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Make online blackjack fun and stress-free by learning basic strategies to help you win more consistently.
The thrill of playing online blackjack is that it involves a perfect blend of luck and strategy — at least to do it successfully.
It’s also a simple game to learn. To win, you need to beat the dealer’s hand as you both try to get 21 points (or get as close as possible). If you are dealt two cards that add up to 21, you can exclaim, “Blackjack!” since that is automatically a winning hand.
The name “blackjack” derives from its early days when the original French game was adopted into American gaming houses, which tried to drum up extra excitement and player interest by offering bigger payouts for certain card combinations. One of these was an ace of spades with a “black jack” — a jack of spades or clubs. This hand would pay a 10-to-1 bonus, so it’s no wonder why players would exclaim “blackjack.” Even though the bonus was eventually rescinded, the name stuck.
By adopting the right blackjack strategy, you can reduce the house edge in the game from 1% to 2% to as low as 0.5%.
When it comes to blackjack rules, after the bets are placed, the dealer deals one face-up card to each player clockwise around the table and then deals a face-up card to themselves. They then deal a second face-up card up to each player and a final face-down card to themselves (the hole card). Note: In some instances, the dealer’s first card is down and the second one is up.
The values of the cards are:
- Ace = 1 or 11 points
- Face cards = 10 points
- Number cards = Face value of the card
A blackjack hand is a natural 21 — a face card and an ace. When a player makes 21 with more than two cards, this too is a winning hand but not technically a blackjack.
The players are playing against the dealer, or the house. If a player is dealt a natural or blackjack, they are automatic winners and get paid one-and-a-half times their bet unless the dealer also has blackjack. In the case of a draw, the player takes back their chips, and the dealer collects the bets from other players without this winning hand.
In normal card play, without a blackjack, each player starting from the one to the left of the dealer will choose to stand (get no more cards) or get hit (receive another card) in an attempt to get as close to 21 as possible and beat the dealer.
When it comes to the dealer’s turn, they turn up their hole card and usually stand if they have 17 or more and get hit if they are under. If the dealer goes over 21, they pay each player who hasn’t gone bust the amount of their bet. If their hand is 21 or under, they take the money from the players’ hands they beat and pay the higher totals (not over 21) the amount of their bets. In the case of a standoff (dealer and player hands are the same), no chips are paid out or collected.
Players can also:
- Split pairs: If a player is dealt two cards of the same denomination, they can play them as separate hands.
- Double down: When the two cards the player is dealt total 9, 10, or 11, they can double their bets and get one more face-down card.
- Take an insurance bet: If the dealer has an ace facing up, they offer “insurance” as a side bet, which pays 2:1 if the dealer’s hole card is one of the 10-point cards.
Blackjack Strategies to Help You Win
Having an effective playing strategy is about using mathematical possibilities to minimize your chances of losing and maximize your chances of winning. (But remember, blackjack is a game of chance, and nothing can guarantee a win in a fair game.) These strategies include:
Strategy 1: Know When to Hit, Stand, Split, and Double Down
As a rule of thumb, you can reduce the house edge by:
- Standing with 12 to 16 when the dealer has 2 to 6 showing on their face-up card.
- Getting hit when your hand is 12 to 16 and the dealer has 7 to ace
- Splitting aces and 8s
- Doubling down on 11 when the dealer has 2 to 10
Strategy 2: Adopt a Conservative Approach
If you are a blackjack beginner, it’s wise to avoid high-stake games at first and get some practice in low- or no-cost games. A conservative approach to betting involves only upping the stakes after you’ve won and playing with winnings rather than upping the stakes in the hope you’ll win to make up for losses.
In other words, raise your bet only after you’ve won a hand. It’s a good idea to start with the lowest bet you can — say, $1 — and then raise the bet another $1 only if you win with the hand. After a loss, go back to the original bet.
Some players like to use the 1-3-2-6 system. With this progressive, four-part system, if you bet $5 on the first unit and win, your second bet would be three times $5 ($15). Your third bet would be twice the first unit ($20), and the final bet would be six times the first bet of $5 ($30). You would then begin the cycle again. If you lose a hand, you would go back to the first bet of $5.
You’ll have a better chance of winning with this approach rather than believing in and acting on perceived “streaks of luck.” This fallacy has led to many bad streaks of luck. The odds of winning or losing aren’t changed by superstition.
Strategy 3: Stand With a Hand That Could Go Bust
Let’s say you have a weak hand, like a 12 or 13, and the dealer is showing a 4, 5, or 6. Yes, you may have a reasonable chance of not going bust as you get hit with another card, but why not stand and see if the dealer goes bust? On the other hand, always playing it safe can take away some of the excitement of the game.
Strategy 4: Know When to Surrender
Some online casinos have a surrender option. With an early surrender, you can surrender your hand before a dealer checks if they have blackjack, surrendering half your stake. With a later surrender, the dealer turns over their cards and you can get back half your stake if they don’t have blackjack.
In a multiple-deck game, you should surrender if you have a hard total of 16 (no ace) against the dealer’s 9, 10, or ace, or a hard total of 15 against a dealer’s 10 or ace.
Blackjack Strategies to Avoid
A bad blackjack strategy is one that increases the house’s chances of winnings. So, it’s a good idea to avoid:
- Always assuming the dealer has a 10 in the hole: Many beginners assume that the dealer’s hole card is a face card, spurring them to take risks that aren’t always necessary. If a dealer has a 7 showing, this may spur the player to try to beat 17 and possibly go bust. But the hole card could just as well be a 5, 6, or some other lower card.
- Placing side bets: Many online casinos let players place side bets, but these almost always up the house’s edge of winning. They include the insurance side bets when the house shows an ace. It can inflate the house edge to 7.5%.
- Playing without limits: Playing online blackjack without setting a limit on how much you can lose can turn a fun game into a stomach-churning experience.
- Counting cards at online casinos: There’s no point in trying to count cards at online casinos (that is, keeping track of what has been played so you know the odds of certain cards turning up) because digital casino games rely on random number generators (RNGs) — each hand dealt is like the deck has been freshly reshuffled.
Try the Excitement of Live Online Blackjack Games
If you have your blackjack strategy in hand, perhaps it’s time to try your luck in an online game. GamblersPick offers reviews of a wide variety of online casino games, so you can discover reputable sources for online gaming and get all the essential information you need before you’ve played your first round of cards.
If you miss the interactive excitement of dealing with a real dealer in a physical casino, you should know that there is an increasingly popular version of online casino blackjack that features live dealers. Software advancements ensure the gameplay is as smooth and realistic as possible.
Whether you want your games live or entirely virtual, GamblersPick is your best bet for online blackjack action.