How To Play Blackjack


Blackjack is recognised as one of the most popular casino table games. The aim of the game is to beat the dealer by acquiring a hand that reaches a value of 21. In order to win, the game is heavily dependent on optimal decision making as every hand will affect the outcome. The best blackjack strategy is a basic one and players who have a lot of experience, will rarely, if ever deviate from this strategy.

Blackjack Basic Strategyblackjack basic-strategy

The basic strategy is known as the most effective way to play Blackjack. Statistical probabilities have been calculated, which outline the optimal move to make in any given Blackjack situation. Basic strategy is all about maximising your winnings and minimising your losses. Due to the ways in which blackjack is played, the dealer will always have a slight advantage. However, if you follow basic strategy, you will most likely reduce the significance of the dealer’s advantage. It is important to note that this basic strategy does not guarantee a win, it only improves the chances of winning by using probability to make decisions. Sometimes, people start to go with their gut, instead of sticking to the rules. This strategy should always be used throughout the game, deviations will result in a less than optimal performance and will increase the probability of a loss.

Have a look at the blackjack chart below to see when to hit and stand. The basic rules state that you should always hit when the value of your cards are equal to, or less than 11 in total. The basic rules also state that you should always stand when the value of your cards are greater than, or equal to 17. Sign up with  7reels online casino today and try out this strategy on their blackjack tables.

Dealers tend to use four or six decks, it is not common to see two or eight decks being used. Some sites also offer single deck blackjack, although this is often limited to one hand only. Due to the fact that the cards are shuffled after every hand, it doesn’t really give the player any real significant advantage. Unless, a large number of one card in particular (eg. 3 Kings) appears many times in one single hand. This, of course, will have a great impact on further decision making.

 Advanced Blackjack Strategy

When playing Blackjack, there are many different decisions a player can make. Once you have a full understanding of the basics, you can further improve your chances of big wins by deviating from the basic strategy (where applicable). If you want to improve your chances of beating the dealer, choosing the best time to hit, stand, split, double down and surrender is vital to your success.

Splitblackjack - how to split

When you are dealt two cards of the same denomination (e.g. two eights, two tens or two jacks) you will have the option to split them into two separate hands. You signal your intention to split by spreading two fingers apart in a scissor motion. When you split, the dealer will deal two more cards (one for each hand) and your bet is doubled. The bet for the new hands must be equal to the amount you placed on the original first two cards dealt. Splitting gives you two chances to beat the dealer (or lose). High-level strategy players know when to split. As there are only ten card values, learning the optimal decision to make is fairly simple. See a full breakdown of when to split or not, below.

Most Blackjack games will allow you to split a hand a maximum of three times. This means that you can play a total of up to four hands at one time. Remember to check the house rules before placing bets to ensure to ensure that you are complying with the casino. There is usually a small game-play rules next to the table, of if playing online, you will find the rules in a tab. Familiarise yourself with all rules, including double down and surrender, to ensure that you can play optimally.

There are some situations where it makes sense for the player to split, regardless of the dealers upcard. Splitting will give you the strongest hand and will increase your chances of beating the dealer.

Always split Aces and 8s.

Splitting will give you a much better chance of getting the strongest hand. Playing two aces as one hand means you start with a value of 12 (Ace =1, Ace = 11) In this instance, you will need to score a value of 9 on your next hand to get 21. If you score a 10, you will be forced to play the second ace as 1 and this will bring your total to 12. However, if you split your two Aces, you can play both at the value of 11, which means you have four ways to get a 21 in either hand. (10, J, Q or K).

Here are some other instances in which you could split, to increase your advantage and diminish the house edge.

  • Split 2s and 3s against a dealer 4-7, and against a 2 or 3 if Double After Split (DAS) is allowed.
  • Split 4s only if DAS is allowed and the dealer shows a 5 or 6.
  • Split 6s against a dealer 3-6, and against a 2 if DAS is allowed.
  • Split 7s against a dealer 2-7.
  • Split 9s against a dealer 2-6 or 8-9

Never split 4s, 5s and 10s.

Splitting 10s is a common mistake made in Blackjack. By Splitting a total value of 20, you are decreasing your chances of beating the dealer twofold and relying on an Ace to improve your stance. Card counters who have a good knowledge of what cards are left in the deck, may choose to split 10s. They do this as they know that they have a reasonable chance of getting at least 20 on both hands.

Splitting low values like 4s and 5s, will just give you a weaker hand. When you decide to split, you also have to double your wager. Splitting low cards will likely mean that you’ll lose your money. In addition, you should look at two 5s as the value of 10. This is a strong hand and you stand a fair chance of getting 21 on the first hit. In essence, you will only decrease your chances of winning by splitting 5s and will likely be at a loss.

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blackjack double-downDouble Down

Want to know how to break even or win at Blackjack when your chances of winning are less than 50%? Well, double down is one way to do just that! Double down means that you can double the amount of your initial bet and you will receive one draw card. There are two variables which can determine whether or not you should double down – (1) the total of your cards and (2) the dealer’s up card. This will be explored in greater detail below:

Single Deck – Hard hand

If you have a hard hand total count of 8 and the dealer’s count is 5 or 6, then you should double down. You should also double down if your hand is 9 or 10 and the dealer’s up card is 2 – 6 or 2 – 9 respectively. When the total of your cards is 11 then you should always double down, regardless of the dealer’s up card.

Single Deck – Soft hand

If you hand is A-2 or A-3, double against the dealer when they have a 5 or 6 up card. If you’re hand is A-4 or A-5, double against the dealer when they have a 4,5 or 6. For a hand of A-6 or A-7, double up when the dealer has a 3 – 6 up card.

Note: For double deck and 4/6/8 variations refer to the chart. This details the optimal decision to make based on all hand variations you and the dealer can have.D

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Surrender is a Blackjack decision that allows you to fold, instead of playing out the hand. This option also means that you will be given 50% of your stake back. If you have a really bad starting hand, then this is a way to minimise losses and regain some of your money back. Due to the fact that it’s rarely, if ever used by players, a lot of casinos do not have this option displayed. Always ask ask the dealer if surrender is allowed. If you’re in luck, you can use this strategy to add value to your game.

How do I Surrender?

Your ability to surrender is dependent on many variables. If you have already hit, doubled down or split, then you won’t be allowed to surrender. You can only surrender a hand if you make it the very first action on the hand. To avoid confusion, it is best to verbally tell the dealer that you want to surrender. You can also hold up both of your hands ( with palms facing the dealer) which will signal that you have “given up”. Another way to surrender is to use a finger to draw a horizontal line just behind your bet. Think of it as ‘crossing out your bet’, this is another signal that will let the dealer know that you have chosen to fold.


  • Only a two card total can be surrendered
  • Surrender cannot be used if the player has already acted on their hand.blackjack surrender

Early vs. Late Surrender

There are two Surrender variations: (1) Early Surrender – where you surrender your hand before the dealer is able to check for Blackjack. (2) Late Surrender – this is only available after the dealer checks for Blackjack. Late Surrender is used more commonly, than its Early counterpart.

What Hands do I Surrender?

If you use the Surrender strategy properly, you can reduce the house edge by 0.07%. Given that Blackjack is a game wholly based on percentages and advantages, sticking to optimal strategies will help you become a consistent winner. Remember, do not overuse the Surrender option and always be calculated in your approach. Here are some details on which hands to surrender.

When using Late Surrender on six-deck games, follow these simple rules below:

  • Surrender hard 15 against a dealer Ten
  • Surrender hard 16 against a dealer 9
  • Surrender hard 16 against a dealer Ten
  • Surrender hard 16 against a dealer Ace

Note: If the dealer hits soft 17, these surrenders should also be included:

  • Surrender hard 15 against a dealer Ace
  • Surrender (8,8) against a dealer Ace
  • Surrender hard 17 against a dealer Ace

The Value of Surrender

When used effectively by a basic strategy player, Surrender can reduce the house advantage between 0.07%-0.09%. Of course, this depends on the rules of the game laid out by the live casino in question. It would be better if you didn’t need to surrender, but, if the opportunity strikes and you don’t want to lose all of your stake, Surrender might just save the day.

Now, go forth and use your knowledge of Surrender and other basic strategy options to win some money. Why not play Blackjack today with BoVegas Casino.