Blackjack Strategy: Tips and Techniques to Improve Your Odds

Updated February 16, 2024
Blackjack is a wonderfully easy game to play, especially if you’re new to the world of casinos. You also stand a good chance of winning at blackjack, compared to other table games, especially if you come armed with a solid blackjack strategy.
Blackjack Strategy

When people ask is blackjack a skill or luck, we would always say it is a combination of the two. On this page you can learn the best strategies and techniques to improve your odds of winning at blackjack, giving you everything you need to walk confidently into the casino and aim to beat the dealer in a game of 21.

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The aim of learning blackjack strategy is to be able to make a quick decision on whether to hit, stand, double down or surrender based on your hand and the dealer’s card.

The odds of winning at blackjack are 42.22 per cent, while the dealer has a 49.1 per cent chance of winning, so your strategy needs to be watertight in order for you to come out on top!

What is the best blackjack strategy based on?

The blackjack strategy you’re reading about originated in a computer simulation that involved a programme playing millions of hands of blackjack and recording the outcomes. The computer calculated the decisions that would lose a player the least amount of money to the casino over time.

While basic blackjack strategy can improve your chances of winning in games of blackjack, it does not overcome the house edge and the dealer would still be expected to beat a player using basic strategy more times than not.

However, when you add advanced blackjack strategies such as card counting into the mix, it is possible for players to overcome the house edge.

Understanding the basic blackjack strategy

Basic blackjack strategy is best learned visually, using a chart like the one below.

The chart illustrates when to hit or stand, double down, split pairs or surrender, based on whether or not you have a hard or soft hand, and what the dealer’s upcard is.

To understand the strategy chart, remember that a hard hand is one that does not include an ace. If you are dealt such a hand in blackjack, you need to be able to visualise the chart in your mind in order to know how to respond to the dealer’s upcard. For example, if you have a hard hand (no ace) with a total of 12 and the dealer’s upcard is a 3, you should hit.

You’ll notice that a larger portion of the soft total section of the chart is marked with hits. This is because you are much more likely to be able to hit without busting when you have an ace in your hand, given that aces can be counted as one or 11.

The chart shows when to double down if the casino you are playing allows doubling, and also whether to hit or stand if your casino does not allow doubling. Also marked are the four scenarios in which you should surrender.

The chart also illustrates when to split pairs, based on the dealer’s upcard. For example, you can see that if you have a pair of 7s and the dealer’s upcard is a 7, you should split your 7s into separate hands (this requires you to make a second bet of equal value to your first). The pair splitting section of the chart also illustrates when to split based on whether or not ‘double after split’ is offered – this is a rule offered by some casinos that allows you to double down after you split a hand.

Pair Splitting Blackjack Strategy

It can be useful to memorise the following phrases that indicate what to do in different blackjack scenarios.

For soft hands (any hand total including an ace):

Always stand on soft 21 and 20

  • Soft 19 doubles down against 6 or else stands
  • Soft 18 doubles against 2-6, stands against 7 and 8, and hits against 9, 10, and ace
  • Soft 17 doubles against 3 to 6 or else stands
  • Soft 15 and 16 double against 4 to 6 or else hits
  • Soft 13 and 14 double against 5 and 6, otherwise hit
Soft Hands Blackjack Strategy

For hard hands (any hand total without an ace):

  • 17 and above always stands
  • 13 through 16 stands against 2-6 and hits against 7-ace
  • 12 stands against 4-6 and hits against everything else
  • Always double down on hard 11
  • Double against 2-9 with a hard 10
  • Double against 3-6 with a hard 9
  • Always hit with 8 and below
Hard Hands Blackjack Strategy


  • 16 surrenders against 9-Ace
  • 15 surrenders against a 10
Surrender Blackjack Strategy


  • Always split aces
  • Never split tens
  • A pair of 9s splits against 2 through 9, except for 7, otherwise stand.
  • Always split 8s
  • A pair of 7s splits against 2 through 7, otherwise hit
  • A pair of 6s splits against 2 through 6, otherwise hit
  • A pair of 5s doubles against 2 through 9, otherwise hit
  • A pair of 4s splits against 5 and 6, otherwise hit
  • A pair of 3s splits against 2 through 7, otherwise hit
  • A pair of 2s splits against 2 through 7, otherwise hit

Advanced Blackjack Strategies 

To overcome the house edge in blackjack and ensure you stand to win more than you lose, you need advanced blackjack strategies.

The following strategies, if carefully and accurately applied, can make your blackjack sessions lucrative. However, they all come with drawbacks, the most notable being the amount of work required to learn and practice them.

Card counting

Card counting is perhaps the most commonly known advanced blackjack strategy. In a nutshell, card counting is a system that allows you to keep track of the ratio of low cards to high cards in the dealer’s deck, so that you can identify when there are more aces and 10-value cards remaining.

The most popular card counting system is known as ‘Hi-Lo’, and involves assigning a value of +1, -1 or 0 to each card that is dealt. Card values 2 to 6 are +1, 7 to 9 are 0, and 10 through to ace are -1.

To run the count, you simply add 1, subtract 1 or do nothing to the total or ‘running count’ in your mind as the cards are dealt. If your running count is going up, you are gaining advantage over the dealer. If the count goes down, it is in the dealer’s favour.

  • Contrary to popular belief, card counting does not require remarkable memorisation skills. The skill is in raising your bets as the running count rises and reducing them when the count is negative or neutral.
  • To card count effectively, you need a solid betting strategy and bankroll management, both of which are complicated things to master.

Shuffle tracking 

Shuffle tracking is linked to card counting and is a technique that aims to allow you to predict the positions of certain cards in the dealer’s shoe (the ‘shoe’ is the name given to the usually plastic vessel used to hold cards in during blackjack games).

The idea when shuffle tracking is to notice when the dealer gets to the cut-off point in the pack. Each complete deck has a running count of zero, so if you have noted a running count of +4 when the cut-off is reached, you can safely assume the cards beneath the cut-off point are unfavourable to you. As such, you can track where the clump of cards is likely to appear in the shoe after it is shuffled.

  • Has the potential to give you an advantage over the house if carried out correctly.
  • Shuffle tracking requires a high level of concentration and the ability to perform calculations quickly in the heat of the moment. It is useless in casinos where shuffling is done with machines, or in online blackjack.

Hole carding 

Hole carding is a controversial strategy, with techniques such as using mirrors to take a look at the dealer’s down-facing or ‘hole’ card very much outlawed in the game of blackjack, but there are legal hole carding strategies you can learn.

Examples of hole carding include front-loading, whereby players try to catch a glimpse of a dealer’s hole card when it is moved underneath the upcard, and spooking, whereby the player in the first base seat of the blackjack table attempts to see the hole card as the dealer checks it.

  • Any information you can gain about the dealer’s hole card is a huge advantage in winning at blackjack.
  • Hole carding is very much frowned upon, and if caught you will likely be booted out of the casino!

Betting strategies 

The timing and size of the bets you place in blackjack are crucial to your chances of coming away from the table having upped your money.

Blackjack players remain divided over the usefulness of betting strategies, but familiarising yourself with some of the basic blackjack betting strategies might help you improve your game.

Flat betting, for example, is a betting strategy designed to help you manage your bankroll and easily keep track of your spending. Flat betting simply involves keeping your stake the same in each round of blackjack, limiting the amount of risk in your game. Flat betting is unlikely to increase your chances of overcoming the house edge, but it might save you from heavy losses.

Positive progression is a blackjack betting strategy designed to take advantage of winning streaks. The idea is that you double your stake for every win along a winning streak. To limit your risk, you set a fixed number of wins in your streak before it starts, and once that number of wins has been achieved you return your stake to its original value.

Another popular blackjack betting strategy is negative progression, whereby you double your wager after every loss. Then, once you win a hand, you restart the entire process. The idea is that you will win back any money you lost during the losing streak, because your stake was doubled with each game. However, bad losing streaks can quickly get out of hand and you may also hit the table’s maximum bet amount before winning your losses back.

Side Bets in Blackjack 

Side bets in blackjack are those bets staked on outcomes that are not concerned with who wins between player and dealer.

An example of a side bet is an insurance bet, which a player can place if the dealer’s upcard is an ace and if they think the dealer will get blackjack.

Another side bet is ‘perfect pairs’, whereby you can bet on the first two cards in your hand being a mixed pair (usual odds of 5:1), a coloured pair (10:1) or a perfect pair (30:1).

‘Easy match’ is a side bet that allows you to bet on the first two cards in your hand being of the same suit, with a typical pay-off of 3:1 in a multi-deck game.

Other popular side bets with various odds depending on where you are playing include royal match, super sevens, lucky ladies and pair square.

Top 10 tips to win at online blackjack 

The main distinction between online blackjack and live blackjack is the absence of a living, breathing dealer in charge of the cards. This means that trying to catch a glimpse of the dealer’s cards is impossible in online blackjack, and card counting is also obsolete because the pack is automatically shuffled before every game.

Here are our top 10 tips to win at online blackjack:

  1. Choose a reputable online casino by reading reviews and trust ratings before signing up.
  2. Set your wagering limits using the features offered on most online casino websites.
  3. Keep your basic blackjack strategy to hand while playing, including the strategy chart shown above.
  4. Take advantage of online blackjack promotions, which allow you to play for longer with larger bankrolls.
  5. Play free online blackjack games wherever you can find them, to practice your skills and strategies.
  6. Choose blackjack tables you can afford, avoiding any where the minimum wager requirements are too high.
  7. Avoid insurance bets, which tend to be highly risky with little reward when successful.
  8. Check your casino’s terms, as some will pay different rates to blackjack winners.
  9. Rely on strategy over gut feelings!
  10. Manage your gameplay, ensuring you don’t play while tired or unfocused.

Blackjack Variations 

Popular variations of blackjack that you may come across include European blackjack, in which the dealer does not receive a hole card until the player has made a playing decision and surrendering is not allowed.

Vegas Strip blackjack is widely popular and includes a rule whereby the dealer can peek at their hole card if their face-up card is an ace.

In Atlantic City blackjack, eight decks are shuffled together, and the dealer can peek if their face-up card is an ace or a 10-value card. The minimum bet in Atlantic City blackjack is $1.

Live Dealer Blackjack Strategy 

Live blackjack dealers in land-based and online casinos are, despite what you might think, there to help you. Yes, you’re trying to beat their hand and win yourself some money, but it would be foolish not to take advantage of the help they can provide as experts in their field and hosts of the game.

Dealers will usually let you know if you are about to make a mistake. After all, they want you to be able to keep playing blackjack, so it is in their interests to keep you safe! What’s more, dealers will usually be happy to help if you need to ask questions about how to play or about rules, payments, wagering requirements and more.

Our advice is to be polite to your dealer, make sure you know the rules of the game, keep your conversation light-hearted, and don’t sit down at a table if you don’t intend to actually play.

Common Blackjack Mistakes

Here are a few common blackjack mistakes that you can keep in mind to steer you away from problems:

  • Not following basic strategy – always ensure you make basic blackjack strategy your guide while playing.
  • Chasing losses – if you are on a continuous losing streak, don’t keep betting in the hope you will recoup your money.
  • Failing to manage your bankroll – keep a close eye on what you’re spending and how much you can afford.
  • Counting cards in online blackjack – dealing in online blackjack is automated, so the rules of card counting do not apply!
  • Not memorising blackjack hand gestures – for a satisfying blackjack experience, familiarise yourself with the appropriate hand gestures.

Ready to play blackjack online? 

If you have taken some time to understand blackjack strategy and feel confident about playing a game, then there has never been a better time to play blackjack online, with a huge selection of online casinos offering every variation of the game you could wish for.


What is the basic strategy for blackjack?

You can build a basic blackjack strategy by being able to recognise when the dealer’s face-up card is strong and when it is not. Your aim should always be to never take a card if there is a chance you may bust.

What is the difference between soft and hard hands in blackjack? 

The key distinguishing factor between a soft hand and a hard hand is an ace. If the first two cards you are dealt include an ace, you have a soft hand and this means you have greater choice over what to do next, because your ace can be treated as being worth 1 or 11.

Can you count cards in online blackjack? 

Dealing in online blackjack is automated, so the rules of card counting do not apply!

Is it better to play blackjack online or in a land-based casino?

Live dealers exist in land-based casinos and in online casinos, so the experience is very similar wherever you go! Some players love the atmosphere and energy of a land-based casino, while others prefer the comfort of accessing a casino without leaving their home.

How do I memorize all this? 

As with most things, practise makes perfect. Nobody starts out in blackjack as an expert, but once you have acquainted yourself with basic blackjack strategy, you can start to build your expertise by playing at blackjack tables and becoming more familiar with the ups and downs of the game.

Better change
Sam Jarvis Author


Sam Jarvis

Sam is passionate about all things bingo and has more than 10 years’ experience of writing about the game in its online and land-based forms, as well as casino, sports betting and gaming. When he’s not testing and reviewing the latest online bingo sites, Sam stays abreast of developments in the industry through his extensive network of contacts around the world.