How To Read A Blackjack Strategy Card
Blackjack might be a game of pure luck, but that doesn't mean you can't bring an element of strategy to your game. With every hand you play, your chances of success are determined by the house edge. While you can't control the next card you receive, you can do a number of things to reduce the house edge to its lowest possible size, giving you the best chance at a winning play.
In order to assess the current house edge and your options after each card is dealt with, you can make use of a blackjack strategy chart. If you're new to blackjack, make sure to read this beginner's guide to blackjack strategy charts to find out how you can use them to up your game at the online blackjack table.
First, let's break down what we mean exactly by blackjack strategy. As mentioned, there is nothing you can do to influence the outcome of the next hand or control which card the dealer hits you with next.
Some professional blackjack players might try to master the art of card counting, but this is incredibly difficult and only applies to physical blackjack decks, since online blackjack uses RNG technology to keep each hand truly random and fair. You can, of course, try card counting at a live casino blackjack table, but this is something that requires hundreds of hours of practice to learn.
When we talk about blackjack strategy, we mean two things. The first is choosing the right version of blackjack with the lowest house edge. Different blackjack variants use different numbers of 52-card decks, while some offer bonus bets such as insurance which reduce the house edge and give you the chance to claw back your losses on a losing hand. The second is knowing when to hit or stick.
Remember, the goal of blackjack is to get as close to 21 as possible, beating the dealer without going over. So, let's say you get dealt a 10 and a 5, giving you a hand of 15. What do you do next? Do you stick with the cards you have or hit for another? To help you make these kinds of important blackjack decisions, a blackjack strategy card can be your guide.
A blackjack strategy card is an absolute must-have for many blackjack fans. In a nutshell, it tells you what the best possible option is for every hand you could have, based on your odds of winning that hand. For example, if the dealer's first card is a 10 and you have been dealt 18+ on your first hand, the blackjack card will always tell you that the best option is to stand.
This is because it is very unlikely that another card will bring you closer to 21 without making you go bust. A blackjack strategy card takes into account every possible hand you could be dealt in the first round, as well as every possible hand that the blackjack dealer could start out with.
With these two important pieces of data, the blackjack strategy card can tell you the best course of action, based on your odds of success with each starting hand. In some cases, your best option will be to stand. In others, it will be to hit, and maybe to hit again. In other scenarios, the blackjack card might recommend that you double your wager since your odds of beating the house are higher.
Meanwhile, a blackjack chart might recommend that you split your current hand across two different hands, for example, if you are dealt two fives. With the blackjack strategy card at your side, you can assess which move has the best mathematical odds of success, no matter the hand you are dealt.
Your specific blackjack strategy card might vary depending on the source, but a few factors will remain the same. Here are the main things you need to know in order to read a blackjack strategy card the right way and boost your chances of success at the table.
Most blackjack strategy cards are color-coded to make them easier to read. The color scheme will usually be pretty logical. When a "hit" is recommended, the square might be green, while the square might be red if it is recommended to stand. A "split" recommendation might be yellow, while a "double" recommendation might be blue. You get the picture.
With a basic blackjack strategy card, there will be an X-axis and a Y-axis. The horizontal X-axis will usually consist of the dealer's first card, while the vertical Y-axis will focus on your hand. The chart will be populated with 26 rows detailing the size of each possible player hand, with a course of action offered according to the corresponding dealer card.
Under the section detailing the player's hand, there will be a single column detailing all of the card numbers and every possible combination that you could end up with after your first hand has been dealt. The right-hand side, which details the dealer's cards, will have 10 columns, with each one representing a different card that the dealer could start with, running from 2 to ace.
Depending on the results detailed in the table, you will be offered a different course of action, based on your odds of playing a winning hand. In a standard blackjack chart, you will have up to five different actions you can take. These are:
When you are recommended to "hit", you will get another card from the dealer to increase the total value of your hand. This might be the best course of action if your initial hand is low, meaning that you do not have a strong chance of beating the house on these cards alone. For example, if your hand is a 9 and the dealer has a 10, the chart will recommend that you hit.
In most blackjack games, you will have the option to split your hand across two separate hands if you have a pair of matching cards or two 10-value cards (such as a King and a Queen). A blackjack chart will tell you to do this in specific circumstances. If you have two 10s, never split and always stand. However, if you have two aces or two fives, you should always split.
Doubling your bet means that you have a very high chance of beating the house. This is why the blackjack chart will only recommend this course of action when you have a very strong hand, such as a 17, while the dealer has a very weak hand at the same time.
Some blackjack casinos offer the "surrender" option, where you can forfeit your first two cards in exchange for new ones. Note that you can never surrender if you have already received a hit card. The blackjack chart might recommend that you surrender if you have a 16 and the dealer has a 9 through ace. The chart will usually only tell you to surrender if splitting is not an option.
Yes. At any land-based casino, it is very unlikely that the staff will object to you bringing a strategy card to the table. Strategy cards are a common sight in Las Vegas casinos, and dealers do not mind them since they do not constitute cheating. They simply tell you what your actual best shot at success is with any given hand.
You certainly can. Whether you are playing online blackjack or live casino blackjack, a strategy card can be a helpful companion to assist you in your quest to beat the house. You can always have a blackjack strategy card open in a separate tab, if you wish.
If you have never seen a blackjack strategy chart before, it might appear overwhelming. While there are a lot of rows and numbers, they are actually designed to be very simple to understand. All data is laid out logically and in numerical order, so that you can always find the best course of action to take.
Yes. Most blackjack charts will take popular variants into account, which is why you can find recommendations to split or surrender or double with most charts.