Top 10 Strategies to Win at Blackjack

Blackjack is one of the most popular games at the casino. It's pretty straightforward, so anyone can get the hang of the basics. It balances skill, strategy, and luck as well.

This list is intended for newcomers to grasp the basic concepts of blackjack. It's important to note that there is no strategy that will guarantee a win in any particular scenario. These strategies will increase your odds in the long run, but there is no way to absolutely guarantee a win.

However, by knowing just the basics of blackjack strategy, you can mitigate the house advantage to under 2%, which makes blackjack one of the most player-friendly games in the casino. Also, I am not a blackjack expert by any means. If you do gamble, do so responsibly.
The Top Ten
1 Stay on anything 17 or higher

The goal of the game is to get as close to 21 as possible without going over, leading to a bust. If you bust, you automatically lose, even if the dealer also busts. Most casinos require the dealer to stay on 17. However, there are some variations to that rule depending upon if it's a hard or soft 17.

If you get anything higher than 17, then you have a strong hand. This gives you a better chance of winning since the dealer must hit on anything below 17. The probability of busting on a hand higher than 17 is incredibly high. Therefore, it's not worth hitting in that situation. Even if the dealer is showing a 7-Ace card, it's best to play conservatively.

2 Stay on 12-16 versus a dealer's 2-6 card

Honestly, getting a 12-16 hand in blackjack sucks. Getting a 14, 15, or 16 hand is about the worst hand you can get. However, if the dealer is showing a low-value card, they will have a weak hand or a "busting hand." In other words, they have a higher probability of busting.

You're assuming that they have a 10 or a face card (which is also worth 10) as their second or third card, which would give them a higher chance of busting. The only exception to this rule would be if you have pairs 6-6, 7-7, 8-8. Your best play would be to split and hope to get a 10 card to increase the strength of your hand.

3 Split when you get a pair of 8 cards or aces

When you get a pair, you will have the option to split them into two separate hands. There are certain times you want to split and times you don't want to split. If you get two aces, definitely split because eleven is a good hand. Since it's impossible to bust with the next card, splitting is a smart move.

Two 8 cards are also not a bad idea to split. 16 is a weak hand. At least if you split, you have a better chance of getting a stronger hand. Regardless of what the dealer shows, splitting 8s and aces generally increases your chances of winning.

4 Double down on 11 versus a dealer's 2-10 card

If your starting hand is a hard 11 (no aces involved), that's about the best hand you could get aside from an automatic blackjack. If the dealer has a low number, 2-6, you should absolutely double down on 11. It's impossible to bust in that scenario, and odds are you get a decent number to get your hand close to 21.

This strategy plays on the higher probability of getting a 10-value card. In the long run, this will optimize your odds of winning to get the most out of that hand.

5 Hit on a 12-16 versus a dealer's 7-ace card

This is a pretty common situation, and unfortunately, it's not a very ideal scenario. In this case, the dealer likely has a strong hand, while you have a weak or "busting hand." You can still win in this case, but it's more challenging to do so. You basically have to assume the dealer has a 10.

You're basically in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. If you hit, you will either bust or get a better hand if you're lucky. If you stay, you're likely going to lose this game because, again, you have to assume the dealer has a 10. The only exception is if you have a pair. You're better off splitting and hoping for a better hand.

6 Never split 10's or 5's

The general rule of thumb is that you never split 10s or 5s. If you have 10s, you have a 20, which is tough to beat. You have a winning hand that you should win with more often than not. Now sure, you can split 10s and still win, but it's never the best play in any circumstance. Take your 20 and stay. You're bound to win more in the long run by doing that.

Two 5s is a hard 10, which is still a good hand. You're better off taking one or two more cards on a 10 than splitting 5s and getting a weaker hand like 14 or 15.

7 Avoid playing a 6 to 5 game

Historically, blackjack pays 3 to 2 odds per hand. This means if you win a hand, you'd make $3 for every $2 you bet. So, as an example, if you bet $10, a 3 to 2 game will pay you $15.

A 6 to 5 game will only pay you $12. The house odds are increased by 1.45% to over 2% for a 6 to 5 game. For more player-friendly odds, play at tables paying 3 to 2 odds.

8 Avoid the insurance bet

If the dealer's upcard (or the card that's showing) is an Ace, they'll offer insurance, which is basically a side bet that the dealer has an automatic blackjack. It's tempting to take it and basically mitigate your losses to a minimum, but in the long run, this is a losing bet.

Even with a good hand, you're better off staying and letting the game play out from there. It's still statistically more likely to draw any non-10 card than a value-10 card. You will sometimes lose in this situation, and it sucks, but nothing you can really do about it.

9 Play at tables where the dealer stands on soft 17

Different casinos have different rules about when the dealer can and can't stand. If it's a soft 17, that means they have an ace that could be a 1, so they can hit risk-free. If it's a hard 17, it's pretty much universal rules that the dealer stays.

Why does it matter if they can hit on soft 17? If they can hit in that situation, it tilts the odds more in the dealer's favor. If they must stand on soft 17, it tilts the odds more in your favor. Make sure to pay attention to that scenario.

10 Play at tables with fewer decks of cards

The fewer decks of cards, the better the odds. Experienced players can count cards easier with less decks. Casinos know this, which is why they have multiple decks to try and discourage it. Card counting isn't illegal by any means, but it's generally frowned upon.

In case you don't know, card counting involves assigning each card a certain number and then basically predicting which cards are up next. It's an acquired skill that experienced players can use to their advantage. More decks also increase the odds in the house's favor. A single deck will offer less of an advantage for the house and better odds for you.

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