Strategy of Playing BlackJack – Basic Rules

Are you looking for the best blackjack strategy to maximise your winning odds when you play online? You’ll love these tips.

Strategy of Playing BlackJack is always starting with introducing what exactly is. The North American game of Blackjack, also known as 21. Has been one of the most popular casino games of the last hundred years and has spread throughout the world. In the 21st century, it has been overtaken in popularity by Slots, but it remains one of the most popular casino card games and is available in almost all casinos both on and offline.

Blackjack is a casino bank game, meaning that players compete against the house rather than each other. The objective is to get a hand total of closer to 21 than the dealer without going over 21 (busting).

At the start of a Blackjack game, the players and the dealer receive two cards each. The players’ cards are normally dealt face up, while the dealer has one face down and one face up. The best possible Blackjack hand is an opening deal of an ace with any ten-point card.

The house advantage of this game is derived from several rules that favor the dealer. The most significant of these is that the player must act before the dealer, allowing the player to bust and lose their bet before the dealer plays.

Players should be aware that there is another card game called Black Jack in the UK.

Basic Rules and Strategy of Playing BlackJack (UK)

United Kingdom BlackJack

Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games in the UK, and indeed the wider world. A constant fixture at land-based casinos the length and breadth of the country. It’s hardly surprising blackjack has become even more popular for gamblers online and on mobile.

Blackjack is primarily a game of skill. Players who understand the strategic element of the game are better placed to profit over time. There is still an element of chance in the cards you are deal. Knowing how to respond to different hands. When to play aggressively and when to pull back is fundamental to becoming a more successful player.

There are different versions of blackjack worldwide, plus a number of online versions with their own twist on the concept. For the purposes of this article, we’re looking specifically at the UK version. However, many of the same principles apply, especially when it comes to discussing hand strategy and how to bet. So let’s get into the meat and potatoes of how to play blackjack in a casino.

Basic Rules and Strategy of Playing BlackJack (UK)

Card Values

Strategy of Playing BlackJack

While it is common for blackjack games to be playing with multiple players around a table. Each hand takes place between the dealer and the individual player only. So if the person to your left has a better hand than you, it’s irrelevant. All that matters is that your hand has a higher value than the dealer’s hand, without going over the 21 thresholds.

The game moves in turns, with players to bet on the strength of the two-card hand they are deal. Players have the choice to hit or stand with every rotation until the game is complete. Depending on their hand – to draw another card, or to stick with what they’ve got. The dealer has less room for maneuver and plays in a more straightforward way, often sticking automatically at 17s and above.

It’s up to you to decide whether you want to push. Higher value hand with an additional card, or to stick with what you’ve got in the hope of winning. When the bets have been down and you’ve drawn as many cards as you deem necessary, the dealer will play their hand to determine the benchmark. If you beat the dealer’s hand in terms of value (while remaining under 21), you win. The best starting hand available is a natural blackjack – an Ace and any 10 point value card. This cannot usually be beaten, and your worst result is a push if the dealer also holds blackjack.

Likewise, if the dealer goes bust, you win automatically (assuming your hand is still in the game). If the dealer’s hand is stronger, you lose. If the hands are tied, bets are pushed – i.e. returned at break even on the hand.

‘Soft’ hands are those where the player has probably room to draw another card without breaching 21. These invariably contain an Ace, which obviously fluctuates between 1 and 11 as required. ‘Hard’ hands are those where the player is already sitting with a high-value hand. In many cases, the next hand will tip them over the edge. While you are free to hit until you have a competitive hand. The art of blackjack comes in knowing when to hit, stand, double down, split, or act in any way throughout the game.

Basic Rules and Strategy of Playing BlackJack (UK)

Order of Play Rules and Playing Options

The object of blackjack is fairly simple – to beat the dealer. Players try to make the highest value hand they can, up to a maximum of 21. Hands at 22 or more automatically lose ‘bust’. Hands of 21 are the optimum, and players can usually stand when their hand value is a hard 17 or higher. In the UK the dealer must stand on a soft 17.

If you want to learn how to play blackjack, you first need to know the values of each card. The hand value is determined by the numerical value of the cards in your hand. Numbered cards are assigned their number in points. 7s are worth 7 points, 3s are worth 3 points, and so on. The high cards 10-K are all worth 10 points. Aces carry a value of 1 or 11, depending on the value of your hand at any time.

Basic Rules and Strategy of Playing BlackJack (UK)

Playing options :


If the player is happy with the total they’ve been deal they can stand, taking no further action and passing to the next player. The player can take this action after any of the other player actions as long as their hand total is not more than 21. The hand signal to Stand is waving a flat hand over the cards.


If the player wishes to take another card they signal to the dealer by scratching the felt beside their hand or pointing to their hand. A single card is then played face up onto their hand. The hand total is less than 21 the player can choose to Hit again or Stand. If the total is 21 the hand automatically stands. If the total is over 21 the hand you lose. The player’s bet is taken by the house and the turn to act passes to the next player.

Double Down:

This is an opportunity to double down on your bet, best taken when you are sure you’re in a winning position. This should be reserved for very strong hands but is a worthwhile mechanism for getting the biggest payouts from your strongest hands. The result is you double your stake. But also double your potential take if you do go on to win against the dealer’s hand.

Split Pairs:

Whenever you have a pair of cards, the option to Split becomes available. This splits the pair to create two new hands of the same stake value, and an additional card is dealt with to each of these hands. This is a strategy best with Aces and 8s. Any hand with an Ace is in a very strong position, with the exception of a pair of Aces – together, these are only worth 12, but separately, they are worth two hands of 11 before the additional card is factored in. This creates ample opportunities for one or both of those hands to reach the high teens or even low twenties, without going bust on the next draw.

Similarly with 8s, two 8s together are worth 16 – too low to convincingly stand, but too high to comfortably draw another card without busting your hand. Splitting them up into two hands is therefore always a better strategy.

Double Down After Splitting:

There’s also the opportunity to double down after splitting pairs, doubling your bet on both hands. Again, it depends very much on the value of your hands and whether you think you have a realistic chance of beating the dealer with one or both. Both hands will be double in stake, on a stake that has already double from your initial bet (thanks to the creation of the second hand). It’s therefore recommended that you only double down after splitting where you are in a very strong position.


There is also a side bet available when the dealer is sitting on a 10 or above starting hand. This is insurance against the dealer holding blackjack. In practicality, this isn’t recommended for serious players. While it can help conserve your losses in some cases, it serves to increase the house edge – therefore slimming down your chances of winning long-term. While it might pay off on a given hand, you’re best to stay away from the Insurance bet at virtually all times.

Given that blackjack is played between the player and the dealer only, it’s possible to play multiple hands at the same time. When players split, they are doubling the number of hands in play. However, as a rule, some players choose to play multiple hands at any one time, to keep the game moving and to give more opportunities to bet and win.

Basic Rules and Strategy of Playing BlackJack (UK)

Basic BlackJack Strategy History

The history of basic strategy dates as far back as the early 1950s. It was originally devised by four US Army engineers, collectively known as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. And an apocalypse they did bring, or at least if you look at things from the casinos’ perspective because they laid the foundations for blackjack to become a beatable game.

The engineers published their findings in a statistics journal and attracted the interest of mathematician Edward O. Thorp. He tested the suggested optimal plays of the engineers on an IBM computer to find out they were mostly accurate.

Thorp introduced a few tweaks to the strategy to improve it and went on to develop the first-ever card counting strategy, the Ten Count system, allowing blackjack players the world over to gain an edge over the house.

Mathematicians, statisticians, and gambling experts continued to improve basic strategy over the following decades and gradually refined it to absolute perfection. Another cornerstone in blackjack history occurred in the late 1970s when Peter A. Griffin came up with an even more accurate approach, the composition-dependent basic strategy.

Julian Braun is another person whose contribution is undeniable where basic strategy is concerned. Braun was a computer specialist who worked for IBM for around thirty years. In fact, he assisted Thorp in refining the strategy. On Thorp’s insistence, Braun performed further tests of the moves on the then-powerful IBM 7044 computer and found several discrepancies that called for adjustments.

Braun observed around nine billion different possible combinations of the players’ hands and the dealer’s upcard. His discoveries changed how the game was perceived and played and were the basis for many other strategies.
One of his key findings concerned deck composition. Through simulations, Braun established that a deck rich in high-value cards worked to the advantage of players while the excess of low cards tilted the scales in favor of the house. In essence, this led to the invention of many card counting systems blackjack players continue to use to this day.

Basic Rules and Strategy of Playing BlackJack (UK)

Reasons to Use the Basic BlackJack Strategy

Many seasoned players use basic strategy as they know that it gives them everything they need in order to have as much advantage as possible over the casino. It prepares them for every tricky and difficult situation as it shows them how they should proceed in such cases.

Using the basic strategy doesn’t guarantee gamblers a 100% chance of winning a particular hand but it helps them to make better decisions which leads to the smallest possible amount of money loss. Basic strategy is an absolute must because it drastically reduces the edge of casinos.

The exact reduction in percentage is rule-depend and is also influenced by the deck number the respective blackjack variation uses. All in all, playing the game optimally can decrease the house edge by anywhere between 0.20% and 0.50%. In essence, basic strategists are playing an almost break-even game.

Their loss rates are reduced to as little as £0.50 for every £100 they wager on blackjack with a 0.50% house edge. Some people doubt the efficacy of basic strategy, arguing they have lost or won much larger amounts when sitting down with £100. This is because basic strategy’s efficiency begins to manifest itself when you go through thousands of hands. It is proven to be effective over the long haul.

Without a basic strategy, the house edge surges to at least 2%. The long-term losses you will suffer balloon proportionately. Let’s expand further on the ruinous effect not using basic strategy has on misguided gamblers’ bankrolls. Assuming a person who plays intuitively for twenty years, flat betting a pound per hand, they will go through 10,000 rounds annually.

This hypothetical individual plays a hundred hands per hour, clocking roughly a hundred hours at the tables each year. Their cumulative wagers within this timeframe will be equal to 10,000 x £1 x 20 = £200,000.

Assuming conditions were relatively favorable, the house edge grinding at this player’s bankroll was 2%. The expectation of one such person is to lose £200,000 x 2% = £4,000 to the house. The losses will be all the more calamitous if the player’s average wager had been higher.

Meanwhile, a basic strategist faced with a four times lower house edge of 0.50% would have suffered only £200,000 x 0.50% = £1,000 in losses over twenty years, or around £3,000 less than the intuitive player. You decide which scenario is better.

So have patience if you are a blackjack novice and always stick to basic strategy. While the correct plays will not guarantee you win each hand, they will allow you to cut down your losses, increase your overall profits, and help you improve the odds of winning in some situations.

Basic Rules and Strategy of Playing BlackJack (UK)

Basic strategy chart

The basic strategy chart is a chart that indicates the best possible move players can make in a particular situation after they receive their first two cards and the dealer’s upcard. It contains the five main options players can choose from every time – hit, double down, split, surrender, and stand and it operates according to the players’ hand’s total value and the upcard of the dealer. It is worth mentioning that no matter what strategy gamblers follow, they should always take into account the dealer’s upcard.

Nowadays, players can find many variations of the original chart of the basic strategy which gives the chance to see which one works best for them. Of course, it is recommended to follow a well-established one that has already been proven to be reliable and successful as after all, blackjack involves money and every wrong turn can come at a great price.

The charts might seem formidable to novices but in reality, they are incredibly simple to use. The vertical edge of the chart contains all possible totals a player can get. The dealer’s upcards are listed horizontally on top. The optimal move for a given total against a certain upcard is to be found in the boxes where the two intersect.

Another thing worth mentioning is the order of the playing decisions. Some decisions are possible only on starting hands that contain two cards. The first thing you need to consider is whether you should surrender or not if this is an option at the table you have joined.

You cannot surrender after you have made any of the other possible playing decisions. Splitting is the next thing to consider, then doubling, hitting, and staying. Insurance is of no consideration is in the charts due to the fact basic strategists should never buy it.

Sometimes certain optimal decisions are impossible either due to house restrictions or because you have already made another move. For instance, you cannot double down on a three-card soft 17 against a 4 although this is the mathematically correct play.

You must execute the second most optimal decision, which is hitting. The great thing about basic strategy charts is they also contain the second-best plays for such instances.

Strategy of Playing BlackJack

Basic Rules and Strategy of Playing BlackJack (UK)

Basic BlackJack Strategy Moves

Basic strategy plays may differ between blackjack variations due to the discrepancies in house rules. The most intuitive moves coincide across all blackjack variants but there may be differences when it comes to trickier plays. The strategy is influenced by the dealer’s drawing and standing rules, how many decks are used, whether late surrender is available, and whether you can double down after splitting pairs.

All these rules bear consideration when choosing a basic strategy chart, or at least if you want to be precise and benefit from the highest possible house-edge reduction. If you rely on a simplified basic strategy, you add roughly 0.30% to the advantage of the casino.

This still puts you at less than 1% disadvantage across the majority of playing conditions. Once you commit to memory all correct plays, you will be able to easily transition between variations and learn the rule-based discrepancies for different games. For starters, be sure to memorize the key basic strategy plays we list below. You can use them in all blackjack games that play with more than two decks.

  • Hit hard totals of 8 or lower
  • Double down on 10, 9, and 11 when your total is higher than the value of the dealer’s expose the card. Otherwise hit.
  • Hit hard 12 through hard 16 when the dealer has a 7 or more, otherwise stand.
  • Stand on hard 17 or higher against all dealer upcards.
  • Double down on soft 13 through soft 18 when the dealer has a 6 or a 5.
  • Double down on soft 17 when the dealer has 3 through 6. Otherwise hit.
  • Double down on soft 18 against 3 through 6, stand against 2, 7, or 8, and hit against 9, 10, and ace.
  • Stand on soft 19 against all dealer upcards
  • Always split 8s and aces.
  • Never split 5s and 10s.
  • Never buy insurance.

Basic Rules and Strategy of Playing BlackJack (UK)

Composition-Dependent Basic Strategy

So far we have discussed a total-dependent basic strategy where you play optimally using the limited information, i.e. the value of the dealer’s face-up card and the total of your hand. However, there is a way to further take away from the house edge, causing it to drop even lower. This is achievable by following a composition-dependent (CD) basic strategy.

The name explains it all. Here the denominations and the number of cards that comprise the player’s total are also taken into consideration, along with the dealer’s visible card. Blackjack pro-Peter A. Griffin introduced the concept of composition-dependent strategy in the late 1970s, describing it in his now-classic book The Theory of Blackjack.

Basic Rules and Strategy of Playing BlackJack (UK)

Some of the key deviations

From total-dependent strategy concern, the plays for hard 16 and hard 15 versus the dealer’s 10, two of the lousiest situations a blackjack player can find themselves in. Let’s tackle the hard 16 against a 10 first. Total-dependent strategy dictates you should surrender the 16 or hit it if the former play is unavailable.

The composition-dependent strategy says that you are better off standing with three-card totals of 16, such as 7-4-5, 9-3-4, and 10-2-4. This is because some of the low-value cards have left the deck. Slightly increasing the odds of busting with a hit. A simple way to memorize this deviation is to take notice of whether or not the hand contains a 4 or a 5. If it does, you stand, if not, you hit.

A hard 15 versus a dealer with a ten-value card is another lousy total player who is recommended to surrender, if possible. The total should be hit in the case late surrender is not offered. Under the composition-dependent strategy, the hand should be hit rather than surrender provide it consists of an 8 and a 7. This is because the odds of busting decrease slightly in favor of hitting with this hand composition. Two of the cards you can bust with have been remove from play.

Another tricky situation is when you hold a hard 12 while the dealer exposes a 4. Players who abide by total-dependent strategy must stand in this case. Composition-dependent strategy. States you should hit if your 12 comprises a ten-value card and a deuce and stand with 7-5, 4-8, and 3-9.

The logic here is that you have removed one ten from the deck with 2-10. Which leads to a reduction in your odds of busting. And vice versa, a hard 12 consisting of low-value cards calls for a stand because there are more bust cards remaining to be dealt.


The basic strategy gives players suggestions on what will be the best move to the players’ hand and card of the dealer. It is very accurate and reliable due to the fact that it has been developed and improved. Greatly over the years so that players can take advantage of it nowadays. The professional opinion of many gamblers is that the basic strategy is the best method players can choose to follow and trust as it’s based on the game’s fundamental principles and patterns.

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