If you’ve read our Blackjack strategy guide or our Blackjack rules of the game guide, you’ll already be somewhat familiar with how Blackjack works. If you’re completely new to the game, those are a great place to start and will give you a lot of information and tips on how to play. If you’ve already read those or have played before, then this guide is for you.
Here we’ll be sharing tips on improving your winning chances and hopefully beating the casino. At Xfire, we’re big fans of Blackjack and spend a lot of time at the tables playing and improving our game. We’re here to help players like you get better and we share everything we’ve picked up from playing over the years.
Our site is full of the best tips, tricks, and information to help you get the most out of your time at the casino. Whether you’re just playing for fun or because you want to win big, we’ll be able to help you improve your odds and hopefully land consistent wins.
Read on to learn more about the game and how you can improve your play. We cover basic strategy, tips, and insider info. We’ve even made a cheat sheet which explains the best course of action for each hand.
Whether completely new to Blackjack or just looking to improve your game, these tips will help you get the most enjoyment out of it. Our tips are tailored towards playing looking to play Blackjack online, but they can also be applied at land-based casinos.
- Choosing the right casino – Before you begin playing, you’ll need to make sure you pick a good casino. Picking the perfect site is difficult, but you can check out our top casino page and casino reviews to help you choose. Make sure the site you choose has a good selection of games, particularly Blackjack. The site should also have a decent bonus offer and provide regular promotions and offers to players.
- Choosing the right game type – Blackjack has been around for a long time, so it makes sense that there are loads of different variations out there. While all Blackjack games involve beating the dealer and avoiding going over twenty-one, there are still lots of rule changes. Before you start playing, make sure you pick a game that you understand and read through the rules carefully. Don’t just assume you already know them because you’ve played a similar game type. Pick one variation that you want to play and stick to it, at least for now.
- Understanding house edge and RTP – House edge is the advantage that the casino has over you. Blackjack is one of the best casino games thanks to its low house edge. That means that players have less of a disadvantage when playing and, in theory, should be able to win more. You can check the house edge of the game before you play in the game details. Sometimes you might see an RTP percentage listed. This is known as the return to player rate and is basically the inverse of the house edge. So for example, a game with a house edge of 2% will have an RTP rate of 98%.
- Implementing basic Blackjack strategy – Basic Blackjack strategy is a guide on how to play. It lets you know the actions you should be taking based on your hand and the dealer’s card for the best possible odds. We’ll talk more about basic Blackjack strategy further down the guide and have even included a cheat sheet for you to use. Note that using this strategy won’t guarantee you a win, but it will increase your chances.
- Using a betting system – Betting systems such as the Martingale system have gotten quite famous for the potential big wins that they can deliver. Not all betting systems are like this though ,and they don’t really improve your chances of winning. They are still useful for bankroll management, however. While it’s not essential to use one, many players find they help them.
- Setting limits – Whenever you’re gambling, it’s important to set a limit on how much you can comfortably lose. Whenever you go over this limit, you should stop playing. This way, you prevent yourself from incurring losing more as you chase your losses. Setting win limits is also important as sometimes it’s all too easy to get carried away after racking up some big wins. Always stick to your limits, and you won’t lose more than you planned for.
While the majority of casino games are based entirely on luck, Blackjack is different in that it takes a fair amount of skill to play. Of course, you can still play without knowing anything about the game, but the chances are, you’re just going to lose money. Luck is still involved in which hands you’re dealt, but good players who win consistently understand the strategy of Blackjack and which actions to take at the right times.
Basic Blackjack strategy tells you which actions to take depending on which cards you have and what the dealer’s upcard is. The following guide will help you to choose the best course of action while playing.
Hit and stand strategy
To hit is to ask for another card while standing will end your turn and allow the dealer to perform their action. With basic Blackjack strategy, whether you hit or stand will depend on both your hand and the dealer’s upcard.
The following are all examples of when you should hit:
- Your hand is valued at between eight and twelve, and the dealer has an upcard of seven, eight, nine, ten or Ace.
- You have a hand value of eleven and the dealer has an Ace.
- You have a hand of ten and the dealer’s card is a ten.
- Your hand’s value is nine, and the dealer has either a seven, eight or nine.
You should stand if any of the following is true:
- Your hand total is at seventeen or above.
- You have a thirteen or above, and the dealer’s upcard is a six or less.
- You have a pair of tens or face cards.
Surrendering isn’t a common move with most players, but it can be really useful in improving your odds and helping to protect your bankroll. Surrendering means sitting out that round and having half your initial bet returned to you. A surrender can only be done at the start of the round when you receive your first two cards. Some casinos and game types may have different rules on surrendering, but the strategy is usually the same.
The following are all situations where you should surrender to improve your odds:
- The dealer has an upcard of nine, ten or an Ace and you have a hand value of sixteen that’s not a pair of eights.
- The dealer has an upcard value of ten while you have a hand worth fifteen.
Splitting is only available if you receive a pair. Pairs are two cards that are the same. For example, a pair of sixes would be two sixes. When you split, you choose to make two new hands with the two cards, and you’ll receive two new cards. So if you split a pair of sixes, you’ll then make two hands, each containing a six and a new card.
The following are all situations when you should split:
- Split a pair of twos or threes if the dealer has a card showing between four and seven.
- You have a pair of sixes or sevens, and the dealer has a six or below as their upcard.
- You have a pair of eights, no matter what upcard the dealer has.
- You have a pair of Aces. Note that not all game types will allow you to split a pair of Aces.
Blackjack basic strategy cheat sheet
We’ve designed this table to make things easier for you when playing Blackjack online. It applies a basic Blackjack strategy to every possible player and dealer’s hand. It’s ideal for online play as you can directly reference it while playing, helping to give you a better understanding of Blackjack strategy and hopefully winning more. Note that this is specifically for single-deck classic Blackjack. Other versions of the game will be similar but may require slightly different actions for some hands.
Reducing the house edge
Using a basic Blackjack strategy can help to reduce the house edge and improve your odds of winning. There are other steps you can take to improve your chances even further, however, and we’ll be revealing some here.
Composition dependant strategy – Basic Blackjack strategy covers most situations, but in some scenarios, it won’t be enough. Because the strategy only really applies to two-card hands, once you’ve hit and have a hand that consists of three or more cards, your actions will need to deviate from the basic strategy slightly. An example of this would be when you have a hand of sixteen against an upcard of ten, you’d normally hit. However, if your sixteen is made up of three or more cards, it will contain several low-value cards. This reduces the chance of those cards being dealt with, giving you a lower chance of winning with a hit. If you’re up against a ten and have a sixteen with fours or fives, you should stand. You can find more detail about composition dependant hands in our advanced Blackjack guide.
Making the most of casino bonuses – Almost every online casino offers bonuses to both new and current players. Some big welcome bonus offers can be found here on our site. We’re always looking for the best bonuses that help players get the most out of their casino experience. By playing with a bonus instead of your own cash, you’ll effectively be playing risk-free, which is definitely an advantage to you.
Playing favourable game types – There are lots of different variations of Blackjack out there and not all of them have the same house edge. Generally, the more decks used, the higher the house edge, something that you definitely want to avoid. Make sure that not only do you play a favourable game type but that you also understand the rules completely before playing. You’ll find lots of different variations of common rules depending on what casino you play at. Knowing the rules will help you to understand and implement the proper strategy.
Blackjack side bets
In most rounds of Blackjack, you’ll only ever be betting on one specific outcome, that you’ll beat the dealer. There are other bets available, however. Depending on which type of Blackjack you’re playing, some will be more common than others.
These other bets are known as side bets, and while most of them are simply gimmicks, others can provide some real value. Here we’ll explain some of the main side bets and whether it’s worth your time or not.
Insurance bets are one of the most common side bets you’ll see when playing Blackjack online. Most game version will give players the option of insurance whenever the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace. The insurance is to protect you in case the dealer lands a Blackjack which would give them an instant win.
The only way to not lose against a dealer’s Blackjack is to have a Blackjack yourself or to take the insurance bet. In the case of both the player and the dealer landing a Blackjack, it will be a tie and the player’s stake is returned.
The insurance bet is half of your original stake and will pay out 2 to 1. This means if you bet $20 originally, your insurance will be $10. If the dealer lands a Blackjack, you’ll win $20 from the insurance but lose your $20 original stake, meaning you break even.
In most cases, taking insurance isn’t advised as it has a high house edge. The exact house edge will depend on how many decks are used, but it’s typically between 5 and 12%. More decks mean a higher house edge.
It’s relatively rare for the dealer to land a Blackjack, and even if you do have insurance, you’ll only break even. In the event of a dealer win with no Blackjack, you’ll lose your original stake and the insurance bet. The only time it can be worth it to take insurance is if you yourself have a Blackjack. That way you’ll have your original stake returned from the tie and win your insurance bet.
21+3 is an interesting side bet as it allows you to bet on your first two cards and the upcard of the dealer. The bet is that these three cards will make either a flush, straight, three of a kind, straight flush or suited three of a kind. These are Poker style combinations, and betting on it can add a little more excitement to your game of Blackjack.
Not every casino or game type will offer 21+3 bets, so if you do prefer to play with them or just try them out, make sure you check the rules before you start. Each hand has a different chance of landing and as such, will also have different odds. You don’t bet on individual hands, in most cases you just select the 21+3 bet. If any of them land, you’ll win.
A flush is where all three cards are of the same suit. So for example, if the player has a hand with two diamond cards and the dealer has a diamond upcard, that will be a flush. This one pays out at odds of 5 to 1. That means if you placed $10 as a 21+3 bet and a flush lands, you’ll win $50.
A straight is any combination of cards in numerical sequence. So for example, three, four, and five. A straight pays out at odds of 10 to 1, meaning that a $10 bet would win you $100. Three of a kind is fairly self-explanatory, it’s three of the same card. So for example, three kings or three fives. This pays out at odds of 30 to 1. A bet of $10 will win you $300 if a three of a kind lands.
The straight flush is made up of three cards in numerical order and all in the same suit. For example, a three of hearts, four of hearts, and five of hearts. This one pays out 40 to 1 so a bet of $10 would payout $400. Finally, there’s the suited three of a kind. This is three of the same card type and suit. For example, three Queen of spades. This is only available for multi-deck games. It pays out at big odds of 100 to 1 meaning you’d win $1000 for a $10 bet.
The odds may vary depending on which casino you play at and how many decks are in play. For the most part, 21+3 bets don’t give you particularly good returns, but they do help to add some extra excitement into the game with the big potential payouts. Generally, house edge is between 8 and 6% but the more decks used, the lower the house edge.
The perfect pairs side bet is a bet that the cards you’ll receive will be some kind of pair. This can be either a mixed pair, coloured pair or a perfect pair. The pair bet only applies to the very first two cards you’re dealt, so even if you land a pair later in the round, it won’t count.
As with the 21+3 bet, you won’t bet on specific pair types, you’ll just pick the pairs bet and receive a payout if any type of pair lands. A mixed pair is two of the same value but a different suit and colour. For example, a pair of twos made up of a two of hearts and a two of spades. This pair pays out 5 to 1, giving you $50 if you bet $10.
A coloured pair is two cards of the same value and colour but with a different suit. For example, a hand that has a six of diamonds and a six of hearts. This pair pays out at odds of 10 to 1. If you made a $10 perfect pair bet before the round started, you’d win $100.
Finally, a perfect pair is two cards of the exact same value and suit. This can only be achieved when playing a multi-deck version of Blackjack. An example would be two Queen of Hearts. This bet typically pays out at odds of 30 to 1. That means you’d win $300 from a $10 bet.
As with the 21+3 bet perfect pairs aren’t the best in terms of returns and do have a higher house edge than the base game. The exact house edge will depend on how many decks are being used, but it’s usually between 2 and 5%. Payouts can vary depending on your casino and the type of Blackjack you’re using so make sure to double-check that before you play. Because of the higher house edge when making perfect pairs bets, we don’t recommend it. However, it’s nice to add something a bit different occasionally, and those big payouts are a lot of fun to chase.
Is card counting possible?
Card counting is a card game strategy that is used by some players primarily in Blackjack to determine which cards are left in the deck. If a player is able to establish which cards are remaining in the deck, they can create an advantage. Blackjack and all other casino games always give an advantage to the casino. But with card counting, the player can move the odds in their favour.
Card counting is against the rules of most casinos, although it isn’t illegal. If a casino finds out that you’re using this strategy, they may ask you to leave. However, card counting doesn’t lead to automatic wins. It just lowers the house edge. So it’s usually unlikely that a casino would realise you’re card counting.
Because high-value cards such as tens, face cards and aces benefit the player more, card counters aim to keep track of the total score of the deck. The score is determined by calculating the number of high value and low-value cards. Low-value cards are those between two and six, and these benefit the dealer more. When the player determines that there are more high-value cards left in the deck, they know they can increase their bets as they’re more likely to win.
Card counting is possible, but casinos have made it a lot more difficult by introducing multi-deck games. Most of the Blackjack games you’ll come across will use several decks, which makes it much harder to keep track of which cards have been used and which are still left to be dealt.
When it comes to online Blackjack, however, card counting is all but impossible. Most RNG Blackjack games use multiple decks and continuous shuffling, which means that you can never be sure which cards are still in play. Some live Blackjack games still provide players with a chance to card count, but it remains very difficult when multiple decks are being used.
Blackjack tournaments are a great way to have more fun while playing. If you’re good, they can also be a great way to win big prizes. Unlike regular Blackjack, you won’t just be playing against the dealer. You’ll also be playing against other players at the casino.
You can find Blackjack tournaments at most of the big online casinos. To enter, you’ll need to either buy-in or be selected for entry. Some tournaments are invite-only whereas others are available for any to join. Occasionally you might also find free to enter Blackjack tournaments online. Once you enter, you and every other player will be given the same amount of chips to play with.
All players in the tournament will also have a set number of hands they’ll be able to play. Once those hands are used up, the round ends. The players with the most chips remaining go through to the next round. This continues for as long as it takes until the finalists are decided. The final players than play for the grand prize, with some tournaments giving out six-figure prizes to winners.
In tournaments, rather than trying to simply beat the dealer, you’ll be trying to accumulate as many chips as possible. In most cases, basic Blackjack strategy still applies but you may also have to deviate from it to get the best results. Make sure you understand all the rules and conditions before you sign up to play.
You can find details of the best online Blackjack tournaments here at Xfire. We keep our page up to date with information on which sites have the best tournaments, how to enter, and what prizes are available. With some skill and a bit of luck, you could collect some massive cash prizes.