Blackjack Tips - Understanding House Edge, Blackjack Odds and How to Win

In just a few steps you can enhance your gameplay and bet more effectively in blackjack. Here we'll guide you through the strongest blackjack hands, strategy for the cards you're dealt, and explain your chances of winning with a look at the house edge and blackjack odds. If you are new to the game, check out our in-depth how to play blackjack guide first.

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Our 5 Top Tips for Blackjack

From managing your money carefully to knowing how to count cards, the list of blackjack tips that might give you an edge is endless. Unlike casino games such as slots, the choices you make in blackjack can have a big impact on the game. It's therefore essential to keep a few of these tips in mind while playing. To get you started, we've summarized our top five below.

  1. Understand House Edge

    Understand House Edge

    House edge is a percentage which is worked out for all casino games, both online and at land-based casinos. The game of blackjack has a house edge of 2-3%, if the player isn’t using a strategy. This means that over time, the house is likely to win by a profit margin of 2-3% of the money you bet. However, when using some strategies, it is possible to reduce this.

  2. Counting Cards

    Counting Cards

    Although frowned upon in some land casinos, counting cards is a popular and accepted strategic technique when playing online. Although it does require a bit of arithmetic skill, the result of this counting gives a good indication as to whether you or the dealer is at an advantage based on the remaining number of high and low cards. This way, you will know when to raise or lower your bets.

  3. Manage Your Bankroll

    Manage Your Bankroll

    If there’s one tip we would advise you to follow, it’s knowing how to manage your bankroll. We always advise that you decide on a maximum amount you would be comfortable spending before starting any game. If you reach that point, walk away from the table. Do not spend more in the hope of clawing back your losses. And never ever bet money you can’t afford to lose.

  4. Try Betting Systems

    Try Betting Systems

    Blackjack has inspired a wide array of different betting systems, including options such as Martingale. Aside from betting systems, you can also learn game strategies like splitting. Some players swear by these systems, but of course none have been proven to be 100% effective. We’ll go into more details about how these systems can be used further down this page.

  5. Be Wary of Insurance

    Be Wary of Insurance

    This side bet isn't really for casual players. We would only recommend insurance to experienced card counters, with the confidence that plenty of 10s and face cards remain in the deck. You need a good grasp of using counting as a technique to increase your odds of winning. If so, then you might find the insurance bet beneficial.

Using Your Blackjack Hands Effectively

When playing blackjack, every move you make has a big impact on the game. As a result, it's important that you know how to make the most of the cards you've been dealt. As an example, let's take a look at a couple of scenarios:

Example 1

Your hand:

9, 5

9 Diamond
5 Heart

Dealer's Hand:

4

Red cards back
4 Spade

In this case you'll want to stand. It's possible here that both you and the dealer will go bust if you take another card. There is a chance you could have already beaten them.

You can generally apply this if you get a hand of between 12 and 16, and your dealer’s up card is between 2 and 6.

Example 2

Your hand:

8, 5

8 Spade
5 Diamond

Dealer's Hand:

8

Red cards back
8 Club

In this case you'll want to hit, as there is a good chance of the dealer getting a high total and you don't want to risk them getting higher than you and winning the game.

Whenever you get a hand of between 12 and 16, and your dealer’s up card is between 7 and Ace, you'll want to apply this rule.

Here are the figures for the probabilities you would encounter in the examples above. These will help you better understand the advice for hitting or standing. Remember: in blackjack, your chances of winning or busting will change each time a card is removed from the deck.

In Example 1, the probability of the dealer going bust on their next card is 19.98%. The player currently has a hard 14, so their probability of going bust on the next card dealt is 46.93%. The player would be wiser to stand.

In Example 2, the probability of the dealer getting a hand between 18 and 21 on their next card is 40.81%. The player currently has a hard 13, so their chance of going bust on their next card is also 40.81%. The player might as well hit.

Using a Betting System

There are many established betting systems to choose from, such as the Martingale, d'Alembert, Fibonacci and Parlay. These offer players a set method of deciding their next bet. Alternatively, you can also look into strategies to see how they could change your game. Check them out on our dedicated strategy page. From charts to advice on counting cards, you'll find plenty of handy tips.

Understanding House Edge & Odds

It's always important to know the house edge before you start playing, so you can see how much your chosen casino pays out to its customers. Your odds of winning are also of course very important, and probably one of the first things you'll want to check out. Let's take a look at these in a little more detail.

What's the house edge?

Regular Blackjack

0.5%

European Blackjack

0.62%

Atlantic City Blackjack

0.36%

Blackjack games on offer at reputable casinos will never be rigged to payout unfairly to players. All good casinos are regularly checked by independent bodies, to confirm that they offer players the proper odds, with games which are 100% random and not unduly weighted towards the house. However, whilst these blackjack games are entirely fair and random, players still always play at a disadvantage. The reason players find themselves at a disadvantage is because blackjack has a house edge of 2-3%, meaning that over time, the house will come out on top!

The house edge indicates the average percentage of all money paid in by players that the casino would expect to keep. At online casinos this is usually quite easy to find, but can be trickier in a land-based casino. There are ways to improve your chances when you play blackjack, for example knowing a basic strategy can get that house edge down to 0.5%. One thing to watch out for, however, is how many decks are in the shoe at each table, as this will have a great effect on the house edge. The more decks in use, the more it increases.

Do I have any advantage over the house?

In Blackjack, it’s never possible to accurately predict the outcome of any game. Whilst there is some skill and strategy involved, the game is ultimately reliant on the luck of the cards. That’s why you can, and sometimes you will, lose several hands in a row.

However, you can increase your odds against the house in a number of ways when you play blackjack. Firstly, if you manage to perfect your card counting skills, your advantage over the house could rise significantly. It can be difficult to count cards at an online casino though, depending on the software. In many games online, each card is drawn from a full, fresh deck of cards every time. Some games don't do this, but there's no way of knowing if the deck has been reshuffled or not. This promotes fair play but isn't ideal if you were planning to count cards.

You can also choose to play games such as ‘late surrender’ which has a lower house edge to begin with. Just learning a basic strategy chart can deplete the house edge and give you much better odds of winning. Be careful though – when playing in a land-based casino, strategy charts most likely won't be allowed.

Time To Put These Tips to The Test?

Now you know your Martingale from your Fibonacci, you understand which moves to make in which scenarios, and you’ve heard how card counting could spell success when you play blackjack. So, is it time to put your newfound knowledge to the test? Check out our top rated online blackjack sites to get started.

FAQ

Where can I play free blackjack games for fun?

Take a look at our top rated online casinos offering free blackjack games right now. Our recommended sites all boast a great variety of games, good security measures, excellent customer support and a wide variety of available banking options.

Do I have to download anything to play free games?

You can choose to play free games via an app, which will require a download, but you don’t have to. If you’d prefer, you can use mobile casinos in your web browser on mobile, or you can play online via your web browser on your desktop computer.

Can I play free online blackjack with other players?

Free blackjack games are generally played against the computer. If you move on to real money play, you can try live dealer games which do allow you to compete against other players.

Are there free mobile blackjack games and apps?

Yes, there are plenty of ways to enjoy free blackjack on your mobile. Choose from a wide array of mobile blackjack apps or play online via your favorite mobile blackjack casino. Take a look at our recommended free blackjack sites for all the information on the best ones for mobile users.

How can I switch to real money blackjack games?

If you’re ready to take the plunge to real money blackjack, you simply need to sign up for an account at your favorite online casino and deposit the amount you’d like to play with. You can then play in just the same way as you would have played free blackjack games. Remember, it’s best to decide on a total spend you’d be comfortable with before you start playing. Never bet money you can’t afford to lose.

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Dr. Catalin Barboianu is a gaming mathematician and philosopher of science. He is a research associate at the University of Bucharest, science writer, editor and consultant for the mathematical aspects of games of chance for the gaming industry and problem-gambling institutions.