In some respects, online blackjack strategy is very much the same as it would be for playing off line in a land based casino. However, there are certain strategies that may work well off line that are simply not possible in an online blackjack game.
The only strategy for actually gaining a statistical advantage over the house and increasing your odds of winning is card counting. Counting cards requires a great deal of practice, skill, concentration, and of course money. You’re fooling yourself if you think you can go to a casino with a couple of hundred pounds and make money counting cards. A skilled card counter can shift the odds in their favour to the point where they have a 1% or perhaps a 1 1/2% advantage. In the long run you will win but you have to have enough money to survive the natural ebb and flow of winning and losing hands. To do this properly requires many thousands of pounds. All of that aside, counting cards simply does not work as an online blackjack strategy because the Internet casinos shuffle the cards after every hand which completely nullifies card counting as an effective online blackjack strategy.
You may have heard of various betting systems, each claiming to be able to beat the house. One of the most common systems that most everyone has heard of or have thought of themselves at one time is the Martingale System. It is sometimes also called simply the double up system. It is basically a negative betting progression meaning that you increase the size of your bet after each loss. The theory is that if you double your bet after each loss eventually you’ll have a winning hand at which point you would end up being ahead one unit. For example if you were to begin with a £5 bet and lose, you would then bet £10, then £20, then £40 etc. In this example if you were to lose four consecutive hands you would be down £75 and your next bet would be £80. If you were to win that bet you would be ahead £5, or one unit.
When some people hear about or dream up this idea, they think it is pure genius. The fatal flaw in this system is that a streak of seven or eight consecutive losing hands is not uncommon. The problem, which should be fairly obvious at this point, is that if you were to lose eight consecutive hands doubling your bet each time starting with just a £5 wager you would have lost £1275 and your next bet would be £1280 which is probably higher than the maximum limit at a £5 table. It also does not make much sense to risk an additional £1280 to try to come out £5 ahead.
There are a number of various systems and betting schemes that claim to be able to beat the casinos but the only ones making money with these systems are the people selling them and they are making money by selling them and not by using their own systems to beat the casinos. It’s a good idea to stay away from any type of negative progression betting scheme and simply learn to play proper basic strategy.
What Is “Basic Strategy”?
Basic strategy is a method of playing that provides a specific set of rules on how to play any hand based on the cards you hold and the dealers up card to give you the best possible probability of winning. Basic strategy was first introduced in a book called “Beat the Dealer” by Edward O. Thorp. After that book came out Julian Braun of IBM further refined the strategies using a computer program to run millions of simulated blackjack hands to determine the best way to play any hand.
Negative progression betting systems simply do not work and card counting is not possible in online blackjack because of the fact that cards are shuffled after every hand but playing proper basic strategy is easy to do online and ensures that you are making the best decision every time according to statistical probabilities. Basic strategy takes into account the cards you’re holding and the dealers up card and tells you whether you should hit, stands, split pairs, or double down to give you the best chance of either increasing the value of your hand without exceeding 21 or allowing the dealer to bust.
Playing Proper Basic Strategy
Below we will go over proper basic strategy in detail. We will be discussing how to play any hand in any situation but for the sake of saving time and space on the page we will not get in to the mathematical probabilities of every possible hand. We will simply discuss the best way to play any hand against any dealer’s up card to give you the best chance of a favourable outcome. You can also use this strategy chart to increase you chances of winning:
Hitting and Standing
If the dealers up card is 7 through Ace, hit until you have a total of 17 or greater. If the dealers up card is 2 through 6, stand on 13 or greater. If you have a total of 12 versus a dealers up card of 2 or 3, take a hit. It may seem counter intuitive to hit a hand that could possibly bust when the dealer is showing a card that could also bust but the odds are in your favour in this situation. There are more cards in the deck that will either help your hand or at least not bust it than there are tens in the deck that would bust your hand. The only time you should risk exceeding 21 when the dealer has a hand that has the potential to bust is when your total is 12 and the dealer is showing a 2 or 3.
Of course you should always hit, split, or double hands that are 11 or less. In this situation, taking additional cards can only help your hand and there is no possibility of busting. Don’t be afraid to hit a 15 or a 16 when the dealer is showing a standing card of 7 or greater, statistically it is the best way to play those hands.
Always hit a soft 17 regardless of the dealers up card. There are several cards in the deck which can improve your hand and if you receive a card that hurts, you still have the opportunity to improve your hand by taking another hit.
To give yourself the best chance of coming out ahead you simply must take advantage of double down opportunities. Some casinos only allow players to double down on 10 or 11 but other casinos will allow players to double down on any two cards. Always double down on 11. Double down on a 10 if the dealer is showing anything other than a 10. When you double down you have two chances to win. You may receive a high card and beat the dealer but even if you receive a low card there is the possibility of the dealer busting.
Many players are afraid to double down if the dealer’s up card is an ace. If you have a 10 or 11 go ahead and double down against a dealer’s Ace. If the dealer has a natural 21 you will only lose your original bet and not the double down. Doubling against a dealer’s ace with a 10 or 11 is the right move.
In casinos that let players double down on any two cards it is in your best interest to double down on a 9 when the dealer is showing a 2 through 6. Double down on an 8 if the dealers up card is 5 or 6. Double down on a soft 13, 14, 15, or 16 if the dealer is showing a 4, 5 or 6. Double down on a soft 17 or 18 if the dealers up card is 3, 4, 5 or 6. Never double down on a soft 19 or 20. These are strong hands that are not only very difficult to improve but already have a very good chance of winning.
Always split Aces. It’s much better to hit an 11 than it is to hit a 2 or a 12. Never split 10’s. 20 is a winning hand and it doesn’t make sense to risk turning it into two losing hands. Split 9’s of the dealer is showing 2 through 9. Many strategies will suggest always splitting 8’s because 16 is a terrible hand. However, you may wish to only split 8’s when the dealer is showing an up card of 2 through 8. If the dealer is showing a 9, 10 or Ace you might just be throwing good money after bad by splitting and playing the two 8’s separately.
Split 7’s against 2 through 7. Split 6’s against a 2 through 6. Never split 5’s. Take that 10 and double down. Split 4’s against a dealer’s 5 or 6. Split 2’s and 3’s against a 2 through 7.
Learning proper basic strategy will take some time and some practice but it gives you the best odds and the highest probability of winning. Learn this strategy and you will hold on to your chips longer and you may even be able to put some of the casino’s money in your own pocket.