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Basic Live Blackjack Strategy Introduction

Understanding the basic live blackjack strategy is an essential step in your plan to become a blackjack master. Just using your intuition and trust on your luck is for amateurs. Certainly if you realise that by using a blackjack strategy you can reduce de casino home advantage to around or even below one per cent. In this blog we will highlight some important aspects of the live blackjack strategy.

Step 1: Learn the basic live blackjack strategy rules

blackjack screenshotYou can learn the basic live blackjack strategy by using a small set of rules. Rules which explain what choice you should make if you face a certain combination of the cards in your hand and the open dealer card:

    • When do you stand or hit? If the dealer card is in the range from 2 to 6, you stand at 12 points or more. If the dealer has 7-A, you only stand at 17 or higher. Be aware that this rule only applies in case you don’t have an Ace which can be used in a ‘soft hand’.
    • So, what to do if your hand contains such a soft hand Ace? In that case, you can hit more often. If the dealer has 2-6, you stand at 18 or higher. With a dealer card 7-A you only stand with 19 or more points. The rationale behind this approach is that with a so-called soft hand you use the Ace for 11 points but can always ‘switch back’ to Ace=1, reducing the ‘bust risk’.
    • When to Double Down? You Double Down at 9 points if the dealer card is in the range 2-6. Double Down at 10 or 11 points is recommended when the dealer card is 2-9. Doubling Down at 9, 10 or 11 are often the only allowed options in traditional ‘brick and mortar’ casinos. In online casinos you often have more freedom to Double Down. In that case we also recommend a DD when you have an Ace with 5, 6 or 7 while the dealer has 2-6.
    • Also for the split option there are clear blackjack strategy guidelines: Never split with double 4, 5 or 10. Always split at 8-8 and Ace-Ace. In case you have 2-2, 3-3, 6-6, 7-7 or 9-9, you only split when the dealer card is 2-6.

Never use insurance or even money

There are two options in blackjack which are often discussed on the internet. However, they shouldn’t be used at all in our opinion:

    • Insurance is a side bet, which is a warning by itself because side bets are most of the time not a smart bet to play. The insurance bet can be activated in case the dealer card is an Ace. With the dealer having an Ace there is always a substantial risk for a dealer blackjack. Insurance offers you the option to bet on such a dealer blackjack with a 2:1 pay-out. So, if the dealer has blackjack you lose your main bet but compensate this loss with your winning insurance side bet. If not, you lose the insurance bet but can continue your round of blackjack. However, if you ‘do the math’ the calculations prove that on average this costs you money. So, never use insurance.
    • The same applies for even money. This side bet also offers a kind of insurance. It can be used in some casinos in case you have a natural blackjack while the dealer has an Ace. In that case there is a big risk for a push. In the end, also this option is not recommended by the experts.



Blackjack – did you know?

  • Blackjack originated in France!
  • The hand adding up to 16 is the one you do not want to get!!
  • The “shoe”was invented in Cuba around the 1950's 
  • A total of 21 is not always a “Blackjack”. Only a ten (or face) and Ace are a Blackjack!
  • – Like James Bond is into roulette, Napoleon loved to play this famous French cardgame


“It's not about the cards you're dealt, but how you play the hand…”

Step 2: Use a blackjack strategy scheme

Although the beforementioned set of live blackjack strategy rules already lowers the casino advantage to around one per cent, you can optimize your gameplay by using detailed blackjack schemes. In such a blackjack strategy scheme you will find the best decision (hit, stand, split, double down) for each individual combination of your own hand and a dealer card. Even more, there are different schemes available for different casino rules, since there are often small differences between the rules with respect to when the dealer must hit, stand etc. There are even different schemes depending on the number of decks that are used since this may also impact the chances of certain player hand and dealer card combinations. This means that it if you use detailed schemes it is important to verify that you use the right strategy scheme that fits your specific live blackjack variant.

Never mimic the dealer

Some new live blackjack players think that learning a blackjack strategy is a waste of time. They know that the casino dealer must always play the game following a set of predefined casino rules and think that just copying this approach will work for them as well:

“If it works for the casino, it will work for me” (the strategy of a ‘mimic the dealer’ fan)

This approach is based on a big mistake. An understandable mistake but still a fault. They forget that the casino advantage in blackjack is not caused by the dealer rules but by the fact that the dealer only plays after the player. There are many scenario’s where the player unfortunately busts. If in that case also the dealer would play as well, there is a chance that he busts as well and the game ends in a push. However, this is in real life never the case. As soon as the player busts, the game is over and he loses his money, regardless of the quality of the dealer cards. So, even if you copy the dealer behaviour you will never have this advantage. Mimic the dealer simply is a losing blackjack strategy.

Or simply ignore the strategy rules?

If you think that it is boring to learn the rules and there is not so much difference in the overall result if you just play by intuition, it is worthwhile to review some typical mistakes and their financial impact on your RTP:

  • When you stand with 16 while the dealer card is an Ace, your RTP on average drops with 15%. If you stand at 16 with the dealer card being 7, your RTP loss is still around 7%.
  • In case you have double 10 and decide not to Double Down while the dealer has an Ace, the negative effect on your RTP is approximately 8%.

Just two examples (out of many) which show how important strategy is. Without using a blackjack strategy you will have a seriously reduced RTP. While blackjack with a strategy can be one of the most profitable games with RTPs above 99%. Note that there will always be a casino house advantage but in this case it approaches zero. And if you start to learn card counting you may in theory even turn your RTP above 100%. However, any professional casino nowadays reshuffles the cards before card counting becomes profitable.

Learn from the casino

Interesting to realize is that you also receive a lot of useful information from your online live casino. Many online and live casinos share with you all the hands you played. So, you can easily review them to check if you applied the strategy rules correctly. In addition, casinos publish the RTP of all different live blackjack variants they offer. For example, at a certain casino Blackjack Lucky Pair offers an RTP of 99,49%. Blackjack Lucky Seven offers 99.17% and with Blackjack Surrender 2:1 you can achieve 99,26%. Selecting the blackjack version with the best RTP and finding the optimised strategy scheme for them could deliver you an RTP that approaches 100%. Good luck!