Aside from just being a fun card game, blackjack is also a game where it’s possible to virtually eliminate the house edge. If you play at tables with favorable rules and use an optimal strategy, it’s possible to push the house edge down to just 1%, .5%, and sometimes even lower. There’s no other game in the casino where that is possible.
You might think that with so many possible situations in a game of blackjack, effective strategies must be complicated and hard to remember. That’s not necessarily true, however. Sure, if you want to play like the pros and squeeze out every last coin, you can drill down through all the complexities and memorize the single perfect choice for every possible situation. There are surprisingly good strategies, though, that can bring the house edge down to about 1% and they are neither extremely complex nor hard to remember.
Of course, the most fundamental part of any blackjack strategy is to have a good place to play. If you want to enjoy yourself as much as possible and learn as much as you can about the game of blackjack, you owe it to yourself to find a USA friendly online casino that offers real money online blackjack tables with everything that you’re looking for. We’ve put together a list of some of the best casinos available to US players with great blackjack rules that will let you make the most of your bankroll.
Online Blackjack Do’s And Don’ts
The most important part of maximizing your money at the blackjack table is to choose the right games to play. The rules of the table will dictate how big or how little of an edge the house will ultimately have over any strategy.
Payout On Blackjack
The first thing you should look for is the payout for being dealt blackjack. Blackjack should pay 3 to 2 (or 3:2). There are many games out there that pay 6 to 5 for blackjack. At first glance, 6 to 5 may look better because the numbers are bigger, but that’s not the case. With 3 to 2, you are getting back 150% of your wager when you win with blackjack. At 6 to 5, you are only getting back 120% of your wager. That gives the house a significant edge over the player.
Play With As Few Decks As Possible
When playing blackjack online or in a real casino, the game that uses the fewest decks of cards is almost always the most favorable for the player. In some cases, you may find that a six-deck game is better than a single-deck game because of variations in the rules, but if you see a six-deck game and a two-deck game with the same rules it will always be in your best interest to play the two-deck game.
Look For American Hole Card Rules
Under American rules, if the dealer’s face-up card is worth ten points he will peek at his hole card to see if it is an ace, which would give him blackjack, meaning all players without blackjack automatically lose. Under European rules, the dealer does not peek at his hole card and the players will play out their hands before they know what the dealer has. This means you could double down or split and get several more bets on the table only to find that you had already lost.
Obviously, it’s going to benefit you if your hand is dead before you have the chance to put more money on the table unaware that you can’t possibly win.
Double, Split, And Surrender
The more liberal the game is with double, split, and surrender options, the better it is for the player. If you can find a game that allows the player to surrender a hand, you should take it over a game that doesn’t. A game that will let you split hands freely or multiple times is also more favorable for the player than a game that only allows you to split a hand once or split with specific pairs. Finally, look for games that will allow you to double down after splitting.
Optimal Blackjack Strategy
What’s known as the basic blackjack strategy can be somewhat complicated. There are plenty of references for it, but even with a chart in front of you, it can be difficult to find the exact situation you’re looking for and decipher the correct choice with any type of efficient speed. The strategy can be simplified, however, to a form that is much easier to remember and only gives up about .14% of your winning odds. Compared to following the exact basic strategy (which accounts for more than 400 individual situations), that equates to losing about one extra hand for every 12 hours of play in a live casino environment.
Hands that you’ll run into when playing blackjack can be separated into specific groups and, as you’ll see, you’ll find similarities between those groups that will make them fairly easy to remember and use while you’re playing. All you’ll need to do is recognize the the type of hand you’ve been dealt, decide if the dealer is showing a high card or a low card, and act accordingly.
Here’s how it works:
Let’s first establish that if the dealer is showing a card with a value of two through six, we’ll call that a low card. If the dealer is showing a card with a value of seven or above (including the ace), we’ll call that a high card.
“Hard” hands are any hands that don’t contain an ace and can’t be split (they are not pairs). If you have one of the following hands and the strategy indicates that you should double but you can’t, then you should hit.
- With 8 or fewer points, always hit
- With 9 points, double against a dealer low card, hit against a high card
- With 10 or 11 points, double if your total is higher than the dealer’s card, otherwise hit
- With 12 to 16 points, stand against a low card, hit against a high card
Exception: Surrender 16 against 10 if rules allow
- With 17 or more, always stand
“Soft” hands are hands that contain one ace. Count the ace as 11 points when comparing to the point totals below. If the strategy indicates that you should double but you can’t because you already have three or more cards, then you should hit. The one exception is a soft 18. If you can’t double on a soft 18 made up of three cards or more, stand.
- With 13 to 15, always hit
- With 16 to 18, double against a low card, hit against a high card
- With 19 or more, always stand
Whenever you are dealt a pair of the same value cards you can split them to make two separate hands. Some casinos will allow you to split more than once if you are dealt another pair after the initial split. The rules for splitting are pretty easy to remember.
- With 8s and aces, always split
- With 2s, 3s, 6s, 7s, and 9s, split against a low card
- With 4s, 5s, or 10s, never split
A quick and easy way to think about splitting is to first remember eights and aces always split. Then remember never to split a pair that starts with F—fours, fives, or face cards. All the rest split against a low card.
The final rule of any blackjack strategy is that you should never take the insurance bet. The insurance bet has a ridiculous edge for the house built in and will cost you a lot of money over the long run. If the dealer has blackjack, so be it. You should never take insurance.
Blackjack Bonuses Improve Your Odds
As we mentioned above, there is no other game in the casino where it’s possible to bring the house edge down to such a low level. What’s even better about online blackjack, though, is that when you factor in things like bonus offers or VIP points, it is sometimes possible to actually reverse the odds and give yourself a winning edge over the house.
By following basic blackjack strategy strictly and taking advantage of favorable blackjack bonus offers at online casinos, you can turn more of your online blackjack sessions into winning sessions. Of course, one of the best things about playing blackjack online is that if you really can’t or don’t want to remember a strategy, there’s nothing stopping you from keeping the information you need open in another browser tab or window while you play. Everything you need is always at your fingertips.
The Bottom Line
Blackjack has a bit of everything. It can be exciting. It can be relaxing. There’s some luck and there’s some strategy. It’s fun and it’s sophisticated. It’s no wonder that it has consistently been one of the most popular games in casinos all over the world right from the start.
Online casinos have only improved the game. There are more variants, exciting new twists, and most importantly, there’s always an open seat at the table. Now that you know how to make the most of online blackjack, it’s time to find your favorite table. Remember, though, it’s important to know your limits. Never gamble with money that you can’t afford to lose.