Build the Foundation of a Winning Blackjack Strategy in 3 easy steps

Blackjack is one of those rare casino games that can offer an incredibly low house edge to players who use the right tactics at the tables. Blackjack strategies come in all shapes and sizes, from the most mundane memorizations to highly complex calculations. For new players, learning these concepts can feel like an exhausting task, but in reality, just getting down the most basic fundamentals can be the start of a wonderful relationship between player and profitability.

In truth, it only takes a few skills to start playing with a good blackjack strategy. Mastering the game could take anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on the player’s memorization and mental calculation abilities. But with the first steps out of the way, building upon the initial skills and studying the more complex routes of decision making won’t seem nearly so daunting.

Know the Game / House Edge

The very first step is to know the difference between the most common variations of blackjack. There are four major, region specific versions players are likely to run into at land-based casino (and even more if playing blackjack online). The four most common are:

Atlantic City Blackjack – 0.36%
European Blackjack – 0.42%
Macau Blackjack – 0.16%
Vegas Strip Blackjack – 0.35%

Notice the numbers at the end? Those denote the house edge of each variation when using the right strategy. The house edge is determined by the rules (if/when a player can split, double down, late surrender, etc.) The lower the number, the more likely a player is to win, while higher numbers denote a bigger advantage for the casino. If you’re in the US, chances are you’ll have to settle for Atlantic City of Vegas Strip styles, but the obvious rule is to play only the lowest house edge game available to you.

To Hit, or Not to Hit…

There are very specific, play-by-play strategy charts out there for every variation of blackjack ever conceived, but players shouldn’t be trying to memorize these right off the bat. Instead, a new blackjack player should be focusing on a generalization of hitting and standing on certain value ranges, based on the dealer’s up card. The basic rules are:

Any total of 2-11 – Hit
Any total of 12-16 – Stand if dealer has 2-7, Hit if dealer has 8+
Hard total of 17+ – Stand
Soft total of 17 – Stand unless dealer has 8+ showing
Soft total of 18 – Stand unless dealer has 9+ showing
Any total of 19+ – Stand

Splitting and Doubling Down

Knowing when to split is actually pretty easy. Some hands have a much better value before splitting, like a pair of fives, while others stand to gain more value by splitting, such as a pair of Aces. Two Aces is just 2 or 12, but split aces can become dual hands of 21’s. On the other hand, splitting 10’s might seem like a great idea, but doing so means ruining a great hand of 20. Here’s the basic Blackjack rules to follow in splitting:

Always Split 8’s and Aces.
Never Split 5’s or 10’s.

Doubling down is a great option in blackjack because it gives player’s the chance to win more money when the cards are in their favor. However, if the rules allow, a player should never double if they have a hard total of 12+. The basic strategy for doubling down in blackjack is:

Any total of 11 – Double
Any total of 10 – Double if dealer has 2-8 showing