Mastering Blackjack with Strategy Charts

Basic Strategy 101 for Blackjack

Basic strategy is a set of rules that guides players on the best moves to make in any scenario in blackjack. It involves analyzing the player’s hand and the dealer’s upcard to determine the optimal move. By following basic strategy, players can maximize their winnings and minimize their losses. Strategy charts are available to assist players in implementing basic strategy effectively. These charts lay out the rules in a color-coded grid format, making it easy to understand and apply while playing 21. The concept of basic strategy was initially developed by a group of mathematicians in the 1950s. Through extensive probability simulations, they tested and validated this strategy on millions of blackjack hands. The results showed that basic strategy can decrease the house edge from 2% to 0.5%, making it a reliable tool for players to increase their chances of beating the casino.

Blackjack Strategy Chart

The use of strategy charts is an excellent way to memorize and implement basic strategy effectively. These cheat sheets present the rules in a visually organized manner, making them easy to comprehend. Strategy cards provide guidance on when to hit, stand, double down, split, or surrender in blackjack. It is essential for every player to have a strategy chart by their side when playing 21. The number of decks used in the game can affect the odds of winning, so the cheat sheets take these variations into account. Additionally, the dealer’s rules, such as standing on soft 17, may also impact basic strategy. As most casinos use 6-8 decks in their blackjack games, these charts cover different deck numbers and dealer rules to accommodate most blackjack variations. Players can utilize these sheets while playing free blackjack games or using blackjack apps to enhance their strategy skills.

Blackjack Betting Strategies

Many players try to combine basic strategy with various betting systems to optimize their approach to playing blackjack. These strategies, such as the Martingale system and the 1326 betting strategy, offer different theories and approaches to betting. Each strategy has its pros and cons and may be suited for different bankrolls and playing styles. Let’s explore the most popular betting strategies in blackjack:

Martingale System

The Martingale system is a popular betting strategy used in roulette. It aims to help players profit from their initial wager, whether it is after the first hand or several hands. The betting strategy works as follows:

  1. Make a small initial wager, e.g., $10.
  2. If you win, you have successfully guaranteed your first bet and can choose to either leave or restart the strategy.
  3. However, if you lose the next hand, the Martingale system states that you must double your wager on the following hand to attempt to recover your losses.
  4. Repeat the doubling process after every losing hand, regardless of the number of hands played.
  5. Once you win a hand, restart the strategy with your initial wager.

The theory behind Martingale is that, statistically, players will eventually win and recover any losses, even after a series of losing hands. However, this strategy requires a substantial bankroll and high maximum bet limits to be effective. For many players, the Martingale system may be too costly and risky.

1326 Betting Strategy

The 1326 betting strategy is a progressive betting system that advises players to adjust their bets strategically during the game. The name “1326” refers to the number of betting units used in this strategy. This theory is similar to the Martingale system, although it incorporates more complex rules. The betting system works as follows:

  1. Decide on the amount each betting unit represents, e.g., $10.
  2. On the first hand, place a wager of one betting unit, in this case $10.
  3. If you win that hand, increase your bet to three units on the next round, totaling $30.
  4. If you win again, add your current profit of $40 to your stack and bet two units ($20) on the following hand.
  5. If your third hand is also a winner, you have entered the final sequence, and the strategy suggests that you should bet six units ($60), combining your previous winnings.
  6. After completing the sequence, take your profit off the table and restart with one betting unit.
  7. If you lose a hand at any point in the sequence, start over with one betting unit.

The 1326 betting strategy considers the probabilities of winning two hands and losing one. It aims to decrease the wager on the third hand to protect the player’s bankroll while maximizing potential winnings. Although winning streaks of four hands in a row are uncommon, this strategy ensures that the player maximizes their profit during favorable sequences.

212 Manhattan Betting System

The 212 betting system, also known as the Manhattan system, is a more straightforward progressive betting strategy compared to the 1326. It focuses on capping potential losses, capturing winnings when successful, and optimizing the player’s bankroll during a winning streak.

  1. Decide on the value of one betting unit, e.g., $10.
  2. Begin the sequence by betting two units, equivalent to $20.
  3. If you win that hand, take your profit off the table and decrease your bet to one unit ($10) on the next hand.
  4. If you lose the hand, continue betting one unit until you secure a win. Once you win, enter the final stage of the sequence by increasing your bet to two units ($20).
  5. If you win the final hand, add one unit to every previous wager until you lose. For example, increase your bet to three units ($30).
  6. If you lose a hand at any point, restart the sequence by betting two units.

The 212 betting system aims to strike a balance between protecting the player’s bankroll and capitalizing on winning streaks. It doesn’t require a substantial bankroll like the Martingale system and focuses on smaller bet increases. Keep in mind that winning streaks of 6-10 hands are infrequent, so it’s important to manage expectations accordingly.

It’s important to note that these betting strategies are situational and not guaranteed to result in consistent winning sessions. Depending on the specific circumstances, such as card count and game progression, players may need to adapt their betting strategies accordingly. The key takeaway is to combine effective betting with basic strategy and card counting to make informed decisions about varying bet sizes.

What About Side Bets?

Side bets, along with the primary bet in blackjack, are optional wagers offered by casinos to add extra excitement to the game. Side bets, including blackjack insurance bets, come with their own strategies and specific rules. Since they are separate from basic strategy and the main game, it is important to understand and implement the appropriate strategies for these side bets. For more information, refer to our comprehensive guide on side bets in blackjack.

What Does Surrender Mean in Blackjack?

Surrender is a move in blackjack that allows players to surrender their hand back to the dealer in exchange for half of their original wager. This option is beneficial when the player’s hand has low odds of winning, offering the opportunity to save their bankroll for potential better opportunities. However, not all casinos offer the surrender option, as it favors the player. It is important for players to know when surrendering is the most advantageous move to make in order to play strategically against the dealer and maximize their chances of winning.

When Should You Surrender in Blackjack?

The decision to surrender in blackjack largely depends on the dealer’s upcard. Generally, players should consider surrendering when:

  • The dealer holds a 9, 10, or Ace, and the player has a total of hard 16.
  • The player holds a hard 15, and the dealer’s upcard is 10.

In the case of a casino offering early or late surrender, there are specific strategies players can use. Early surrender can be implemented when:

  • The dealer has an Ace upcard, and the player has a hard 5-7, hard 12-17, or pairs of 3s, 6s, 7s, or 8s.
  • The player has a hard 14-16 or pairs of 7s, and the dealer has a 10 upcard.
  • The dealer hits on soft 17, and the player has a pair of 2s.

It is essential to remember that surrendering means losing 50% of the wager, so it should only be employed when the odds of winning are significantly low. Surrendering in these cases helps save money in the long run by avoiding further losses.

How Does Surrender Affect the House Edge?

The implementation of surrender in blackjack can decrease the casino’s edge by different percentages depending on the type of surrender. Early surrender, although rarely offered, can reduce the house edge by approximately 0.63%. Late surrender, which is more commonly available, can decrease the house edge by roughly 0.1%. While these percentages may seem relatively low, they can significantly impact the overall advantage of the player, especially when combined with perfect blackjack strategy and effective card counting. Surrender strategies offer players valuable tools to gain an edge over the casino and improve their chances of winning.

What is Split in Blackjack?

Splitting is a move that players can make in blackjack when they are dealt two cards of the same value. By splitting the hand, the player creates two new hands and receives an additional card for each one. This strategy allows players to maximize their potential winnings. However, it is crucial to understand which pairs to split on to make the most advantageous decisions. Here are some guidelines for splitting in blackjack:

Always Split:

  • Aces: Splitting a pair of Aces creates the opportunity to form stronger hands since they can equal 2 or 22. This potential for blackjack, especially when combined with a face card or a 10, makes splitting Aces the optimal move.
  • 8s: Splitting a pair of 8s is recommended because a hand totaling 16 is one of the trickiest positions to play in blackjack. By splitting, players increase their chances of achieving better outcomes with two separate hands.

Never Split:

  • 4s: Splitting a pair of 4s is generally not recommended because it is impossible to bust with just one card. Only three cards can improve the initial hand of two 4s: a 5, 6, or 7. It is advisable to avoid the risk and play the hand as one.
  • 5s: A pair of 5s represents a strong hand with a total value of 10. Hitting for an additional card is likely to give players a high-value hand, which is valuable in blackjack. Splitting 5s is more likely to result in weaker hands or potential busts.
  • 10s: A pair of 10s is already a superior hand, and the chances of splitting and being dealt two hands that will both beat the dealer are low. It is best to keep the strong hand intact and stand.

Splitting pairs effectively creates more opportunities to win, but it is imperative to make informed decisions based on the specific cards in hand. By following these guidelines, players can navigate the splitting strategy and optimize their chances of winning in blackjack.

What Does Double Down Mean In Blackjack?

Double down is a move available in blackjack that allows players to place a second bet equal to their original wager and receive one additional card. This move is advantageous when players have confidence in their initial hand and believe they have a high chance of beating the dealer. By doubling down at the right moments, players can gain an edge over the casino. However, it is crucial to understand the optimal conditions for doubling down to maximize potential winnings. Here are some guidelines for doubling down in blackjack:

When Can You Double Down In Blackjack?

Players can double down after receiving their initial two cards. According to basic strategy, players should double down when:

  • They have a hard 11 versus any dealer’s upcard. With the likelihood of making blackjack or a similarly superior hand being high, doubling down is the recommended move.
  • They have a hard 10, and the dealer shows a 2-9. As long as the player can’t bust on another card, and the dealer is more likely to bust trying to reach 17, doubling down is advised.
  • They have a hard 9, and the dealer has a 3-6. Doubling down is a wise decision as the dealer has a high chance of busting when hitting on bust cards.
  • They have a soft 16, 17, or 18 and the dealer has bust cards. A soft hand provides more flexibility in creating a strong total with one additional card, increasing the chances of outperforming the dealer.

When Shouldn’t You Double Down in Blackjack?

Here are two rules to remember regarding doubling down in blackjack:

  • Never double down when the dealer has an Ace. Even if the dealer doesn’t make blackjack, they can still form a strong hand with an Ace. It is advisable to save bets for situations where the player has the advantage.
  • Avoid doubling down when the hand value exceeds 11. The probability of busting is higher, making it wiser to stand on a marginal hand and let the dealer potentially bust.

When doubling down, players should place an additional stack of chips equal to their original bet on the table. It is crucial to be aware of the specific rules of the casino regarding doubling down, as some may restrict doubling down on certain hand values or after splitting hands.

When to Hit or Stand in Blackjack?

Hit and stand are two fundamental moves in blackjack that players must consider when faced with certain hand values. Knowing when to take a hit or stand can significantly impact a player’s chances of winning. Basic strategy guidelines provide valuable insights into making informed decisions. Here are some general rules to follow:

Hit When:

  • The player’s hand totals 8 or less, regardless of the dealer’s upcard. Since the player can’t bust with one extra card, taking a hit is recommended.
  • The player has a hand value of 9-11. Even if an Ace is in the player’s hand, doubling down should be considered, as the chances of achieving a high-value hand are greater.
  • The player has a soft hand totaling 13-19. If the dealer has a 5 or 6 upcard, doubling down should be considered. A high-value card drawn with an Ace can result in a strong total.

Stand When:

  • The player has a hand value of 17-20. Standing on a strong hand allows the player to let the dealer potentially bust when they have a bust card or a higher-value card. There is no advantage in risking busting with a high hand value.
  • The player has a hard hand totaling 13-16, and the dealer’s upcard indicates a bust card. Basic blackjack odds show that the dealer is more likely to bust, so standing on a lower hand value is a strategic move to increase the chances of winning.

Effective blackjack strategy cards can assist players in memorizing these rules and applying them while playing at casinos.

Single Deck Blackjack Strategy

Choosing games with fewer decks is a common strategy employed by players to enhance their odds of winning in blackjack. However, it is essential to understand the significant influence the number of decks has on basic strategy. Here are the main differences and corresponding strategies for single deck blackjack:

  • Fewer decks imply fewer Aces, which significantly affects the casino’s advantage. Keeping track of the Aces played in the game allows players to gauge their advantage in the single deck game.
  • Single deck blackjack presents more opportunities to double down. Although there are fewer 10-value cards in the deck, it is also harder for players to bust. Doubling down becomes more favorable, such as on a hand value of 11 or even 8 when the dealer has a 5 or 6.
  • Players can stand on stiff hands more often. When the dealer has a bust card, and the player has a stiff hand (12-16), there is a higher probability of winning by standing in single deck games. The dealer’s higher chance of drawing a 10 increases the player’s chances of winning by standing.

By adjusting basic strategy to account for the fewer decks in play, players can optimize their single deck blackjack strategy and improve their chances of winning.

4, 6 & 8 Deck Blackjack Strategy

Understanding how the number of decks in blackjack games affects the casino’s advantage is essential for players looking to refine their basic strategy skills. Here is a breakdown of how adding more decks alters the odds:

  • Adding a second deck to the shoe results in the most significant drop in the player’s advantage, reducing it by approximately 0.34%. This change has a significant impact on the house edge.
  • After adding four decks to the shoe, the decrease in the player’s advantage flattens out, resulting in a more moderate reduction of around 0.5%. Additional decks beyond four have a relatively small impact on the player’s advantage.

It is worth noting that casinos often include more decks to discourage card counting, as it becomes more challenging to track cards and calculate probabilities with a higher number of decks.

Blackjack Deviations Strategy

There are situations in blackjack when players may need to deviate from basic strategy to gain an edge over the casino. These deviations, known as blackjack deviations, occur when players have a higher advantage by contradicting the standard strategy. However, to utilize these deviations, players must be experts at card counting. Blackjack deviations come in two forms: playing deviations and betting deviations.

Playing deviations occur when players make moves that go against basic strategy based on the true count and the composition of the remaining cards in the deck. These deviations can alter players’ choices and alter their actions to improve their chances of winning. Betting deviations occur when players adjust their betting strategies based on the true count in a game. By increasing or decreasing their bets strategically, players can maximize their winnings and minimize their losses.

Advanced players who possess advanced card counting and mathematical skills can utilize blackjack deviations to their advantage. However, it is essential to note that these techniques require deep knowledge and practice to implement effectively. For players who are not proficient in card counting, it is advisable to stick to basic strategy and focus on perfecting that aspect of the game.

Blackjack Odds

While basic strategy helps players make informed decisions on each hand, understanding the odds in blackjack can provide further insight into the game. By knowing the probabilities and inherent advantages, players can increase their understanding of overall blackjack strategy. For detailed information on blackjack odds, refer to our comprehensive blackjack odds guide.


Implementing basic strategy, along with effective betting strategies and an understanding of blackjack odds, is essential for players seeking an advantage in blackjack. By following the guidelines outlined above, players can optimize their decision-making process and increase their chances of beating the casino. Card counting, when combined with basic strategy, offers players a means to gain an edge in the game. However, it requires significant practice and skill to execute effectively. Players should always be aware of the specific rules and variations in each casino they visit to make informed decisions.


FAQ 1: What should I do after mastering basic strategy?

Once players have a solid grasp of basic strategy, they should consider learning card counting. Card counting offers players an additional advantage over the casino and enhances their overall blackjack skills. There are various card counting systems designed for different skill levels, allowing players to choose the strategy that best suits their abilities.

FAQ 2: Where can I find more tutorials on blackjack?

Our Blackjack Academy video hub offers a comprehensive range of tutorials on playing blackjack. These videos cover everything from basic strategy to advanced techniques, providing valuable insights for players looking to improve their blackjack skills.

FAQ 3: Does the dealer hit on soft 17?

Some casinos have specific rules stating that the dealer must hit on soft 17. It is important for players to check the rules of each casino or blackjack variation they play, as this can impact their strategy decisions.

FAQ 4: What is no bust blackjack?

No bust blackjack is a strategy that requires players to stand on potentially busting hands (12-16) to increase their chances of winning. Players adopting this strategy hope that the dealer will bust, allowing them to win the hand without drawing any additional cards.

FAQ 5: What is DAS in blackjack?

DAS stands for “Double After Split,” which signifies the option to double down on a hand after splitting a pair. The DAS rule can significantly impact players’ strategy decisions when faced with split hands.

FAQ 6: When does the dealer have to hit in blackjack?

In blackjack, the dealer must hit if their hand totals less than 17. Some casinos may have specific rules stating that the dealer must hit on a soft 17 as well.

FAQ 7: Does the dealer hit on 16?

Yes, according to the rules of blackjack, the dealer must hit on a hand totaling 16, even though it is likely that they will bust.

FAQ 8: What is the payout in blackjack?

The standard payout for a blackjack hand is 3:2, meaning that players receive 1.5 times their wager if they win with a blackjack. However, some casinos offer reduced payouts of 6:5, which significantly increases the house edge and should be avoided.

FAQ 9: What numbers should players split in blackjack?

Players should always split Aces and 8s in blackjack, as splitting these pairs can create stronger hands. A pair of Aces equaling 2 or 22 has a high chance of achieving blackjack, while a pair of 8s is considered a weak hand and splitting it gives players the opportunity to improve their situation.

FAQ 10: How to calculate the house advantage?

To calculate the house advantage, multiply the house edge (expressed in decimal form) by your wager amount. For example, if the house edge is 1.5% and you wager $100, the calculation would be as follows: 100 * 0.015 = $1.50. This amount represents the expected profit the casino takes from your bets.

FAQ 11: What are the odds for blackjack?

The odds in blackjack vary based on the number of decks in play, table rules, and the implementation of basic strategy. Blackjack generally offers the best odds of winning among all casino games, with a house advantage ranging from 0.5% to 2.0%.

Doug I. Jones

Doug I. Jones

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