Blackjack is one of the best games for serious players. When played correctly, the casino’s house edge can be whittled down to just under one percent. Compared to every other casino game on the market, that is huge!
Of course, reaching that level requires lots of practice. Not only do you need to know the rules, but also when to play what card! This article assumes you are familiar enough with blackjack to follow along. If you are struggling to keep up, please consult our general guide on how to play blackjack instead.
Determine Table Rules
The first thing you should do before playing blackjack is finding out what rules are active. Officially speaking, blackjack rules allow for surrender. However, very few online tables give you that option. As a result, we will not be including surrendering in our strategy.
Some tables will also be specific on when you are allowed to double and split your cards. Depending on the rules, you may be forced to play differently. The major difference to look for is whether the dealer hits or stands on a soft 17.
A Hard Hand Versus a Dealer Who Stands on a Soft 17
If the sum of your card values is between four and eight, you will want to hit regardless of what hand the dealer has. Above eight, we start seeing some variation, up until we reach a hard seventeen. For seventeen and any number above it, you will always stand, no matter what the dealer has.
- Hard 9: This combo will hit if the dealer has a two or any value between seven and ace. If the dealer card is between three and six, you will want to double if allowed to. If you cannot double, then hit as usual.
- Hard 10 and 11: In both cases, you should be looking to double if the dealer face-up card is between a two and a nine. If you are not allowed to do so, you should hit instead. For tens and aces, you always hit for the hard ten. With a hard eleven, you want to double against the ten but hit against the ace.
- Hard 12: Hit versus a two, three, and seven through ace. Against a four, five or six, you want to stand.
- Hard 13, 14, 15 and 16: For all four of these numbers, you want to stand if the dealer has any card between two and six. Meanwhile, if your opponent has a seven or higher, you want to hit.
A Soft Hand Versus a Dealer Who Stands on a Soft 17
If your soft hand is a total of nineteen or more, you will always stand against the dealer.
- Soft 13 and 14: Hit if the dealer has anything between two and four, or seven and ace. For five and six, you want to double if allowed. If you cannot double, you should hit instead.
- Soft 15 and 16: The same thing for 13 and 14 applies here. The only difference is that you should try to double against a dealer four if allowed.
- Soft 17: If permitted, double if the dealer has any value between three and six, and hit otherwise. For all other values, you want to draw another card.
- Soft 18: Double if the dealer has between a three and a six. If doubling is not allowed, you should stand against those numbers. Players should also stand if facing two, seven and eight. You can safely hit against a nine, ten and Ace.
Splitting Against a Dealer Who Stands on a Soft 17
A pair of eights and a pair of aces should always be split, no matter what. A pair of fives and tens should never be split; always play them as if you have a regular hard hand. Other combinations are more nuanced, and usually depend if you can double after splitting.
- Pair of 2s and 3s: These two pairs will always split if the dealer card is between a four and a seven, and will always hit against an eight or above. Against a two or a three, you want to split, but only if you can double afterwards. If the rules prohibit that, you want to hit against these numbers instead.
- Pair of 4s: Hit against all numbers with the exception of five and six. Splitting against these cards should only be done if you can double afterwards. If not, you should draw another card.
- Pair of 6s: Split against three, four, five and six, and hit otherwise. Split against a two if you can double afterwards; if not, you should hit instead.
- Pair of 7s: Identical to the pair of sixes, except you always split against a two.
- Pair of 9s: Stand if the opponent has a seven, ten or ace. Split in all other circumstances.
Changes When Playing Against a Dealer Who Hits on a Soft 17
- For hard hands, the only difference lies when a hard 11 faces against an Ace. If allowed to, you want to double against an ace instead of hitting. If you are unable to double against it, you should draw another card.
- In this scenario, a soft 18 should also double against a two. With a soft 19, double against a dealer six if you can. In both cases, if you are not allowed to double, you should stand instead.
- Splits are played identically, with no changes to the strategy needed.