Basic Strategy and Variations in Blackjack

Written by CAI National Museum on August 6, 2023 in Gambling News with no comments.


Blackjack is a game where the player aims to beat the dealer. This is done by having a higher hand value than the dealer’s without busting. A hand that is equal to 21 is called a “blackjack” or a “natural.” It wins 3:2 and is paid at higher casino odds than the dealer’s.

Basic strategy

Blackjack basic strategy is a set of optimal decisions that determines when to request another card from the dealer (Hit), stand, or double down. It is based on statistical probabilities and can drastically reduce the house edge. However, it does not guarantee gamblers that they will win every hand.

Experts like Ken Braun and Edward Thorp used basic strategy to develop the first card counting strategies that gave players an edge over the casino. Braun’s approach centered on deck composition and found that a deck rich in high-value cards worked to the player’s advantage while an excess of low cards tilted the scales against them.

While committing basic strategy to memory will not guarantee blackjack success, it can greatly reduce your losses and increase your profits. It is important to practice responsible gambling by setting a budget and staying sober during the session. Additionally, you should avoid progressive betting increases because they can turn into big losses.

Side bets

Side bets in blackjack offer bigger payouts and an extra layer of excitement to the game. They also give players a way to win even when they lose their blackjack hand. These wagers can be placed in a designated area on the table, or can be made online. Each side bet has its own rules, payouts, and betting maximums.

One of the most common blackjack side bets is Insurance, which protects the player against the dealer’s potential blackjack. This bet involves half of the original stake and pays out 2:1 if the dealer has an ace face-up. It’s a risky bet that can reduce the house edge, but should only be used by advanced card counters.

Other blackjack side bets include the Over/Under 13 and Royal Match. Both are placed before the dealer deals each player two cards. These bets are based on the assumption that the player’s first two cards will be of the same suit or form a Royal Match, which is a Suited King and Queen.


In blackjack, the objective is to beat the dealer. Basic strategy provides the optimal play for a given hand based on the statistics of millions of hands played over time. However, certain rules in the game can give a player an advantage. These include allowing players to double down after splitting; letting the dealer draw a card on a soft 17 (known as H17 in blackjack literature); and allowing players to surrender half their bets before the dealer checks for blackjack.

Some players have fine-tuned the rules of the game, making it possible to reduce the house edge to less than one percent. This is accomplished through card counting, in which a player keeps track of the cards that have been played and increases or decreases their bets according to the count. Using a specialized count, which is unique to each side bet, can also increase the player’s win rate. A few side bets have a high enough win rate to justify the effort of counting them.


Variations in blackjack can be a lot of fun, but it’s important to understand the rules and payouts before playing. Some variations use a different number of cards and include side bets. Others require you to change your basic strategy, and some even change the rules of the game. These changes can make a significant difference in your winnings.

There are many blackjack variations, but most of them follow the standard rules. However, there are a few that stand out. For instance, a newer variation called Blackjack Switch allows players to swap their starting hands and increases the chance of getting blackjack. But, it’s important to note that the dealer still peeks for blackjack in this variant.

Other blackjack variants like Lucky Lucky and Buster have higher payouts for suited and offsuit pairs. They also allow you to split and double down pairs. But, the payouts vary from one casino to another and are based on the rank of the pair.

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