Blackjack Strategy: The Best Way to Play and Bet
“How do I win?” It’s the first question you should be asking any time you put your money on the table. Every blackjack player, from the first-timer to the experts, plays with the hope they’ll make money when they play and to do that, you need to know the best strategies.
Some games don’t have a best strategy. Ask a dozen poker pros how to play a hand and you’ll get a dozen different answers, but blackjack isn’t like that. The odds have been sliced and diced to the point of complete understanding. The math knows which play is likely to offer the best payouts. No, it can’t predict the precise card that’s about to come off the deck, but it can tell you what will earn the most profit if you run the same scenario a thousand times. Professional players will tell you unanimously that sticking to that–what we call “playing the odds”--is the best thing any player can do if they like winning.
This article explains the basics of the game and will have the math in your hands by the end of it. It will teach you how to tailor your blackjack experience in our online casino and give you your best chance to win some money.
If you’re truly new to the game, there’s no shame in that. If you want to learn more, check out our guide on How to Play Blackjack, which includes a video. If you know how to play, you can keep reading. Either way, keep reading.
The Most Popular Game in the Casino
Easy to learn. Quick to play. Immediate excitement. Those are the three reasons Blackjack is the most popular game in just about every casino in the world.
Whether you’re playing live dealer or not, a hand will take less than a minute. Even then, it’s only that long because you’re taking time to hold your breath, check your logic, and let the tension build. You’re generally only making one or two decisions per hand, and you’ll find out whether they pay off immediately.
A Solved Game
The reason those strangers we mentioned at the top get upset about “wrong” plays is that blackjack is what we call a solved game. That is, according to the math of it, we know there’s always a clear choice that offers the best mathematical chances of paying off. That brings us to...the chart.
Again, this looks intimidating, but it’s actually a simple way to ensure you can make the best mathematical choice available to you. See the numbers down the left side? Those are possible totals you can have when adding your first two cards. The numbers across the top? The dealer only shows one card to start, so those are the cards the dealer could be showing. Once you’ve added your first two cards and seen the dealer’s up card, if you want to play by the math, find the symbol where the two intersect:
- H stands for “hit,” or, take another card.
- S means “stand,”or stay with what you have.
- D means “double down.” That means you’re doubling your bet and agreeing to take just one card, a wager you only want to make when you have a strong mathematical edge.
For more specialized situations, here are two more tables:
- The “Soft” table is for when you’re dealt an ace. It is only used when you still have the option of treating the ace worth either one or eleven. Once your other cards reach a total of eleven or higher--since making the ace eleven would cause you to bust—it’s assumed the ace is worth one. That’s a “hard” hand, for which you can go back up to the first table.
- With the “Pair” table, when you start with two cards of the same value (like two 3s, two 8s, or two jacks), you have the option to split them into two starting hands. The P means “split.” When you choose to, you need to equal the bet on your initial hand. After that decision, you’ll get another card for each hand and you can go back up to the first table.
Together, the three tables are known in some pockets of the internet as a blackjack strategy calculator and available here as a printable blackjack strategy guide. This guide is a perfect in-person blackjack strategy guide; for online blackjack strategy. You can save it as a screensaver as well.
Now, here’s the thing, it doesn’t always work out the way you expect. Yes, people who are really good with numbers have figured out that if you do these things consistently, you’ll do better over the long haul, but it still stings if you double down and lose. That uncertainty is a big part of what keeps the game exciting.
Ten Simple Strategies
Because those charts have a lot of data and can be a little confusing at times, we’re giving you elevent simple rules to always follow. We’ll explain them more-fully in a future article, but to get you started, we’re listing them here. These combine to offer the best blackjack strategy according to the math:
RULE #1: ALWAYS DOUBLE DOWN ON 11, UNLESS THE DEALER SHOWS AN ACE.
RULE #2: WHEN THE DEALER’S UPCARD IS 2-9, ALWAYS DOUBLE DOWN ON AN INITIAL SCORE OF TEN
RULE #3: WHEN THE DEALER’S UPCARD IS A 5 OR 6, ALWAYS DOUBLE DOWN ON A SOFT 13-18
RULE #4: ALWAYS SPLIT ACES AND ALWAYS SPLIT EIGHTS
RULE #5: NEVER SPLIT A PAIR OF FIVES OR TENS
RULE #6: NEVER MAKE THE INSURANCE BET
RULE #7: IF THE DEALER HAS A 2 OR 3 UPCARD, ALWAYS HIT ON A HARD 12
RULE #8: IF THE DEALER SHOWS 9, 10, OR ACE, ALWAYS HIT A-7
RULE #9: WHEN YOU ARE DEALT A PAIR OF 2s OR 3s, HIT AGAINST A DEALER’S 2 OR 3 UPCARD.
RULE #10: ALWAYS STAND WITH A PAIR OF 9s WHEN THE DEALER SHOWS 7
Your Money, Your Choice
Those grizzled veterans at the casino forget that it’s your money. That means how you play is your choice. Peer pressure is a legit thing in a live casino, but not here. Playing by the math lowers the house edge, but you don’t absolutely have to do that if you don’t want to. If you want to play on gut or take an uncalculated risk? Hey, you can do that. We don’t advise it, but the choice is yours. No one’s going to shame you here for doing what you want with your wager.
Ultimately, what DraftKings Casino wants is to provide you with a good time you’ll fully enjoy. This tailor-made experience—from the comfort of your home—will help you have a great time, fully understand the game you’re playing, and hopefully come away with extra cash in your account. Welcome to blackjack, and welcome to DraftKings Casino.
Authored By: Gary Wise