A Complete Blackjack Guide | Strategy and Helpful Tips
Blackjack is a card game that incorporates a little luck mixed with a lot of skill and strategy. It is popular game variant offered at both land-based and online casinos for real-money wagers. As the game with the best RTP (99%+), it is a favourite among casino players looking for a less risky gaming environment.
Did you know? The first mention of the word ‘Blackjack’ was made in collection of short stories written by author Miguel de Cervantes.
Blackjack is based on an initial two-card hand. The goal of the game is to reach a hand value closer to 21 (without going over) than the dealer. The game is named after the highest ranking in the game. An Ace and a card with the value of 10 is a two card 21 or Blackjack.
BLACKJACK CARD VALUES
Blackjack card values are not too complicated to learn. Cards 1-10 are worth their face value, while all royal suits are worth 10. An ace is worth either 1 or 11, depending on which option suits your hand best.
On the face of it, blackjack sounds like a fairly simple game to win. All you have to do is get a better hand than the dealer. Of course, this is never as easy as it sounds and there are numerous factors that should be taken into account.
Blackjack does favour the player more than a game like roulette because of the element of skill involved in the passage of play. The casino does still hold an advantage though, as you are dealt your cards first and have a chance of going bust before the dealer even begins their round. The house edge in blackjack is slimmer than in any other casino game out there and in most casinos, it ranges between 0.5% and 1%.
Here is a list of the Player Hand Probabilities/odds in any given game round:
- Dealer has a blackjack: 1 in 22
- Player doubles or splits: 1 in 7.7
- 2 cards: 1 in 2.3
- 3 cards: 1 in 3.8
- 4 cards: 1 in 10
- 5 cards: 1 in 50
- 6 cards: 1 in 400
- 7 cards: 1 in 4,600
- 8 cards: 1 in 79,000
- 9 cards: 1 in 2,200,000
- 10 cards: 1 in 100,000,000
PROBABILITY TO BUST ON AN EXTRA CARD IN BLACKJACK
Asking the dealer to hit you with another card comes with its risks. These are probabilities of busting on an extra card while playing Blackjack.
- 11 or lower – 0%
- 12 – 31%
- 13 – 39%
- 14 – 56%
- 15 – 58%
- 16 – 62%
- 17 – 69%
- 18 – 77%
- 19 – 85%
- 20 – 92%
- 21 -100%
ONLINE LIVE DEALER BLACKJACK
Online Live dealer casino games have become all the rage in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. Online live dealer blackjack is when you play blackjack online via a video stream with a real dealer. This effectively gives the player the best of both worlds- it allows them to play from the comfort of their own home while taking in the feel of a real brick-and-mortar venue.
Did You Know: The undisputed industry leader in Live Casino games is Evolution Gaming. They dominated the last decade with 10 straight EGR Awards for Live Casino provision.
The advantages of live dealer blackjack over virtual games:
- It is 100% transparent since you see everything in real time
- No one can change the odds
- You can interact with a dealer and other players, so it is more fun
- Live dealer outcomes are naturally generated and do not rely on RNG software
ONLINE VIRTUAL BLACKJACK
Virtual Blackjack is played like a video game where the casino environment has been recreated through computer-generated graphics. Only you play in each round, so you can place the bets in your own time and simply press ‘deal’ when you are ready. The results are then produced by random number generator software. This is the perfect game type to begin with if you are just starting off in blackjack.
The advantages of Virtual blackjack games:
- It provides a more private gaming session
- Play at your own pace
Before we dive deeper into blackjack strategies, let’s take a look at some basic blackjack tips that will help you at the table.
- Always do your research: make sure you check out the rules and bet limits at different tables and online sites
- Learn the basic strategy (see below)
- Don’t make insurance wagers
- Avoid gambler’s myths and don’t listen to superstition and old sayings
- Remember, you are never due a win
- Know when to stop
- Be careful of certain betting strategies (see below)
- Start small: take your first few hands as a chance to gauge the dealer and the table
- Don’t worry about other players
STRATEGIES FOR PLAYING BLACKJACK
It should be made clear at the start that there is no guaranteed way of winning a game of blackjack. All you can do as a player, is try to learn the optimum strategy to increase your chances of walking away with a profit. No prescribed methods are guaranteed to work 100%, but they do help narrow the odds against the dealer.
BASIC BLACKJACK STRATEGY
If you want to have any chance of beating the house when it comes to blackjack, then you need to learn basic strategy before you learn anything else.
Basic Blackjack strategy is a system that tells you how to play every possible hand in a game of blackjack. It will tell you when to hit, stand, surrender, split or double-down. In the long run, it could help you make more money than you lose during a game session.
Basic strategy has been in place for years and is constantly evolving to fit the more modern rules of the game. It is important that you remember that it does not ensure that you will win every hand that you play. Instead, it will ensure that over time, you are best positioned to make more money than you lose.
Did You know? Your chances of being dealt a natural blackjack are 4.8%
Basic strategy is widely available on a chart that you can find with a simple google search. Some of these cards may be slightly different from one another as a result of rule changes, but 99% of them will be the same.
A casino is, however, not going to let you pull out a card when you are sat at a table, and most online casinos do not give you enough time to read a chart before making a decision on your hand. That means that you going to have to commit the chart to memory. This can be difficult but there are plenty of tutorials available around the internet that can help you work out a system to memorise the cards.
An insurance bet is a side bet that is offered to you when the dealer’s face-up card is an ace. The bet will typically pay out 2:1 and the casino will never allow you to bet more than half your original stake.
Example: If you bet $20, and you’re dealt 17 while the dealer’s card is an ace, you could place an insurance bet of $10. If the dealer has blackjack, you lose your original stake of $20, but would win your insurance bet at 2:1 and receive $20 back from that, effectively breaking even.
Should I take blackjack insurance bets?
While blackjack insurance bets sound like a good idea, when you break down the odds, it isn’t worth it. The dealer’s odds of having a blackjack when they have an ace showing are 9:4, while your bet is priced at 2:1. Your chances of losing that bet are greater than your odds of success.
BLACKJACK SURRENDER STRATEGIES
In blackjack, there are typically four basic game options:
- Hit: Take another card
- Stick/Stay: Receive no more cards
- Double-Down: Take one more card and double your bet
- Split: Split two matching cards to form two hands instead of one. You will need to repeat your bet on the second hand
However, some casinos may also offer you another option called ‘surrender’. The surrender option is incredibly rare and is typically only offered in casinos from Europe or Asia, and it is rarely an option at online casinos.
How does it work?
Surrendering may have negative connotations but it can be a shrewd move. If surrender is offered, it means you can surrender half of your stake when you receive your first hand if you believe you are not going to win. The move is, however, not possible if the dealer has a blackjack.
When should I surrender in Blackjack?
Knowing when to surrender can always be difficult. As a rule, if you have less than 50% chance of winning the round, then it is better to surrender your hand, lose half of your stake, and move on to the next round. Studying and learning the aforementioned blackjack strategy cards will go a long way towards helping you know when to surrender.
The following are the perfect times you should look to surrender when playing:
- Single deck game with hard 17: Surrender when your hand is 16 and the dealer is holding 10.
- Double-deck game with soft 17: Surrender when your hand is 15 and the dealer is holding an ace.
- Six deck game with soft 17: Surrender when your hand is 16 and the dealer holds 9.
- Six deck game with hard 17: Surrender when your hand is two-eights, and the dealer is holding an ace.
OTHER BLACKJACK BETTING STRATEGIES
Not all blackjack strategies are made equal and some of them will end up losing you a lot of money in the long run. It is important that you are aware of these strategies as you will probably encounter them at some point in your betting life. Some of these systems can provide you with some wins but you need to be careful using them. Below we will discuss two popular strats:
MARTINGALE BETTING STRATEGY
The Martingale betting strategy is a system where if you lose a hand, you double-up on the following hand, and keeping doing so until you win.
For example, if in your first-hand you bet $5 and lose, you would place $10 in the next round. If you lose again, you will place $20. If you then win that bet, you win $40, which is a $5 profit overall. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of this though:
- An eventual win puts you in profit
- Works well if you walk away first time
- Simple to understand and use
- There is nothing, other than faith, to suggest you won’t keep losing
- You need a lot of money to use this tactic
- Low reward for high risk
PokCas Quick Fact: When they say a player is ‘’steaming’’ it means that they are betting erratically because their luck has gone south. It is similar to the phrase in poker, when they say a player has gone ‘’on tilt’’.
BLACKJACK PARLAY STRATEGY
The parlay betting system is one of the more extreme blackjack methods that is used in casinos. The system is quite simple. When you win a bet, you gradually increase your stake with the next bet.
A typical parlay system is 1-2-3-5, so if you place a $1 bet and win, on your next bet you place a $2 wager, then $3, then $5. You then complete a round of wins and go back to 1 again to start another round.
Of course, this sounds very simple, but it is a very risky method. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
- Very exciting way of playing
- Can have a high payout
- Risk level is very high
- No guarantee of a streak
BLACKJACK STRATEGY CHART
We have a great Blackjack Strategy Sheet which includes all the basics that you need to know.
In order to save or print our Blackjack Strategy Chart file, just click here. You can save it by clicking the download option at the top and after that you can print it if you want to.
The Passage of Play
When you load up a blackjack game at your favourite online casino, there is a specific sequence for the gameplay – this is called the Passage of Play. The standard sequence on most blackjack games follows a similar pattern:
- Drag your desired bet (in chips) onto the betting space in front of you on the screen.
- Select ‘Deal’ once you are happy with the wager.
- You will receive 2 face-up cards
- The dealer will receive one face-up card and a hole card (face down card).
- If the dealer’s ‘’up-card’’ is an Ace, you will be asked if you want to take out insurance.
- You will now be given the opportunity to ask for more cards. Press ‘’hit’’ for another.
- If you have a hand that you are happy with, select to ‘’stay/stick’’.
- If you hit too high and exceed a hand value of 21, you will go ‘’bust’’ and the game will end. You will lose your bet.
- Once you stay/stick, the dealer will reveal their cards. They may select more cards in an attempt to beat your hand. Depending on the table rules, they may have to stick on a value of 17 or more.
- If the dealer busts, you automatically win 1:1 on your wager.
- If your hand is stronger than the dealer’s, you win 1:1 on your wager.
- If you are dealt a blackjack, you win the round straight away and collect 3:2 on your wager.
BEST ONLINE BLACKJACK CASINOS
This is a list of popular Online Blackjack Casinos which embrace the PokCas way. As a result, you can play with peace of mind that they will treat you fairly and protect your privacy throughout your gaming session.