USA Online Blackjack Strategy
Playing blackjack online can give you access to the most favorable rules and odds and can actually pay off better in some cases than playing in a land-based casino. However, there are a few things you should know before you begin, whether you're a total newcomer or a seasoned player who has spent quite a bit of time playing this exciting game in various casino settings.
As such, we decided to develop this Online Blackjack Strategy section to provide you with some basic blackjack rules and tips, as we are committed to becoming the most comprehensive USA online blackjack guide on the Internet. We don't go into complex betting schemes or advanced strategy, but rather have designed this section to assist players who are new to the online version of the game. Learn these, and put those online blackjack bonuses to work!
The game of blackjack consists of a very simple objective: get closer to 21 than the dealer does without going over (and in fewer total cards). This is a fun and exciting game, and isn't all that hard if you nail down a basic strategy. As you become more experienced in the game, you can progress to more advanced strategies and betting schemes.
For now, take the time to learn the following online blackjack strategy and tips to get your online gambling off to a nice steady pace that can turn out to be financially and emotionally rewarding!
First of all, unless otherwise noted, when playing live blackjack online, your cards are always dealt from a brand new six-deck or eight-deck shoe, eliminating most opportunities for counting cards or tracking shuffles. If, however, you follow good basic strategy as outlined below, you will obtain a solid chance at beating the house, and keeping the house advantage at around a nice small 1% figure.
The most crucial element that will drive many of your decisions is based on what card the dealer is showing. Following these rules will help you win more hands, more often.
Hit and Stand Rules
- If the dealer's card is a 7 or higher, then you need to continue accepting cards until you've reached a total of 17 or more.
- If the card showing for the dealer is a 3 - 6, then don't risk a bust, as the odds of the dealer busting increase in this case, and you have a good chance of winning that round.
The reason these rules work is quite simple. In most games, unless the rules state otherwise, the dealer must stand on 17 and is required to draw at 16 or below. This means that the dealer is unable to stop taking cards until he or she reaches 17.
When you are determining what to do, assume that the dealer will draw a 10 card next, and make your next action based on those assumed results. If the dealer's revealed card is a 7-10 value, then receiving a 10 would give them a 'made hand' and the dealer will be able to stop accepting cards.
In this case, should you stop accepting cards before you reach 17, you will loose. However, if the dealer's exposed card is a 3, 4, 5, or 6 and they receive a 10, then they cannot stop drawing cards and have a strong chance of busting, in which case all the players still in the round will get paid.
If the dealer is showing a 2, the dynamics are much more risky, and your approach should be to continue taking cards until you reach 14, and hope the dealer busts. This scenario is more risky as your chances of busting with a hand of 14 are higher than the dealer's chances with a deuce in their hand.
There are cases where its difficult to know what to do. If the dealer has a 6 card showing, and you hold 12 in your hand, then what's the best option? Most players would follow Rule 2, as the dealer has a much more likely chance of busting since he or she cannot stop on 16.
Note on busting in blackjack: The players always have to play their hands out first. If both the players and the dealer bust, the dealer wins because the players bust first as they are required to play first. This is the biggest advantage that the house has.
From the player's perspective, the cards you want to see as the dealer's top card are 3-6, with 5 being the best card for the dealer to have as it is the card that is most likely to drive them to bust. The worst cards for the dealer to have from the player's point of view are 9, 10, J, Q, K, and Ace, as these cards provide the easiest way for the dealer to obtain a better-than-average hand. The 7 and 8 cards are considered neutral for the dealer but can still yield a value of 17 or higher. The average value of a hand in blackjack is 18.3, so you need to play with some skill and adhere to a set strategy to beat the average hand more often than not.
If you have an Ace in your hand, coupled with 2-7, you should consider taking another card depending on what the dealer is showing, as the Ace provides flexibility to grow your hand value. The only time you would automatically stand is if you get an Ace/8 or an Ace/9 or higher.
Hard Hand Or Soft Hand Blackjack Rules
A blackjack hard hand is a hand that either includes no Aces or includes an Ace that is counted as a one. A soft hand in blackjack is a hand where an Ace counts as 11. Here are the strategy rules to follow for hard and soft "Hit or Stand" decisions.
- If you have an Ace coupled with a 2-5, assume a value of one for the Ace and continue to take cards (hit) until you reach 17 or better.
- If you have an Ace and a 6 card, you should always hit and continue to improve your hand until you reach a total value of 17 or more with the ace valued at one.
- If you hold an Ace and a 7, and the dealer is showing a 9 or a 10, the chances are that you will loose that hand if you stand. Thus you should continue taking cards until you reach 17 or better. You might only reach 17, or even bust, but since the odds are against your hand versus the dealer's 9 or 10, you are still making the best move by hitting. Many people don't understand this logic and may advise you against it, however it is the best way to try to get the odds in your favor.
- If your hand holds an Ace and an 8 or 9, then you count the Ace as 11 and you beat the average 18.3 hand and are in good shape. The odds are very much against your being able to improve your hand over the 19 or 20 without busting, so you should stand in this case.
Doubling Down Rules
Many casinos allow you to double down, which means you can double your bet after your first two cards and receive and additional card. The secret to successful doubling down is timing. There are different double down strategies for soft hands (Ace = 11) and hard hands (Ace = 1).
Hard Hand Double Down Strategy
- If your hand totals 11, double down against any dealer card other than an Ace
- If your hand totals 10, you should double down if the dealer's card is a 2-9.
- If your hand totals 9, you should only double down if the dealer's card is a 3-6.
Soft Hand Double Down Strategy
- If your hand includes an Ace coupled with a 2-5 card, then double down if the dealer's card is a 4, 5, or 6.
- If your hand includes an Ace coupled with a 6 or 7, then double down only if the dealer's card is a 3-6.
Splitting Pairs Strategy
Splitting pairs is typically practiced to avoid losing the round and winning at least one hand in the split. If you receive two of the same cards, you can split the cards into two hands and play them individually. You only want to split a hand if it gives you a better chance of winning. Here is a list of the preferred splitting scenarios that are adhered to by most players:
- If your hand has two 2's, split if the dealer shows a 2-7
- If your hand has two 3's, split if the dealer shows a 2-7
- If your hand has two 4's, split if the dealer shows a 5 or 6
- If your hand has two 5's, never split
- If your hand has two 6's, split if the dealer shows a 3-6
- If your hand has two 7's, split if the dealer shows a 2-7
- If your hand has two 8's, always split
- If your hand has two 9's, split if the dealer shows a 3-6, 8, or 9
- If your hand has two 10's, never split
- If your hand has two aces, always split
A surrender allows you to keep half of your bet after your first two cards are dealt. Some casinos have a few stipulations, such as not allowing you to surrender when the dealer shows an Ace, but that is on a case by case basis, so review the surrender terms prior to playing at the online casino you've selected.
If you would like to make your strategy even more interesting, check out our article on blackjack card counting.