How to Devise the Right Online Blackjack Strategy

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The right online blackjack strategy can mean the difference between winning and losing playing the game. Online blackjack actually gives players a legitimate chance to make a profit in the long run. But that’s only possible if you can devise the right online blackjack strategy.

In the past few weeks, we’ve been giving you some of the basics of online blackjack. We showed you how to get started and how you can pick games that are beneficial to you. Now it’s time to move on to a more advanced concept like how to devise the right strategy for online blackjack.

We’ve been making this effort because we know that people are stuck at home looking for entertainment. In the case of online blackjack, it might just be that you like playing for fun. If that’s the case, playing free online blackjack might be enough for you.

Playing for Real Money

But if it’s more that you want to play for the chance to win real money with your online blackjack exploits, you’ll need to learn strategy. And that should be a process where you seek some help. Because the first mistake of online blackjack is when you try to do it all yourself.

If you’re making decisions in the spur of the moment, you could be hurting your chances at maximizing your online blackjack winnings. You might be going on hunches about what cards you think are going to come. In terms of online blackjack, that’s a no-no, because your chances of receiving any card are relatively random from hand to hand.

You might also have taken advice by word of mouth from other players. But in reality, many of the traditional blackjack maxims have been proven false. If you follow them blindly, you’d be making mistakes along the way.

Many people also think online blackjack strategy is limited to just worrying about when to hit and when to stand. But in actuality, you also have to take into account some of the specialty plays you can make, such as doubling, splitting, insurance and surrender. Knowing how to utilize these tools will make a big difference in your payback.

Ultimately, your goal is to learn the right play in every situation. If you can do that, you will give yourself a legitimate chance, between the game itself and rewards you can earn, of making a profit playing online blackjack. That’s something you can’t say about many other online casino offerings.

In the following article, we’ll explain how you can learn perfect online blackjack strategy. We’ll go into how you can use strategy charts or lists of rules to go into each session knowing exactly what plays to make. At the end of this article, you should have the tools to start devising the right online blackjack strategy for you.

Reviewing Online Blackjack Game Play

Before we get to online blackjack strategy, it’s a good idea to recap how the game is played. This will help out all those reading this article who might be completely new to the game. If you have played before, consider this a quick review.

The Deal

The dealer deals two cards face up to all players at the virtual blackjack table. They’ll also deal themselves two cards, but only one is face up.

Deals come from a predetermined number of decks. Most online games use 6 decks, but fewer or more may be used.

Online blackjack often uses automated dealers who reshuffle all the cards after every hand. Games with live dealers may continue to deal from the decks for a while before reshuffling, with the cards played to that point out of play until the reshuffle occurs.

The Cards

Each card has a value assigned to it. Those values are as follows:

  • 2 through 9: face value
  • 10, jack, queen, king: 10
  • Ace: 1 or 11 (depending on which value helps your hand the most)

You’ll add the value of the two cards you were dealt and compare it to the dealer’s card as you start making decisions about how to play the hand.

Winning or Losing the Hand

How To Win

  • Have a value of 21 on your first two cards while the dealer has any other value than 21. This is called a blackjack and usually pays off 3 to 2 on your original wager.
  • End up with a value of 21 or lower after all your cards are played and have that value be higher than what the dealer has at the end of the hand. You get paid back your original wager.
  • End up with a value of 21 of lower after all your cards are played while the dealer goes over 21 (also known as a bust.) You get paid back your original wager.

How To Lose

  • Have a value of lower than 21 on the first two cards while the dealer has a blackjack
  • Have a value of lower than 21 while the dealer also has a value of 21 or lower that is higher than your value
  • Go over 21 (bust)

How To Tie (Or Push)

  • End up with the same value as the dealer while neither goes over 21

Your Choices

  • Hit: Add cards to your hand, with the value adding to your previous value. You can hit as many times as you like.
  • Stand: End your hand. You can do this after the first two cards or at any point after committing one of the other actions.
  • Double: Double your original bet. When you double, you get one more card added to your hand and then your hand is complete.
  • Split: You can split your original deal into two separate hands if the value of the first two cards is the same (like a pair of 8s, or a jack and a queen). When you split, you have to add another bet the same size as the first. You’ll get a card apiece added to the cards you split, and then will proceed to play them as two separate hands.
  • Insurance: This is a kind of side bet that comes into play only when the dealer has an ace showing. To hedge your bet against the dealer having blackjack, you can make an insurance bet of up to half your original wager. You’ll get paid 2 to 1 if the dealer has blackjack; if not, you lose the insurance bet and play out your hand.
  • Surrender: A surrender allows you to give up the hand after the deal without playing it out. You would lose just half of your original bet and the other half will be returned to you.

The Dealer’s Options

The dealer plays their cards after all players at the online blackjack table plays theirs.

Their options are limited to the following:

  • Hit: If their value is less than 17, the dealer must hit until the value is 17 or over.
  • Stand: Once the dealer’s value is 17 or more, they must stand.

The Two Best Methods of Learning Online Blackjack Strategy

Learning online blackjack shouldn’t be a case of trying to do it on your own. You might think that you can learn by trial and error. In other words, you would just keep playing online blackjack until you know all the right plays based on what’s happened in the past.

The problem is that you might form a bias about what to do based on a small sampling of past results.

As an Extreme Example:

Let’s say that you were once dealt a 9 and a 10, and the dealer has a 10 showing. You might have heard in the past from somebody else that the best way to play blackjack is to always assume that the dealer has a value of 10 with their hidden card. This is actually poor advice, since the dealer actually has a less than 1 in 3 chance of having a card with a value of 10 hidden.

But for the sake of this example, let’s assume that you took that advice to heart. Fearing that the dealer was sitting on 20, which would top your 19, you decide to hit. The card that you receive is a 2.

You make a 21 and you win the hand. As a result, you think that every time a similar hand comes up, you should hit.

Of course, you were extremely lucky to get the 2. You would likely bust playing the hand this way about 12 out of every 13 times. It might take three or four losses for it to sink in that you’re making the wrong play.

The lesson here is that you can’t know the right or wrong plays based on past experience. You have to rely on advice gained from computer algorithms which play thousands and thousands of blackjack hands, running every possible situation in terms of your cards and the dealer’s cards.

This will eventually present a tried-and-true set of plays for every online blackjack situation. There are two ways you can process this information. Let’s take a look at both.

Strategy Lists

Online blackjack strategy lists give you a list of what you should do, in terms of hitting, standing, doubling, etc. These lists should cover every possible situation that might come up in terms of what the dealer has and what you have.

As an example, you might see entries like this on the list:

  • Split aces and eights
  • Double on 11
  • Surrender on 16 (although not with pair of 8s) when dealer has 9, 10 or ace

These are just a few of the rules you might see on the list. How many rules depends on how advanced the strategy might be.

You might find a strategy list where there are less than 10 rules listed. Or you might find others that have as many 30 items on the list. What’s the difference?

Well, the general rule of thumb is that the longer lists will generally be better for you in terms of your expected results. These lists will often consider more nuance in terms of how the hands are constructed than the shorter lists. As a result, if you want to devise the right online blackjack for winning the most money, you’re better off with one of the longer lists.

These lists can often differ slightly depending upon the source. Most of these sources will quote a payback percentage that you can expect to achieve if you follow the rules to the letter. That percentage will usually be in the range of 99.5 percent or a little bit higher.

Why then would you settle for a shorter online blackjack strategy list?

Well, it would be easier to memorize. With a list of less than 10 items, you could probably memorize it in a very short time and be up and playing with this strategy in your head pretty quick.

Of course, the short list means that there are times when it might not be as accurate in determining the right play as a longer, more-detailed list might be. As a result, you’d be looking at payback percentage that is slightly lower with a shorter list.

Which way you choose to go will depend on your own preferences. If you want to keep it simple and stave off confusion, choosing a shorter online blackjack list will be the way to go. But if, instead, you’re trying to maximize your results, you should consider taking the time to completely memorize one of the longer lists.

Strategy Charts

With an online blackjack strategy chart, you’ll have all your bases covered for every possible situation that might come up during a hand. You’ll see blocks on these charts where cards that you have connect to what the dealer has. From that, you can see what the correct play should be.

Let’s take a look at what a just a portion of such a chart might look like:

Your Hand Dealer Card: 2 Dealer Card: 3 Dealer Card: 4
Hard 12 Hit Hit Stand
Hard 13 Stand Stand Stand
Hard 14 Stand Stand Stand

This chart shows the plays that should be made when you have anywhere from 12 to 14 and the dealer has a 2 through 4 showing. Once you memorize the chart, you’ll know what to do in these instances.

For example, imagine that you’ve been dealt a 2 and a 10 and the dealer has a 2 showing. After taking a look, you’ll see that the right play is to hit.

Let’s say that you hit and you received a 2. That would put your value at 14. Consulting the chart again, you can see that the right play is to stand.

By the way, you’ll see the terms “hard” and “soft” on online blackjack strategy charts. What do they mean?

Well, if you have a soft 14, it means that you have an ace involved and are valuing the ace as 11 instead of 1. It’s said to be soft because, should you hit and get an 8 or higher, you wouldn’t bust. The value of the ace could then be switched to 1 to keep you in the hand.

By contrast, a hard 14 would be any 14 that didn’t have an ace or one that does have an ace where the ace’s value has to be 1. For example, if you had ace, 3, and 10, that would be a hard 14 (1 plus 3 plus 10.) If the ace’s value were 11, it would be a bust.

As is the case with strategy lists, you will find some strategy charts that are much more involved than others. Some might be color-coded to make memorization easier. No matter which one you find, however, make sure that that it also includes information on when you should be doubling, splitting and surrendering.

Notice that we didn’t mention insurance. In basic online blackjack strategy, it’s never a good idea to buy insurance. The math of it doesn’t add up.

Consider that the dealer has a less than 1 in 3 chance of having blackjack with an ace showing. Yet you’re getting just 2 to 1 payback on the insurance bet. It’s simply not worth it.

Is Advanced Online Blackjack Strategy Possible?

Even though some strategy lists and charts are more advanced than others, you’re still only be getting basic online blackjack strategy from them. Whenever someone talks about advanced strategy in blackjack, they’re usually talking about the concept known as card counting.

Card counting is a long-running and somewhat controversial technique used by expert blackjack players to give them an edge over the house. If you try this in a casino and don’t do it subtly, you could be warned or ever banned from playing the game.

Obviously, you’d have a better chance of getting away with card counting if you were playing online. You wouldn’t even have to do all the math in your head, since there’s no one to see what you’re doing. All they can see are the bets you’re making and whether you’re hitting, standing, etc.

The downside is that effective card counting in online blackjack is next to impossible. And to understand why, you have to understand how card counting works.

The idea behind card counting is that, depending on what cards have already been played in previous hands, the advantage might shift to either the player or the dealer. If you know when the advantage is with you, you can bet more to make the most of it. By contrast, when the dealer has the edge, you can lower your bets.

But none of that works unless the cards that are played in previous hands go out of play for a while. With automatic dealers for online blackjack, that doesn’t happen. The cards are reshuffled every time, which eliminates any edge you might get from card counting.

There are certain online blackjack games which use live dealers. You’ll see them by camera on your screen dealing your cards as if they were right there in front of you in the casino. In these games, there is no reshuffling on every hand, because it would take forever for the dealer to do it and would slow play down to a crawl.

However, that doesn’t mean that card counting is effective in live-dealer games. Even though there isn’t constant reshuffling, there is still more reshuffling than there would be if you were playing in the casino. And that mitigates the edge brought about by card counting.

At most, in these live online blackjack dealer games, you might be lucky to add maybe a few fractions of a percentage point to your payback by card counting. Considering that casino card counters can sometimes add around two full percentage points with the technique, it might not sound like much. And it might not be worth the effort to try it and risk alienating the gambling site you’re using.

Conclusion

We hope that you now have a good idea on how to devise a winning online blackjack strategy at top gambling websites. Do a little research and some homework and your results are bound to improve.

Jim Beviglia

Jim Beviglia joined Gamblingsites.org as a staff writer in 2018, parlaying his years of freelance writing into contributions on a number of different topics. He handles the sport of horse racing for GamblingSites.org and the intersection between the worlds of cryptocurrency and online gambling in a weekly blog. For his full-time job, Jim handles the television and track announcing duties at a h ...

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