how to win at blackjack

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.  

One thing to remember is that like all casino games, blackjack has a built-in house edge, so you shouldn’t expect to win at blackjack consistently, over the long run.

But if you learn how to play perfect blackjack, spot the best games, use sensible betting strategies and play with the right mindset, you’ll be in the est shape possible in gambling’s most exciting 1-on-1 battle.

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 to how your hand’s value 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. Depending on the table rules, you may also need to know about insurance and surrender.

image of player with hand K-5, dealer speech bubble saying SURRENDER? And player looking startled, both hands in the air as if someone has pointed a gun at them!]

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 it’s important to realise that you will still lose the hand 1 in 5 times. That’s probability and luck at work. Once you accept that nothing’s certain in blackjack, you’ll have the right mentality to play your best every time.  

A basic understanding of variance will also help you to cope with those seemingly impossible sequences of wins or losses.  

In a game where the house has an edge, (to paraphrase poker legend Phil Hellmuth), if there was no luck involved, you would lose every time! Trust in the maths and make luck your friend. You win some, you lose some. Once you accept that you can’t win at blackjack every time you’ve got the best hand, you’ll enjoy yourself more too. 

Step #3: Follow the best strategy

Sure, you can play blackjack if you know how the rules, but you’ll get better results if you know when to stand, when to hit. That knowledge comes through learning something called basic blackjack strategy. If you’re committed to becoming a black belt in blackjack, mastering basic strategy is essential. 

Basic strategy is a set of rules which gives you the best possible move in any situation. Got 99 against a dealer’s 7. No problem, standing is the smart play. What about A7 against a 3? It’s time to double!

 image of a Basic Strategy Chart cheat card next to the player’s hand at the table

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.

Every option that’s available to you will produce a different profit or loss. Let’s say 2 players have 15 and the dealer has a 9. Player A hits. Player B stands, as he doesn’t want to risk busting. On average, you’ll lose 7p more if you stand, for a £1 bet. Might not sound much, but 7% is a big deal in a game with a house edge of under 1%.  

Remember that you might make the right move but end up losing anyway. That’s blackjack of course, 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%!

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 have 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.  

  1. 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.
  2. Always split Aces and Eights, and never split Fives or Tens.
  3. Double on Ten against everything but an Ace. Doubling when your hand is stronger than the dealer’s is one of the best ways to win at blackjack. Make the most of it! 
  4. 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.
  5. 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. Decks 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 difficulty is in using the techniques 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 (that you probably won’t find online or in real life), like the juicy single-deck game on the left. And if you’re successful, casinos won’t let you beat them for long!

learn how to count card while you're playing blackjack

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 right conditions for winning blackjack are how the cards are shuffled (continuous shuffling machines will dent your chances) and suitable betting limits for your bankroll.

Step #6: Bet smart

Blackjack is part strategy, part luck and part bankroll management. If you want to know how to win at blackjack, the first choice you’ll make after taking your seat – before you’ve seen any cards – is how much to bet.

Gambling history is littered with betting systems that make claims about profits that are impossible to achieve in the long run. Take the most famous system, for example. The Martingale method requires you to increase your bet when you lose, based on the belief 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 even 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: 

  1. Bet only what you can afford to lose. It’s easier to make the right decisions when you play stress-free. 
  2. Manage your stack. Make your standard bet a small percentage (e.g. 5%) of your total bankroll for that session.
  3. Don’t chase losses. Bet the same on every hand, or do the opposite of Martingale (i.e. 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 you find yourself in a situation where basic strategy says you should split a pair, split again, and then double down! By budgeting sensibly for the session, you will play more 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 and out of the table. At other casinos, you’ll be lucky to get a free cup of tea. If you play regularly, it’s worth comparing how your local casinos treat their players. Don’t be afraid to ask the staff for information on their rewards, and maybe even a free lunch!

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 just part of the puzzle however. If you can get money back on every blackjack bet, win or lose, with no strings attached, then you’ve found the right place to play.

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!

play zen when you are in a blackjack table

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 lose their chips as fast as possible. Some are on a mission to show how clever they are. My best advice is to ignore how other people play their hands, and ignore any unsolicited advice that comes your way.

It’s every player’s 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 probably connected to their personality and how they feel about risk. 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 without teaching everyone else how to play. 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. Alcohol 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. 

image of person playing blackjack on their phone, show DEPOSIT LIMITS + TIME ALERTS + COOLING OFF

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 spend and how long you play.  

  • Stick to your budget. As we’ve learned in the betting strategy section, how much money you stake is just as important as how you play your hands. 
  • Set some time limits. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re playing a game like blackjack that has no beginning or end. Playing shorter sessions will also help you to follow all of the advice you’ve learned on this page so far. 
  • Know 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. There are never any guarantees of success when you play blackjack, even if the odds are temporarily stacked in your favour. But if you take these 11 steps to heart, you’ll know how to win, how to lose and how to ensure you keep your passion for this fascinating game. 

Daniel Grant

Dan Grant has been writing about gambling for 15 years, and been fascinated by beating the odds for even longer. Now he’s on a mission to help others bet smarter and avoid the mistakes he made. When he’s not obsessing over bankroll strategy or counting cards badly, he’s hosting The OJO Show podcast.

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