If you want to learn how to win at blackjack, there’s no better place to start than with the basic strategy. The blackjack basic strategy is a theoretical model that recommends the most optimal move to play in this live casino favourite. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it’s not! The blackjack basic strategy is free to use and simple to follow so long as you understand how it works. Lucky for you, we explain all there is to know about it in our beginner’s guide to blackjack strategy!
In order to properly apply the basic strategy, you must first be able to understand how to play blackjack online. If you’re struggling to get a good understanding of this game, make sure to read our easy guide to live blackjack. Once that’s out of the way, come back to this guide to learn how to play blackjack smart!
The blackjack basic strategy can be applied at all blackjack tables. Combining all the possible combinations of cards, the basic strategy uses a theoretical model to recommend the most effective way to play every possible hand in a game of blackjack. So if all this time you’ve been wondering whether to Hit, Stand, Split or Double Down - this strategy is something you should get familiar with. Having said that, it’s important to note that the basic strategy doesn’t guarantee a 100% chance of winning every hand but is rather intended to maximise your chances at the table.
While the basic strategy is a standard approach in online casinos, you may find different variations of the chart online. This is because the basic strategy varies to suit the rules of a table and the number of decks used. Our blackjack strategy chart reflects the following rules:
Played With 6 to 8 Decks
Dealer Stands on Soft 17
No Double After Split
Dealer Does Not Peek for Blackjack With a 10 Up
Typically, the basic strategy is illustrated in a simple and colourful chart as you can see above. The leftmost column of the chart represents every possible hand value you may have while the topmost row shows the hand of the dealer.
Once the dealer has dealt your hand and their upcard, find your hand value on the column labelled as ‘YOUR HAND’. Keep your finger here while you locate the dealer’s hand value. Trace your fingers horizontally from the left column and vertically from the top row until they meet in the middle. Your fingers should intersect at a box labelled as: D, H, S or Sp. Each abbreviation represents the following blackjack moves:
The blackjack strategy chart can be divided into three sections:
Hard Values: These range from 4 to 21. Hard Values represent any hand value made up of two different cards, of which neither is an ace.
Soft Values: If you have a hand value with an Ace, your hand qualifies as a Soft Value. Soft Values range from A | 2 (worth 3 or 13) to A | 9 (worth 10 or 20).
Pair Splitting Values: This category covers any two cards of the same value. It’s for this reason that A | A (worth 2 or 12) is not considered a Soft Value. Notice that the option to Split is only suggested in the Pair Splitting Values. This is because, as we’ve learnt in our beginner’s guide to live blackjack, you must have two cards of the same value to split your hand.
Although some players choose to consult the blackjack strategy chart during a game, others prefer to memorise the basic essence of the strategy in order to be able to place their bets more effectively. The first step in doing this is to learn the simplified version of the blackjack basic strategy:
Always hit on a Hard Value of 8 or lower.
Double down on a Hard Value of 9 if the dealer has a 3, 4, 5 or 6. Otherwise, hit.
Double down on a Hard Value of 10 or 11 if the dealer has anything but an Ace or a 10. Otherwise, hit.
Always stand on a Hard Value of 13, 14, 15 or 16 if the dealer has a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6. Otherwise, hit.
Always stand on a Hard Value of 17.
Always stand on a Soft Value of 19 (A | 8).
Always split a Pair Value of Aces.
Never split a Pair Value of 4s, 5s or 10s.
Did you know? In Live Speed Blackjack the dealer draws the first card of every round to the player who makes their move in the shortest time. For this reason, it’s important to get familiar with the blackjack basic strategy and be quick on your feet.
In blackjack, a pair of 8s can be considered a breaking hand as it’s easy to go bust if you draw a 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen or King. All the while the dealer still stands a good chance of beating you if you stand.
In this situation, the optimal move is to split your pair. As a result, you would end up with two different hands - each one with an 8. As things go when you split a hand, the dealer would then deal you a new card for each hand. This could go four different ways:
You draw a 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King or Ace and improve your hand.
You draw an 8 and end up in the same position prior to the split.
You draw a 2 or 3 and end up with a 10 or 11 which would then allow you to hit and potentially get a high-value hand.
You draw a 4, 5, 6 or 7 and get an average hand which is still considered better than a 16.
As you can see above, twelve of thirteen cards would put you in a better position than before which is why it is always recommended to split a pair of 8s.
This is unless the dealer has a 10. Since most online casinos follow the No-Peek rule, some variations of the blackjack basic strategy recommend against splitting a pair of 8s if the dealer has a 10. The reason for this being that there’s a high chance that the dealer draws an Ace and beats your hand.
If you were playing in a casino which offered the possibility to Peek, then the dealer would first check for a blackjack before allowing you to place your bets. If the dealer did in fact have a blackjack, they would collect your initial wager and end the round. But with the No-Peek rule, the dealer only checks their facedown card if they have an Ace. Therefore, against a 10 you could very well double your stake to split your hand and risk losing your entire bet if the dealer pulls a blackjack. For this reason, it is suggested to hit a pair of 8s against a 10 in the hope of improving your hand.
When the dealer’s upcard is a 10 or an Ace, there is a high probability that they may pull a natural blackjack if their next card is an Ace or a 10 respectively.
The same goes for you if you have a hand value of 10 or 11. Understandably, you may be tempted to double down in this scenario but it’s important to consider every possible outcome of this move:
You manage to get a better hand than the dealer’s and win double your initial stake. Both you and the dealer get a blackjack and the dealer pays your stake back. The dealer gets a blackjack and you lose your initial stake and your secondary wager.
As you may see, there’s a good chance that you may win nothing from doubling down, or rather lose more than you intended. Therefore, the optimal strategy is always to hit on a 10 or 11 when the dealer has a 10 or an Ace.
If you have a 16 with a multi-card hand, you’ve probably been dealt some low-value cards. For this reason, there is a high probability that the next card dealt by the dealer will be a high-value card.
Given your hand value, pulling any card with a value of 6 or higher will make you go bust. You may try to have a look around the table to see if the other players also have low values in their hand. If this is the case, the most optimal strategy is to stand as you eliminate the possibility of busting while still having a chance of getting paid out if the dealer busts.
Starting off the game with a pair of 6s can be considered frustrating as it is quite a stiff hand to have. On one side, a 12 is too low of a value to stand but on the other hand, you risk ending up with a low hand value if you split your deck.
When you have a 12, only four cards can really bust you, that’s the: 10, Jack, Queen, and King. Meaning that you have a good chance of staying in the game. On the other hand, if you draw a 9, you’ll have a 21. For this reason, the most optimal strategy is to always hit.
The bad news is that a hand value of 12, 13, 14, 15 or 16 is considered to be quite a bad hand, the good news is that it can be salvaged! In this scenario, the recommended strategy is to continue hitting until you get a 17 or higher.
In this scenario, when the dealer has a 7 or higher, they stand a chance of getting any hand from 17 to 21 if their facedown card is a 10, Jack, Queen, King or Ace. On the other hand, if their facedown card is lower than 10, then the dealer may still secure a winning hand if they hit again. Either way, if you stand on your initial cards, the dealer has a high probability of winning against you but if you hit, you might have a chance of turning a bad hand into a winning one, minimising your losses.
Whenever you have a pair of 9s it’s recommended to stand. Since our table rules specify that the dealer must stand on 17, if the dealer draws a 10-value card for themself then they would be forced to stand and you would win with an 18.
There’s really no other way to play a pair of 10s but to stand. If you have a hand value of 20, there’s only two possible ways that the dealer can beat you and that’s to get a 21 or a blackjack. Now you may be tempted to split your hand in order to possibly get two hands of 21, but in doing so you risk turning a strong combination of cards into two weak hands - all the while having to double your wager.
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