Blackjack is probably one of the most popular casino games in the world and for good reason. While a lot of casino games rely entirely on luck and chance, Blackjack involves a good level of skill and expertise, something that means good players can win consistently if they use proper strategy.
If you’ve already read through our beginner’s Blackjack guide or know your way around the table, you’ll no doubt be looking to take your game to the next level. The basic strategies include knowing when to double down, when to hit or stand and when to split. If you’re unfamiliar with these, take a look at our Blackjack players guide which covers all the basics of the game.
At Xfire, we play a lot of casino games, and Blackjack is one of our favourites. We like to think that we’re pretty good at the game and enjoy helping other players to reach the same level of play and confidence. On this page, you’ll find all the advice needed to help improve how you play and start racking up some more wins.
Remember that all the knowledge in the world is no substitute for practice. If you would like to find the best online casinos for free Blackjack games to help practice more and improve your game, take a look at our top casino pages. Otherwise, read on for our full advanced Blackjack guide.
Betting systems are a structured and measured approach to gambling. Anyone who has been gambling for awhile likely has some kind of system which they use to make their bets. It always makes a lot of sense to know exactly how much you should be betting and really helps with effective bankroll management.
If you don’t use a betting system, we recommend looking into them to help improve your game. Bear in mind of course that betting systems absolutely do not change the odds or lower the house edge. For most players, betting systems are a way of structuring their bets and staying on top of their bankroll.
There are two main types of betting systems that you’ll come across, the positive progression systems and the negative progression systems. Here are a few details about each:
Positive progression system – A positive progression system will increase your stake whenever you win and decrease the stake whenever you lose. The theory behind this is that it will help to maximize your winnings when you go on a hot streak and also keep your losses to a minimum when you lose. An example of a negative progression betting system is the Paroli system. Here you’ll double your bet each time you win, but on losing, you’ll return to your starting bet.
Negative progression system – A negative progression system is essentially the opposite of a positive progression system. You’ll increase your stake when you lose and lower your stake whenever you win. The idea behind this system is that wins are always likely to show up eventually, so you’ll be able to land them with a higher stake than your losses. This kind of betting system can be a lot riskier and involves the gambler’s fallacy that wins are more likely to come in after a long period of losing. If you don’t have a large bankroll, you can quickly use up all your funds when using these systems. Wins do tend to be much larger though, which is a big reason so many players are drawn to them.
If you’d like to learn more about betting systems, we’ve written up a short guide on several popular systems below.
Martingale – The Martingale method is probably one of the most famous betting systems out there. It’s a negative progression betting system that sees the player double their bet each time they lose. Not only is it the most famous, but it’s also probably the oldest betting system out there, having first started in the 18th century.
It’s most commonly used in Roulette, but some players also use it to good effect in Blackjack. For the Martingale method to be successful, you need to ideally have a large bankroll as a big losing streak can quickly wipe out all your cash if you keep doubling your bets. The Martingale has the potential to give better wins but can easily lead to large losses very quickly.
Oscar’s Grind – Oscar’s Grind is a slightly less common betting system though it can be just as effective as the Martingale method. It was created by a Craps player as a way for players to maximise their winnings. It’s best used for betting on two results of equal value, for example, the flip of a coin but can still be effective with Blackjack.
The idea is to decide on the value of one unit and then place consecutive bets until one unit of profit has been made. The session starts by betting one unit, and in the event of a loss, the bet is repeated. If a win follows a loss, the bet is increased by one unit. As an example, you could start off betting $10 on Blackjack. If you lose your hand, you’ll bet $10 the next hand, if it then wins, you’ll bet $20 the next time. This process continues until $10 in profit has been made. This is a great system for preserving your bankroll over a long period of time.
Ultimately, when it comes to betting systems, it’s a good idea to use a combination of positive and negative progression systems. You can make the most out of your bankroll this way and also experiment by seeing which methods work best for you. As they don’t give you a direct advantage, it really comes down to personal preference. Just be sure to set loss limits before you play.
Multiple hand games
If you already fancy yourself a pretty decent Blackjack player, you might be tempted to jump into multi-hand games. These allow you to play with more than one hand at a time and while they can be extremely exciting, we don’t recommend it straight away. More hands mean a higher chance of winning, but it also potentially increases your losses.
The big advantage of playing multi-hand Blackjack online is that you can usually take as long as you like to decide your action. In a real casino, you might have pressure on you to act quickly as the dealer will be waiting. Online, playing against a computer, there’s no such pressure. Take as long as you need to make sure you’re making the best possible move for each hand.
If you’re set on playing multi-hand Blackjack, here are some tips that can help you to improve your wins and avoid big losses:
- Mix up your strategies for each hand – The main feature of multi-hand Blackjack is of course that there are multiple hands. This doesn’t just mean you can potentially win more. It also allows you to play different strategies for each hand. You can have one hand as a super aggressive option and another where you play a more cautious approach. Aim to have at least one hand going for 21 while at least one always holds on a low number in case the dealer busts.
- Remember that you can take insurance bets for each hand – Insurance is a side bet that protects you if the dealer has a Blackjack. It only becomes available if the dealer’s face card is an Ace so it’s not that common. Remember, with multi-hand Blackjack, you’ll be able to use it for each hand. It’s a good idea to use insurance on at least one of your hands as a safe option.
- Up to five hands can be used, but start off slow – It’s tempting to jump in with a five hand game straight away. It’s definitely a lot more exciting to play this way, but you’re also more likely to make mistakes. Slow it down and build yourself up steadily.
- Practice makes perfect – We always give this advice, but it really can’t be said enough. Before you start betting real cash, it’s a good idea to at least play a few practice hands. Get used to the game and how it feels to play with multiple hands. You can play multi-hand Blackjack for free at any top online casino.
Advanced blackjack strategies
If you’ve read through our Blackjack guide, you’ll already be aware of the basic Blackjack strategy. Most of the time, there are set actions you should take depending on what cards you and the dealer have. By following the basic strategy, you can improve your odds and win more often.
However, there are some situations where basic strategy won’t help or where you should even ignore the rules of basic strategy. There are also specific rules which can improve your odds in certain situations. These tend to be a little more complicated and difficult to learn. With practice, however, you can master these rules and take your game to the next level.
The following are all examples of where basic Blackjack strategy should be ignored in order to make the most out of your hand.
Composition sensitive hands
One of the issues with the basic Blackjack strategy is that while it’s very useful, it doesn’t take into account hands that have more than two cards. At the start of the game, you’ll be dealt two cards, but if you’ve taken several hits, you could have three or more.
So for example, the Blackjack strategy will tell you that you should hit if the dealer has a face-up card of ten and you have a hand of sixteen. This assumes that you only have two cards though, whereas later in the round, you could have three or even more.
If you’re playing with a single deck or even two decks, the probability of certain cards being dealt will change depending on what’s in your hand. For the same example above, if you’re playing with a single deck and your sixteen is made up four fours, you know there are no fours left in the deck. That implies that taking a hit won’t be as successful in this case as you’re unlikely to reach twenty or twenty-one.
Bear in mind that a lot of Blackjack games use multiple decks. Even so, the odds of certain cards being dealt with are still lower when these cards are already in play.
The rule of 45
Basic Blackjack strategy tells us that anytime we have a six and ten against the dealer’s ten or up, we should hit. In most situations, this is correct. However, in the case of adding more than two cards, there are other ways that a sixteen could be formed. Anytime your sixteen contains a four or a five, you should stand against the dealer’s ten. In this case, your four or five will make it less likely for your hit to be successful, and so standing will be more likely to work in your favor.
The Doctor Pepper rule
The Doctor Pepper Rule is another example of when you can change the strategy depending on how many cards make up your hand. Once again, these strategies are more effective when playing low deck games. For this rule, you should always stand with a hand value of twelve, unless your hand is made up of a ten and a two. In this case, you should hit if the dealer has a four or higher.
In most cases, the basic Blackjack strategy applies to splitting your hand. Splits can be made when you are dealt a pair, i.e. two of the same card. For example, if you receive two eights you should always split. This then gives you two hands, and you’ll receive an extra card for each.
A split will not only help to cement a strong start, but it can also improve a weak start. For example, if you have a pair of nines against a dealer’s nine or more, you’d normally be in a bad position. If you split, however, you’ll improve your winning odds significantly.
As well as splitting, some rule sets of Blackjack will allow you to resplit if you have another pair after splitting. Thanks to this rule, you could potentially get four hands from one. Whenever you get the opportunity, you should always choose to resplit. It can be a little confusing to play with multiple hands, but the odds of your success improve.
Hand based tips
Basic Blackjack strategy covers a lot of typical hands, but as an advanced player, you’ll need to know how to react to all different kinds of hands. The following tips cover both soft and hard hands. A soft hand is any hand that contains two cards, one of which is an Ace. A hard hand is any hand that doesn’t contain an Ace.
Soft hand – You should always hit on a soft hand of seventeen or less. You still have some good room to hit Blackjack without going bust. If you have a soft eighteen, you should double down if the dealer has a face-up card of eight, nine or ten.
Hard hand – You should stand if you have a hard hand between twelve and sixteen and the dealer has a hand between two and six. The dealer has a low chance of beating you to a high value when their value is that low. If the dealer’s hand is valued at more than seven, however, you should hit. If you have a hard seventeen, you should stand.
Card counting online
Card counting is a technique used to work out which cards are remaining in the deck and play your hand accordingly. It’s an old technique that used to be effective at helping players beat the casino, but at land-based casinos, it’s a lot less effective now. Not only do casinos ban any players who are counting cards, they’ll also use multiple decks to make it a lot harder to determine which cards remain in the shoe.
With card counting all but eliminated at the land-based casinos, is it possible to count cards online? The short answer is no. The vast majority of online Blackjack games use RNG to determine the cards that are drawn. They’ll also use multiple decks just like with land-based casinos, making it very difficult for any player to work out the remaining cards.
Some players claim that it is possible to count cards at live Blackjack, however. Live Blackjack lets you play against a real dealer rather than against a computer program. On top of a real dealer, the game also uses real decks of cards rather than the ones and zeros of RNG Blackjack. Because live games use real cards, you can technically count them, although you still run into the same problems as you would at the land-based casino.
Overall, it may be possible to use card counting to get ahead when playing live Blackjack, but the casinos make it as difficult as possible for you. The way that online casinos are set up makes it very difficult for players to gain an advantage, and card counting is clamped down on just as it is in the land-based casinos. If you want to get ahead while playing Blackjack, there are definitely easier ways to do it.
In Blackjack, the aim of the game is to beat the dealer by getting a higher hand. Of course, the limit is twenty-one, and if either the player or the dealer goes over this, they’ll bust. This is really straightforward, and every Blackjack player knows this.
There is another winning condition, though. If either the player or the dealer lands a Blackjack, they’ll win. In this game, a hand of an Ace and a ten-valued face card is known as a Blackjack. So, for example, if the dealer has an Ace and a King of hearts, they’ll automatically win. There’s no way to beat a Blackjack, although if both the player and the dealer both have it, the result is a push bet. This means you’ll have your stake returned to you.
An insurance bet is something a player can take to protect themselves from the dealer’s Blackjack. Should the dealer have their face-up card as an Ace, they’ll ask the player if they want to take an insurance bet.
An insurance bet is usually half of your original stake. So for example, if you bet $20 at the start of the game, your insurance will be $10. If the dealer then shows a Blackjack, you’ll lose your initial bet, but your insurance will payout at odds of two to one. In other words, you’ll break even.
If the dealer doesn’t have a Blackjack, however, your original bet will still be in play, and you’ll lose your insurance bet.
So the big question is, are insurance bets worth it? The answer really depends on the situation. In the vast majority of cases, insurance bets lose money. That’s because despite having an Ace, the likelihood of the dealer having a ten-value card is still low and will happen less than 33% of the time. The exact house edge of insurance bets will vary depending on how many decks are used. The figure is usually between 5 and 7%.
It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and panic when you see that Ace card in the dealer’s hand. That’s exactly what the casino wants, and it’s very profitable for them to offer insurance, otherwise, they wouldn’t do it. The rare times when insurance bets are worth it are when you yourself have a Blackjack.
As a Blackjack will payout higher than a regular hand, at three to two, it’s worth it to take out insurance. In the worst-case scenario, the dealer also has a Blackjack. Here your original bet will be a push, but you’ll also make money off the insurance bet. The best case is you’ll lose the small bet on insurance but win big on the three to two odds.
While insurance isn’t necessary and in some cases, will lose more than you’ll gain, it does have its uses. We recommend using it when you have a Blackjack if you prefer to play it safe. If you’re betting low or playing aggressively, it’s not needed.
Knowing when to surrender
Surrendering or giving up is allowed in most Blackjack rule sets. Depending on the game you’re playing, there may be some restrictions on when or how you’re able to surrender. Surrendering allows the player to fold their cards and give up half their bet. In other words, if you choose to surrender after being dealt with your hand, you’ll sit out that round and have half your bet returned to you.
Knowing when to surrender is a big part of playing Blackjack well and winning often. It might sometimes feel counterintuitive to give up, but if you’re going to lose anyway, the least you can do is get back half of your bet.
While surrendering isn’t something you should be doing too often, there are a few times where it can help you improve your odds. Fifteen and sixteen are the two worst hands in Blackjack, and if the dealer has a strong face -p card, it’s best to surrender and wait for the next hand.
If you have a hard sixteen and the dealer has a nine, ten, or Ace, you should surrender. Likewise, if you have a hard fifteen and the dealer has a ten. In most cases, surrendering gives you a chance at getting something back from a losing position and will hopefully help you to win more in the long run.