Blackjack Basic Strategy: A Beginner's Guide | LeoVegas NZ

Blackjack Basic Strategy Guide


The Blackjack Basic Strategy is a simple yet effective strategy used by beginners and pros alike. This strategy utilizes the value of the cards in order to create a strategy chart which allows for the best decision making based on specific scenarios. The end goal is to ultimately reduce the house edge from 2 percent to 0.5 percent allowing for the best odds for winning.

As one might expect, the strategy revolves around memory and the recognition that a dealer's face-up card can significantly influence the game. The Blackjack Basic Strategy chart categorizes decisions into hit, double down, split, surrender, and stand for various hand values, considering hard values, soft values, and pair splitting values. It is recommended that the players have the strategy chart handy while playing online or print it for on-the-go-use. Some examples of this strategy involve specific actions like surrendering on a dealer's 9, 10, or Ace when holding 16, or splitting 8s against anything but a dealer's 10. Memorization tips include the mnemonic "Surrender, Split, Double, Hit" and focusing on scenarios where the dealer's face-up card is between 2 to 6 or 7 to Ace.

The article highlights common mistakes to avoid, such as splitting a pair of 8s when the dealer has a 10 or doubling down on 10 and 11 when the dealer has a 10 or Ace. It emphasizes not hitting on 16 with 3 cards when the dealer has a 10 and not splitting a pair of 6s when the dealer has a 2. Additionally, standing on 12, 13, 14, 15, or 16 when the dealer has a 7 or higher is discouraged. Table of Contents

What is Blackjack basic strategy?

Blackjack is an incredibly popular game at any online casino, but for those who are beginning to play this game, the first few times can be a bit hard to understand and even daunting. However, there is a great strategy which can help everyone to grasp it much better. This strategy is simple to understand, easy to follow and tells you what you need to do no matter the outcome. It cuts the house edge that is 2 percent down to 0.5.


How does Blackjack basic Strategy work?

A good memory is needed when it comes to this strategy. You need to also know that there are over 16 cards on a 52 deck worth 10 ‘points’. This is something which is really important. With this in mind, you have to assume that one of the dealer’s cards is worth 10. One of the dealer’s cards is dealt face-up, meaning you’ll already have a bit of information at hand. Remember, if that card isn’t worth 10, then the card which is face down could well be.

If the card that the dealer is showing is up to 6, then it’s highly likely the dealer is not going to win. However, anything more than that means their chances of winning increases. So, you should be careful about your moves. With this strategy, you will know when to hit or to stand.

How to read Blackjack basic strategy chart?


These charts describe the best decision you can make upon certain situations. It lists the five main options players have, which are hit, double down, split, surrender and stand. Hit is white, stand is black, double down is blue and split is grey.

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.

Using Blackjack Basic Strategy

While you’re playing the blackjack game online, you can have a tab open and see how to proceed regarding a certain situation you’re presented with. This is the best you can do if you want to use this strategy. You can always print the chart and use it while playing, which is a great idea if you want to use it when you’re playing on the go.

But, for example, if you want to use it but don’t know how, then here are some examples how efficient this chart is.


You should surrender when:

  • You have 16 (but not a hand of 8 8) vs the dealer has 9, 10 or Ace
  • You have 15 while the dealer has 10


Split whenever:

  • Split always whenever the dealer has Ace and 8s.
  • Never split 10s and 5s.
  • Split when you have 2s and 3s vs the dealer has 4-7.
  • Split 4s vs dealer 5-6.
  • Split 6s vs dealer 2-6.
  • Split 7s vs dealer 2-7.
  • Split 9s vs dealer 2-6 and 8-9.

Double Down

You should double down when:

  • Double down hard 9 vs dealer 3-6.
  • Double down hard 10 vs dealer 2-9.
  • Double down hard 11 vs dealer 2-10.
  • Double down soft 13 or 14 vs dealer 5-6.
  • Double down soft 15 or 16 vs dealer 4-6.
  • Double down soft 17 or 18 vs dealer 3-6.

Hit or Stand

You should hit or stand in the following cases:

  • Stand on hard 12 vs dealer 4-6.
  • Stand on hard 13-16 vs dealer 2-6.
  • Stand on hard 17 or more.
  • Stand on soft 19 (A8) or more.
  • Hit hard 11 or less.
  • Hit soft 17 (A6) or less.
  • Hit soft 18 (A7) vs dealer 9, 10 and Ace.

If the dealer hits soft 17

  • Surrender 15, 88 and 17 vs dealer Ace.
  • Double 11 vs dealer Ace.
  • Double soft 18 (A7) vs dealer 2.
  • Double soft 19 (A8) vs dealer 6.

Tips for Memorising Blackjack Basic Strategy

There is actually a rhyme that anyone is able to use to memorise this strategy even better – ‘Surrender, Split, Double, Hit’. Players will need to ask themselves if they should surrender or not (depending on their hand), then if they should double or not and, finally, to hit or not. Keeping order is super important when you’re memorising this strategy. The next step is to look at this strategy and understand when you should take any of these actions.

Another way to memorise this strategy is to consider two scenarios. One of them is when the dealer’s face-up card is between 2 to 6, while the other it’s when the dealer has a card from 7 to A. In the first situation, players should hope that the dealer busts, while he hopes he doesn’t. On the second one, the dealer’s strategy should be to reach 17 (or more).

These two tips are incredibly important if you want to really memorise the strategy. But keep in mind that it will take some time to do that and you will need extra help, such as having the charts opened or even printing them and having them by your side whenever it’s needed.

The Most Common Mistakes with Blackjack Basic Strategy

DO Split a Pair of 8s Unless the Dealer Has a 10

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.

Splitting your pair is the best course of action in this circumstance. You would then have two distinct hands, each of which would include an 8. The dealer would then deal you a new card for each hand as is usual when you split a hand. There are four possible outcomes for this:

  • 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.

It is always advised to split a pair of 8s because, as you can see above, splitting twelve of thirteen cards will put you in a better position than before.

Unless the dealer has a 10, that is. Some variations of the blackjack basic strategy advise avoiding splitting a pair of 8s if the dealer has a 10, as the majority of online casinos adhere to the No-Peek rule. This is because there is a good chance that the dealer will get an Ace and beat your hand.

If you were playing in a casino that allowed peeking, the dealer would look to see if there was a blackjack before letting you place your bets. In the event that the dealer actually had blackjack, they would take your initial bet and call the game. The dealer, however, only looks at their face-down card if it contains an Ace under the No-Peek rule.

Therefore, if the dealer draws a 10, you could very easily double your bet to split your hand and run the risk of losing all your bet. In an effort to strengthen your hand, it is advised to hit a pair of 8s against a 10.

DON’T Double Down on 10 and 11 When the Dealer Has a 10 or Ace

If the dealer's upcard is either an Ace or a 10, there is a good chance they will get a natural blackjack if their subsequent card is also an Ace or a 10.

You have the same options if your hand value is 10 or 11. It's understandable that you could be inclined to double down in this situation, but it's crucial to take all potential consequences into account:

You manage to beat the dealer's hand and win twice the amount you bet.

You and the dealer both get blackjacks, and the dealer returns your bet.

You lose both your initial bet and your side wager if the dealer gets a blackjack.

As you can see, there's a good probability that doubling down will result in you losing more money than you intended. Therefore, when the dealer has a 10 or an Ace, it is always best to hit on a 10 or an 11.

DON’T Hit on 16 With 3 Cards When the Dealer Has a 10

With a multi-card hand, if you have a 16, you presumably received some low-value cards. Because of this, there is a good chance that the dealer will deal a high-value card as the following card to be dealt.

You will go bust if you draw any card with a value of 6 or higher given the value of your hand. You could try to check if any other players have low values in their hands by taking a peek around the table. If so, the best course of action is to stand since you'll eliminate the chance of busting while still having a chance to win money if the dealer busts.

DON’T Split a Pair of 6s When the Dealer Has a 2

Being dealt a hard hand like a pair of 6s to start the game with can be annoying. On the one hand, a 12 is too low of a value to stand, but on the other, if you split your deck, you run the danger of having a low hand value.

When you have a 12, only the 10, Jack, Queen, and King can actually bust you. indicating that your chances of continuing the game are strong. If, however, you draw a 9, you will have a 21. The best course of action is therefore to always hit.

DON’T Stand on 12, 13, 14, 15 or 16 When the Dealer Has a 7 or Higher

The good news is that if a hand with a value of 12, 13, 14, 15 or 16 is often thought to be fairly awful, it can still be saved! In this case, the advised course of action is to keep hitting until you get a 17 or above.

In this case, if the dealer's face-down card is a 10, Jack, Queen, King, or Ace, and they have a 7 or higher, they have a chance to get any hand from 17 to 21. On the other hand, the dealer may still manage to secure a winning hand if they hit again if their facedown card is lower than 10.

If you hit, you might have a chance to change a losing hand into a winning one, limiting your losses. If you stand on your initial cards, the dealer is likely to win against you.

DON’T Split a Pair of 9s When Dealer Has a 7

When you have a pair of 9, standing is advised. Since our table rules state that the dealer must stand on 17, you would win with an 18 if the dealer drew a 10-value card for themselves, forcing them to stand.

DON’T Split a Pair of 10s

The only genuine option when playing a pair of 10s is to stand. There are two ways the dealer may beat you if your hand value is 20: if they get a 21 or a blackjack. Now, you might be tempted to divide your hand to potentially get two hands of 21, but doing so increases the likelihood that a good combination of cards will become two weak blackjack hands, and you'll also have to double your bet.

Blackjack Basic Strategy FAQ

Can I use a basic strategy in online casinos?

The blackjack’s basic strategy can be used at any casino, but especially at online casinos since you can use the charts as a beginner, and no one will see that you are using them. So, the short answer is yes.

Can you win at blackjack with basic strategy?

With this strategy, you have a higher probability of winning at blackjack because it will surely decrease the casino’s advantage over you. There’s no way of saying it’s guaranteed you will win 100% of the time, but you can win more times; that’s certain.

Who invented the basic blackjack strategy?

The blackjack’s basic strategy was first validated in 1956-57, after its first version by Roger Balwin, Herbert Maisel, Wilbert Cantey, and James McDermott. These were the ones who came up with this strategy back in the day, and players still use it nowadays.

How to master basic blackjack strategy?

To master this strategy, you must memorise and understand how it truly functions. That’s vital so that you can work your way around it and also so that you can use it whenever you need it. Playing blackjack will become not only better but also more entertaining. If you like blackjack and want to reduce the house’s advantage, this is the right strategy for you.

What is a perfect blackjack strategy?

Perfect strategy means that the player has fully memorised the basic strategy and plays every hand in the best possible way. This can help to lower the house edge to 0.5% ( house edge still varies depending on the number of decks and rules of specific blackjack games)

Is basic strategy better than card counting?

For beginner blackjack players, learning the basic strategy before trying counting cards is advised. It provides a better understanding of this casino game and is more effective and reliable than card counting.

Should I take insurance bet according to the basic strategy?

Regardless of the specific rule variations, taking insurance is never considered a good play according to the basic strategy.

Can the basic strategy be used for blackjack side bets?

Generally, the basic strategy is not applied to additional bets in blackjack. Side bets tend to have a higher house edge, so many professional blackjack players avoid them and focus on winning the base game.

Learn more about blackjack in our blog articles: