Unless you’ve got a crystal ball, there’s no silver bullet when it comes to figuring out how to win at blackjack. But if you follow these top strategies for winning at blackjack, you’ll give yourself the best chance against the house.
- Step #1: Learn the rules of the game
- Step #2: Know your numbers
- Step #3: Follow the best strategy
- Step #4: Learn to count cards
- Step #5: Pick the right table
- Step #6: Bet smart
- Step #7: Look for the best deal
- Step #8: Play zen
- Step #9: Focus on your own game
- Step #10: Stay disciplined
- Step #11: Play safe blackjack
One thing to remember is that like all casino games, blackjack has a built-in house edge, so unless you’re counting cards, you shouldn’t expect to be winning at blackjack in the long run.
But if you learn how to play perfect blackjack, spot the best games, use sound betting strategies and play with the right mindset, you’ll be in the ideal position to take on the dealer in gambling’s most exciting match up.
Step #1: Learn the rules of the game
With only 4 possible actions during a normal hand, blackjack is a simple casino game to play. But each move you make has a huge impact on your chance of winning, so it pays to learn how the game works before you put your hand-earned cash on the line.
First, make sure you know the basics of blackjack, from the order of play to how to bet, how your hand’s total score is calculated and the aim of the game – beating the dealer’s hand.
Once you’ve learned what hit, stand, double and split mean, you’ve got the main rules covered, but don’t forget insurance and surrender.
Step #2: Know your numbers
What are the odds of winning at blackjack? It’s a simple question without a simple answer. On any given hand, you’re a 50/50 coinflip to win (excluding pushes), but once the cards are dealt, your chances could have dropped to 25%.
Equally, you could have a strong hand that’s an 80% favourite, but you’ll lose from that position 1 in 5 times. Once you accept that nothing’s certain in blackjack except that you WILL lose hands when you are ahead, you’ll have the right mentality to play your best every time.
A basic understanding of variance will also help you to see those impossible sequences of wins or losses as inevitable.
In a game where the house has an edge, (to paraphrase Phil Hellmuth) without luck, you’d lose every time! Trust in the maths and make luck your friend. You win some, you lose some. Once you accept that you won’t win at blackjack every time, you’ll enjoy yourself more too.
Step #3: Follow the best strategy
Sure, you can play blackjack if you know how to hit, but you can only win if you know WHEN to hit. That knowledge comes through learning something called basic blackjack strategy. And if you’re really committed to becoming a black belt in blackjack, counting cards is the cherry on top.
Basic strategy is a set of rules which gives you the best possible move in any situation. Got about 99 against a dealer’s 7. No problem, standing is the smart play. What about A7 against a 3? It’s time to double!
Blackjack basic strategy always comes in charts, so you can quickly check the right play depending on what rules you’re using, and which cards you and the dealer were dealt. Each possible decision in a single hand of blackjack produces a different average profit or loss.
You might make the right call but end up losing, but you can take solace in the fact you’re making the optimal mathematical move, as determined by millions of computer-simulated hands. How closely you stick to the correct basic strategy determines whether you play blackjack with a house edge of less than 0.50%, or an edge of over 8%!
Those numbers might sound small but in a game with 1 to 1 odds, you need every percent you can get, to give you any chance of winning at blackjack.
After the fundamental rules of the game, learning blackjack basic strategy is by far the most important skill to learn if you want to know how to win at blackjack. If you haven’t got time to absorb the secrets of basic blackjack strategy today, these top tips should help you win more – or lose less – when you play.
- Don’t take insurance. With a house edge of over 7%, this side bet is far less enticing than blackjack itself. The same goes for the Even Money rule too.
- Always split Aces and Eights, and don’t split Fives or Tens.
- Double on Ten against everything but an Ace. Doubling when your hand is far stronger than the dealer’s is one of the best ways to win at blackjack. Make the most of it!
- Stand on 12-16 against a dealer’s 6 or lower. He’ll bust so often that it’s not worth the risk to hit.
- Stand on Hard 17 or above. You have a pat hand. Let’s make the dealer beat it!
Even with these rules, you won’t win at blackjack every time, but you’ll be playing great blackjack nonetheless. Be proud!
Step #4: Learn to count cards
Learning the rules and basic strategy will get you far, but it won’t give you an edge over the house. If you’re wondering ‘what is the best way to win at blackjack?’, card counting is the answer. If you’re lucky enough to find a blackjack table with the right combination of rules, you could move the edge-o-meter in your direction.
Card counting works by tracking the amount of high and low cards that are dealt, to understand how many are left to be dealt. Deck with more Tens are great for players, while decks with more low cards are great for the dealer.
Like basic strategy, counting cards is easy to learn but the proof is in the pudding when it comes to using it in a live casino environment. The dealer won’t wait for you to do the math in your head, so your success at card counting comes down to lots of practice and a cool head under pressure.
Card counting is undoubtedly among the best ways to win at blackjack, but it comes with 2 supersize Buts. It will only help you to win at blackjack at tables with very specific rules (usually not online blackjack) and if you’re successful, casinos won’t let you beat them for long!
Step #5: Pick the right table
Blackjack works the same wherever you are in the world, but because of small variations in rules, games can pay out very different percentages. For example a single-deck S17 game with NDAS and doubling on any 2 cards has a house edge of just 0.15%. An 8-deck game using the exact same rules has a house edge of 0.79%.
Scouting casinos for blackjack tables with beneficial rules takes knowledge of how each rule affects the house edge, as well as patience and discipline. You can learn more about these in our blackjack guide, but provided you avoid some of the worst offenders such as 6 to 5 odds for Blackjack, you’ll be OK.
Other things to bear in mind when finding the scenario for winning blackjack are how the cards are shuffled (continuous shuffling machines will dent your chances) and the appropriate betting limits for your bankroll.
Step #6: Bet smart
Blackjack is part strategy, part luck and part betting. If you want to know how to win at blackjack, the first choice you’ll make after taking your seat, before you’ve even been dealt any cards, is how much to bet.
Casino game history is full of betting systems that make claims about profits that can never be achieved in the long run. Take the most famous, for example. The Martingale method requires you to increase your bet when you lose, with the idea that you can’t lose more than a few hands in a row, and you’ll be back in profit soon.
Unfortunately for those who have tried it, it’s perfectly normal to lose 5 or 10 hands of blackjack in a row, by which point you have reached the table betting limit and it’s game over for your system.
The best advice when you’re deciding how much to bet is:
- Bet only what you can afford to lose.
- Make your unit bet a small percentage (e.g. 5% of your total bankroll for that session)
- Bet the same on every hand, or do the opposite of Martingale (bet smaller when you lose, and bigger when you win)
By following these simple rules of thumb, you should always have the chips available if basic strategy recommends you split a pair, then double afterwards. By budgeting sensibly for that session, you will see the most hands, and ensure no single hand puts you under any stress.
Step #7: Look for the best deal
Even if you play perfect blackjack, it’s hard to win consistently, so it’s important to look for other ways you can win. And that means blackjack bonuses and rewards.
Some land-based casinos will give you a reward card which you swipe when you check in or out of the table. At others, you’ll be lucky to get a free cup of tea. If you play regularly, compare how your local casinos treat their players and don’t be afraid to ask the management for a free lunch every now and then!
When you play online, you’re more likely to get good rewards, and it’s easier to shop around for the best loyalty programme too. Bonuses are one thing, but if you can get money back on every blackjack bet, win or lose, then your luck’s in!
Step #8: Play zen
The most successful gamblers (and investors, for that matter) all share one important attribute; A stable mind. The ability to take the rough with the smooth, and stay cool under pressure is what sets great gamblers apart.
Knowing the maths behind the game, and having confidence in your skill level will both help you stay zen, but there are plenty of life hacks such as ‘square breathing’ that you can practice at the table without drawing attention.
Mindfulness might feel ‘woke’, but perfect strategy is useless without it. Some of the world’s most talented card players have crashed and burned because they couldn’t leave emotion at the door. Master your mind and the success will follow, amigo-san. Namaste!
Step #9: Focus on your own game
Once you’ve learned basic strategy, you’ll start to notice other players’ mistakes. Some blackjack players are on a mission to spread the good strategic word. Some are just plain rude. My best advice is to ignore how other people play their hands.
It’s their right to play good, bad or just plain ugly. Let them do as they please, and ignore anyone who tries to criticize your play. Berating or mocking a player for playing differently shows a lack of class, and drains the fun from the table.
If someone wants to play super conservative or double down like crazy, it’s who they are as a person. Let players to be true to themselves and enjoy the game the way they want. It’s hard enough playing perfect strategy and betting smart, so stay focused on your own game.
Step #10: Stay disciplined
If you want to give yourself the best chance to win at blackjack, keep a clear mind. Drinking or other mind-altering pursuits can only hold you back.
It’s fine to enjoy a beer at the blackjack table. Playing blackjack is entertainment after all. But too much alcohol will impair your ability to think clearly, follow basic strategy and bet sensibly. If you want to party, that’s your call, but don’t expect to bring your A-game.
Step #11: Play safe blackjack
It’s very hard to win at blackjack or enjoy yourself if you don’t play responsibly. Safer gambling starts with choosing a trustworthy place to play, but it also means making good decisions about how much you and how long you play.
- Stick to your budget. As we’ve learned in the betting strategy section, how many chips you move across the felt is just as important as what you do with the hands you’re dealt.
- Set some time limits. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re playing a game like blackjack that has no beginning, middle or end. Playing shorter sessions will also help you to follow all of the advice you’ve learned on this page so far.
- Recognise when you’re done. If negative emotions start to creep in or you’re not having fun, it’s time to leave the table and take a break.
So that’s how to win at blackjack. Let’s see how much you’ve taken on board!