Blackjack Strategies: Basic strategy, odds and variations

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The combination of mathematics and probability makes Blackjack an extremely popular table game. It might come as a surprise, or maybe not, but a basic blackjack strategy can cut the edge of the house to as small as 0.2% to 0.5%. While we’d like to think that the choices we make will ultimately make us money over the long run, the reality may be the opposite. By choosing to stay, splitting or taking an extra card, we may be making decisions that are hurting us.

The basic strategy creates the best possible to play Blackjack, taking objective decisions based on mathematics to determine when is the right time to stand, hit, double down, pair split or surrender. This is not to mention the correct time for even money and insurance. Do you think you’ve got the perfect Blackjack strategy? Put your money where your mouth is! Follow our article, which is designed to help you on the road to mastering Blackjack and the different Blackjack games. You can then move on to play Online Blackjack or Live Casino Blackjack.


Blackjack odds

The trick to mastering the art of blackjack lies in an understanding of odds and the way that the house uses odds to hold an edge. Let’s take an example of the odds (probability) of busting by hitting (taking a card): if you learn when to hit and when to stand, you could make a more informed decision that will reduce the house edge by a considerable margin. Our section here starts you off with the basics that will teach you about strategy and the odds of specific scenarios.

Surrender strategy

Have you considered using the surrender option, or do you in all cases play the hand that the dealer has dealt you? Using the surrender strategy allows you to sacrifice half your stake to give up your hand. The first thing you might ask is why you would want to surrender. The explanation that follows makes sense. Some scenarios occur during the game that gives us less than a 25% probability of winning when we compare our cards to the dealer’s. By surrendering our cards, we can protect our bankroll over the long run. The section will explain the scenarios under which you should or shouldn’t take advantage of this option.

Pair Splitting strategy

Pair splitting is an option that could lower the house edge, at least in theory, but in practice could be of benefit to the house as players often don’t know when to use it. By splitting a pair of 10’s, you are likely playing into the casino’s hands as they are making money from you over the long run. We’ll help keep money in your pocket as we teach you when/when not to pair split.

Doubling Down strategy

The Double Down option allows us to double our stake, but it comes at the price of being restricted to one more card hit. It can be of particular benefit in scenarios where you’ve got a terrific hand or when the dealer has a high likelihood of going bust (going over 21) due to a terrible hand. Use the feature correctly, and you can be making a 1.4% profit. Learn how to do it here.

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Hit & Stand strategy

Not all cards allow you to double down or surrender your hand. This leaves us with the dilemma of whether to hit or stand. While it may seem obvious when the pressure is on, the proper course of action can become clouded. For example, you might decide to hit at 16 when you should stand or vice versa at different times. After reading our section on hitting & standing, you can avoid making mistakes.

Insurance strategy

The Insurance option is a side bet that, for an added stake of half our bet, we can make when the dealer has an ace displayed. The insurance protects us from the danger that the dealer has a Blackjack. If this is indeed the case, we can win triple (3x) the value of our side bet back, effectively breaking us even on the bet. Sound like a good idea? This has an easy answer – no, it’s not! It would be best for you never to use insurance. Find out why here as we explain the reason.

Even Money strategy

The Even Money strategy applies in a scenario where we’ve been dealt a hand of 21, and the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, which could potentially mean 21 also. A tie would mean that we get our stake back but lose out on the chance of making a profit. The house offers us the option of even money where the hand ends, and we collect double our stake in return. While this might sound like a good deal, this is not unlike using insurance, which will effectively lower our profit by 4% over the long run. We’ve got more insight into this strategy, including the mathematics involved.