on his 10.

DON’T split a pair of 6s when the dealer has a 2

Most people don’t like getting dealt two sixes - it’s a pretty tricky hand to have. A hand value of 12 is very low to stand on, but splitting means you risk having TWO low hand values.

On a 12 there are only four cards that can make you go bust, and that’s the value-10 cards (10,J,Q and K). That means you’ve got a 9/13 chance of staying in the game! Moreover, if you’re dealt a 9 you now have a 21!

What does that mean? You mostly want to hit on a pair of sixes.

DON’T stand on 12-16 when the dealer is holding a 7 or higher

A hand of value 12-16 is considered a weak hand, but fear not - it can be salvaged. But you’ll need to be brave enough to hit until you get a 17 or higher!

With a 7 or higher, the dealer could get any hand from 17 to 21 if their facedown card is hiding a card of value 10 (10, J, Q, or K). If that card is lower than a 10, they MAY still win if they hit again. Whichever way it goes, if you keep your original hand the dealer has a good chance of winning against you. If you hit, on the other hand, you may just turn that bad hand into a winning one!

DON’T split a pair of 9s when the dealer is holding a 7

Table rules normally specify that the dealer has to stand on 17. That means if he draws a card of value 10 (10, J, Q or K) they would have to stand, meaning you win with your 18!

DON’T split a pair of 10s

Really, don’t. You’ve got a hand value of 20, meaning the dealer can only beat you with a 21 or a blackjack. The temptation to split and gun for two hands of 21 may be strong, but that means you’re opening yourself up to the risk of turning one strong hand into two weak ones while doubling your original stake.

Play Blackjack with LeoVegas Live Casino

Alright, you now know the ins and outs of blackjack basic strategy! Ready to put that theoretical knowledge into practice? Feel the thrill of playing live and head over to our Live Blackjack section!


Blackjack Basic Strategy FAQ

What is the basic strategy in blackjack?

The basic strategy is the optimal method of playing each blackjack hand. It is based on statistics and mathematical calculations.

What is the basic strategy based on?

The basic strategy is initially based on mathematical calculations on a desk calculator. Later, Edward O. Thorp refined the system using IBM computers.

Who invented the basic strategy for blackjack?

In the 1950s, U.S. Army engineers discovered the best playing strategy in the casino game of Blackjack that can be formulated based on the player's and the dealer's cards.

Can you win blackjack with basic strategy?

Mastering the blackjack basic strategy can help lower the house edge and win more long-term, however, it does not guarantee winning every blackjack game.

How to master basic blackjack strategy?

You must invest time, effort, and practice into honing basic strategy if you want to succeed. Utilize resources like strategy charts to aid in your learning and practice using free blackjack games.

Does the number of decks influence the Blackjack strategy?

Yes, it does, and the approach also changes as the number of decks alters the house edge. In general, a house edge is lower when there are fewer decks. The same strategy can be used regardless of the number of decks since the differences are insignificant and don't affect the outcome of every hand in that amount, requiring the use of a different strategy. The majority of online blackjack games use 4–8 decks, occasionally up to 9.

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