Like all casino games, blackjack is deeply rooted in luck, and you’ll need a decent slice of that to be profitable playing the ever-popular card game.
But unlike roulette and slots, some skill can be applied that decreases the house’s edge and, consequently, increases your chances of winning.
So, whether you’re looking to play blackjack at a land-based casino, on your computer at home, or just with friends, how do improve your chances of being profitable at the blackjack table?
Perfect Blackjack Strategy
Some people consider the pursuit of perfection to be a weakness – they even write as much on job application forms and the like, but in blackjack, achieving the perfect game should be your aim every time you take your seat at the table.
This isn’t like playing the perfect bowling game – that requires an immense amount of skill and hand-eye coordination. No, perfect blackjack requires the diligence to learn the necessary hand combinations and the ‘percentage play.’ Then you need the concentration to implement the strategies and the discipline to stick with them even as you embark on a losing streak.
Unfortunately, there’s no guaranteed system that enables you to win every time you play blackjack – anyone that suggests otherwise is either a) a fool or b) trying to sell you something.
But by applying the principles of basic blackjack strategy, which we will outline now, you can move the odds slightly away from the house and back in your favour.
What is Basic Blackjack Strategy?
As we know, blackjack is a game of random chance – whether you get a great hand like A-K or a weaker option like 8-5 depends on the luck of the draw.
But blackjack is different from other casino games, as it allows you to make decisions in the middle of a betting round – will you hit, stand, double down, split pairs and so on? And it’s here where ‘smart’ players gain their edge.
Blackjack is a game that has fascinated millions for centuries. From the speculators at the tables in Las Vegas to mathematicians like Edward Thorp looking to crack the code of a game that is thought to have been around since the eighteenth century, this simple card game has attracted players for more than 300 years.
Blackjack has been tweaked over the years to make it a profitable business model for casinos. While theoretically, the player and the dealer have an equal chance of winning, the house has one considerable advantage – they get to play second.
So, their profit margin is attained from players who don’t know the percentage plays and who hit until they bust, who stand too soon and don’t play advantageous positions where they could double down and split properly.
Basic blackjack strategy has been worked on for years, and now it has reached the point where every scenario that can unfold at the table, of which there are hundreds, can be played the ‘right’ way when you know the various rules and combinations.
How to Play Perfect Blackjack
The first thing to note about basic blackjack strategy is that it does not eliminate the house edge, and it does not remove the chance that you will receive a series of bad hands in your play.
But what it does do is give you a set of ‘rules’ to follow that ensure you are playing each hand the ‘right’ way – that is, in a manner that is mathematically proven to give you the best chance of winning.
The rub is that you will need to learn a chart that explains the right play for each scenario – which means that you will be required to know more than 200 different possible combinations that can occur.
The good news is that people have – and continue to – take the perfect blackjack charts with them to the casino, and if you are playing at an online casino or beyond, you can have the charts by your side and refer to them when required.
We’re not going to publish the chart here, but if you type ‘basic blackjack strategy’ or ‘blackjack chart’ into your favourite search engine, you will find dozens of different options available.
On the vertical ‘axis,’ you will see listed several different hand scores that you will be dealt, and all you must do is add the values together. So, if your two-hole cards are 8 and 7, your score is 15.
Once you have scrolled to 15 on the chart, run your finger along the horizontal axis until you find the value of the dealer’s upturned card. Where your hand value and their card value meet, you will see a letter that denotes that you should stand (S), hit (H) or double down (D). You will also see a separate chart dedicated to when you have been dealt a pair. Should you split or play them as they are? The chart reveals all.
There is just one more piece of housekeeping. The charts list some hands as ‘hard’ or ‘soft.’ A hard hand can only be played in a single way, whereas a soft hand is a combination that can be played in two ways.
For example, if you have a score of 17 through 10-7, then that is a hard hand. But if you have 17 via A-6, this could also be played as 7, with the Ace representing one rather than ten.
How to Win at Blackjack Every Time
If you have read this guide from top to bottom, you will already know that there is no guaranteed way to win every blackjack hand.
But what you can do is improve your chances of winning in a blackjack session by playing each hand in the right way – if your luck is in, you will win more hands than you lose and, therefore, if you have staked appropriately, you will walk away with a profit.
The house’s edge in blackjack is around 2%, which falls to 0.5% when you apply basic strategy effectively, so why wouldn’t you?