Online Blackjack Strategy
Of all the games in the casino, none requires as much strategic thought as blackjack. Luckily, we’ve created this comprehensive guide to blackjack strategy for South Africa to help you out. Featuring everything new players need to play with confidence, and tips for experienced gamblers to bring their game to the next level, our complete online blackjack strategy guide will improve your skills today!
How to Play Online Blackjack
If you’re new to blackjack, it’s important to know all the rules before we jump into more advanced concepts. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to playing blackjack in South Africa.
To begin a hand of blackjack, place your bet in one of the betting spots on the table layout. In some online blackjack games, you can play multiple hands at once by placing two or more bets, but for this example, let’s assume you are playing just one hand.
The dealer starts the game by dealing two cards to you, and two cards to their own hand. Your cards will be face up, while the dealer will have one card face up, and one face down.
If the dealer’s up card is an ace or a card worth 10 points, the dealer will check for blackjack. They will also ask if you wish to purchase insurance. This costs half of your initial bet and pays out at 2/1 odds if the dealer has a blackjack – an initial hand of 21 points. If the dealer has blackjack, your bet loses. The only exception is if you also have a blackjack, in which case your bet pushes.
If the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, player blackjacks will be paid. If you have a 21 from your first two cards, you win at 3/2 odds and the hand ends immediately.
In all other cases, you can now play your hand. Based on what you hold and what the dealer is showing, you can choose to hit (take another card), stand (end your turn), double down (take one more card for double your bet), or split (play two cards of the same rank as two separate hands for one bet each).
Play out your hand until you either choose to stand (or have to after doubling down or splitting aces), or you reach a total higher than 21. If your hand’s score totals 22 or more, you have busted, and your hand loses immediately.
If you stand, the dealer reveals their down card, also known as the hole card. The dealer now plays their hand according to a strict but simple set of rules. If the dealer has 16 or less, they hit. If the dealer has 17 or more, they stand. There’s one exception: at some tables, the dealer will hit with a “soft” 17 – a hand including an ace that still counts as 11 points.
If the dealer busts, then your active hands win at even money odds. If the dealer stands, you compare hands. If your hand is worth more points, it wins at even money. If the dealer’s hand is higher, your hand loses. If the two hands have the same value, the result is a push.
Blackjack Card Values
Blackjack card values are fairly easy to understand. Still, there are a few distinctions that you may not be familiar with. Knowing these values is important to understanding even basic blackjack strategies.
Numbered cards – 2 through 10 – are each worth the number of points on the card. For example, a two is worth 2 points, a five is worth 5 points, and a ten is worth 10 points.
All face cards (jacks, queens, and kings) are also worth 10 points. That means there are 16 10-point cards in every 52-card deck. It’s always likely that you or the dealer will receive a 10-point card when hitting, as there are more of these cards than any other, impacting basic strategy significantly.
Finally, aces can be worth either 1 or 11 points. An ace will count as 11 points unless that would take you over 21. In that case, you can count your ace as only 1 point instead. If your hand has an ace worth 11 points, you have a “soft” hand, and you cannot bust by hitting.
In order to use blackjack strategy in South Africa online casinos, there are several important terms to understand. Let’s break down the most common jargon you’ll run into at the blackjack table.
- Push – When you have the same value hand as the dealer at the end of play, the two hands “push.” When this happens, you get your bets back without winning or losing any money.
- Natural 21 -This is another name for a blackjack. You only get a natural 21 on your first two cards, and only by receiving both an ace and a 10-point card.
- Hard Hand -This is any hand without an ace that counts as 11 points. Your hand is “hard” because there is no safety net. You can only increase your total by hitting.
- Soft Hand -Soft hands are those with an ace that counts as 11 points. Since your ace can become a one-point card, you can safely hit with no risk of busting.
- Up Card – This is the dealer card you see throughout play.
- Down Card/Hole Card -These terms refer to the hidden dealer card, which they only reveal if they have a blackjack or at the end of the round.
- Insurance – If the dealer is showing an ace, they will offer you an insurance bet. This costs half the amount of your initial bet, but pays 2/1 if the dealer has blackjack. You are insuring yourself against this possibility.
- Bust -A hand worth over 21 points will “bust.” If you bust, you immediately lose all bets associated with that hand. If the dealer busts, any of your hands that are still active win.
Basics of Blackjack Strategy
The fundamental idea behind blackjack strategy is maximizing the amount you win in the long run. This involves understanding the odds of winning against various dealer cards, so you know when to hit and when to stand. Blackjack strategy also helps you understand how much money to bet in situations where you have the advantage through splits and doubles.
The basis of all of this is pure math. There are mathematically correct plays to make in every situation, and while they won’t guarantee you win every time, they will maximize your chances of coming out ahead.
To start, let’s go over the various actions you can take during a hand of blackjack, and when those choices make sense.
Hit or Stand
Hitting and standing are the two most common actions you’ll make when playing online blackjack. Usually, you hit whenever you have a hand of 11 points or fewer, or when it is likely that the dealer will beat your current hand. That means that if the dealer would beat you with a ten, you’ll usually hit with a 16 or less.
Conversely, you’ll usually stand when either you or the dealer is highly likely to bust by taking a card. You might also stand with some high, soft hands. Even though you could improve by taking another card, there’s little reason to improve a soft 19 or higher.
Double (Double Down)
You may double down as your first action after receiving your initial hand. To do so, you put down a second bet equal to your initial wager, and the dealer gives you one more card. At that point, you must stand.
It’s a clever idea to double down in advantageous situations to maximize your profit potential. For instance, you should normally double down if you have an 11 or 10, and your total beats the card that the dealer is showing. There are also situations where doubling with a 9 or a soft hand is the proper play against weak dealer cards.
If you start with two cards of the same rank (e.g., two aces, two sevens, and so on), you have the option of splitting that hand. To do so, make a second bet equal in size to your original wager. The dealer will then separate your cards into two hands and deals a second card to each. You can now play these hands as normal.
As a rule of thumb, always split aces or eights but never split tens or fives. Other hands are more complex. Consult our basic strategy chart below for a complete guide to splitting.
If you see your initial hand as hopeless against the dealer, most online blackjack games will give you the option to surrender. When you surrender, you lose only half your bet, but the hand is immediately over.
Only surrender in the most desperate of situations, as even most of your bad hands will win often enough to return more than half over the long run. Still, you will usually want to surrender a 16 against a dealer 9 or higher (including an ace), or a 15 against a dealer 10.
Doubles After Split
Typically, you can play split hands as normal, with one exception. After you split aces, you’re given just one more card for each ace and must stand. However, most rule sets allow you to double down (or make any other action) after splitting another pair.
Be aware that some blackjack games do not allow doubling down after splitting. This rule doesn’t change blackjack strategy dramatically, but it tilts the odds slightly in the casino’s favour.
Blackjack Basic Strategy Chart
Our blackjack basic strategy chart provides you with the mathematically correct play in every situation you might see at the table. You can use it to perfect your blackjack strategy for South Africa casinos. While there’s no guarantee you’ll win every time, you can rest easy knowing you are making the best plays possible to get the highest theoretical return. This is a key step in maximizing your blackjack results.
Many players enjoy using blackjack betting systems when they play. While these systems don’t make you more likely to win or lose, they help structure your results in ways that might be more to your liking. Whether you prefer taking risks for big payouts or small wins as often as possible, we have a system for you.
Be aware that many of these systems were first designed for roulette or other games. Since blackjack sometimes requires you to make multiple bets in a hand, these systems may require some changes. This is easy, however, so long as you keep proper track of your wins and losses.
The Martingale might be the best-known betting system in the world. In this system, you start with a base betting unit. Each time you lose, you double that bet. Once you win a hand, you go back to your starting bet amount again.
Each time you win a hand, you cover all your previous losses in that sequence, and come out one bet ahead. This means you slowly build a profit while you play. However, you will occasionally run into long losing streaks that may wipe out your bankroll. You may also run into the table maximum, making it impossible to double again.
The Fibonacci betting system works as a less extreme version of the Martingale in that it will result in many small wins, along with some large losses.
This system is based on the famous Fibonacci sequence, in which every number is the total of the two previous numbers. The sequence looks like this:
1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55…
To play the Fibonacci system, choose a unit amount. Start by betting that amount and consider yourself on the second 1 in the sequence. If you lose your bet, you will move one spot up on the Fibonacci sequence and bet that many units. If you win, go two steps back on the sequence instead to lower your bet.
This means your bets won’t vary as dramatically as in the Martingale. Similarly, however, if you go all the way to the bottom of the sequence and win, you will profit one unit, and can start over again.
The Labouchere system gives you more control over how much risk you want to take. To use this system, decide how much you want to win, then write a line of numbers that add up to that total. If you want to make smaller bets, use a long list of small numbers. For big bets, a shorter row of big numbers is the way to go.
Each time you play a hand, bet an amount equal to the sum of the first and last number in your list. If you win, you can cross out these numbers. If you lose, add the amount you lost on that hand to the end of the list. If you cross off all the numbers, congratulations, you’ve won your target amount!
The D’Alembert system is again similar to the Martingale and the Fibonacci, though with even slower progression. In this system, you start with a base unit amount and bet this on your first hand. If you lose, raise your next bet by one unit. When you win, decrease your next bet by one unit instead.
You will move up and down the ladder throughout your session, yet you can still recover from your losses by increasing your bet size when you’re not doing well. The risk of disaster is far lower than the Martingale, but your odds of coming out ahead aren’t as high.
The Parlay betting system is a way to maximize your chances of pulling off a big win, though it usually ends with you suffering a small loss. To start, pick a basic betting unit you’re comfortable with, along with a goal amount that you’d like to win.
Each time you win, take all of your profits and bet them on your next hand. You will only cash out if you hit your winnings goal. To make this system less volatile, you can bet only half of your winnings on the next hand instead, while still only quitting if you reach your goal.
If you’re someone who likes to take advantage of streaks, then the Paroli system is for you. As always, start with a basic bet size. If you lose, simply make that same bet again. But if you win, increase your bet by the amount you’ve won.
Should you win two times in a row, add your winnings to your third bet. Only if you win three times in a row should you collect your winnings, after which you can go back to your basic starting bet again.
Oscar’s Grind is a progressive system that tries to minimize your risk while still taking advantage of winnings streaks. Start by betting a single unit. If you lose, continue betting one unit until you win a hand.
Once you win a hand, add one unit to your bet. Now, you will bet two units on each hand until you win again, at which point you go up to three units, and so on. The only exception is that you will never bet more than you need to make a one-unit win on your current sequence. So, if you’re only down one unit, only bet two units – enough to make a profit – no matter what your last bet was. Once you’ve profited a single unit, you can go back and start a new sequence by betting a single unit again.
This is a simple system that takes advantage of winning streaks. As always, start by picking a unit size you are comfortable with. If you win, your next bet should be three units. Win again, and you will bet two units. Finally, if you’re still winning, make a bet of six units on your fourth bet.
If you lose, or if you complete the 1-3-2-6 sequence, always return to the start, and bet a single unit again. This system can lead to huge returns if you win four or more hands in a row, while minimizing your losses in all other scenarios.
Card Counting Guide
Card counting is an advantage play used by gamblers around the world who want to make long-term profits by playing blackjack. It works by considering the cards that have already come out of the shoe to determine which cards are remaining. You then adjust your bets and decisions to take advantage of the deck composition.
On a basic level, card counters attempt to bet more when the remaining show is in their favour, and less (or not at all) when it favours the casino. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to use this technique as a part of your online blackjack strategy. Here’s a more in-depth look at how card counting works, and why it sometimes doesn’t.
Basic Card Counting Strategy
As cards leave the blackjack shoe, the remaining cards aren’t always in balance. If there are more high cards remaining – especially aces and ten-point cards – then the player has the advantage. A deck with lots of low cards, especially ranks 2-5, will favour the dealer.
Because of this, counting the cards that leave the deck can tell us which side has the advantage. If we know the rest of the shoe favours the player, we can raise our bets to take advantage of this. Do this often enough, and you have an edge over the casino.
Counting systems can get very complex, especially for gamblers who want a big edge. However, even a simple system of counting aces and fives can give the player enough of an advantage to break even. If more fives are out of the deck, you can increase your bets. If more aces are out, or if the deck is neutral, you can bet the minimum or walk away from the table.
Why Card Counting Doesn’t Work in Online Blackjack
Unfortunately, this strategy won’t help you win at online blackjack. Even in live games, casinos have techniques that can thwart card counters. If you’re too obvious about raising your bet, they will simply refuse you service. Meanwhile, continuous shuffling devices constantly refill the shoe, making it impossible to count.
That last problem is the one that carries over into online blackjack play. Almost all online casinos use random number generators that reshuffle the entire shoe after every single hand. That means there is never any deck penetration, nor anything to count. You play every hand with a perfectly balanced, complete shoe of cards, meaning the odds are always the same for you no matter what has happened on previous rounds of play. One exception may be live dealer games, though most casinos still use continuous shuffling at these tables to combat card counters.
Other Blackjack Tips and Tricks
Beyond everything we’ve talked about already, there are many more factors that can influence your results. Here are a few more tips and tricks you can add to your blackjack strategy at South Africa casinos.
Position at the Table
Many players have superstitions about table position or get mad at the final player to act (usually the leftmost seat at the table) if they make decisions they don’t like. In reality, your results will be the same no matter where you sit, and the final player can’t do anything to change the odds of other players in the long run.
However, there may be a minor advantage to sitting to the left. This will allow you to see as many cards as possible before you play your hand. If there’s a dramatic sequence of cards – such as many low cards coming out of the deck in front of you – that could impact some of your close plays, such as choosing whether to hit or stand with 16 against a dealer 10.
Other Players’ Hands
No matter where you sit at the table, it’s worth glancing at other players’ hands. Once again, this will rarely impact your results or decisions. If you’re stuck in a close spot, however, it doesn’t hurt to remember that the cards you can see are out of the shoe as it could be enough to tilt your thinking.
Number of Decks Used
If you have the choice, it is usually best to play in games that use as few decks as possible in the shoe. With fewer cards in play, any counting techniques you use will be more effective, even if the dealer shuffles the cards after every hand. For instance, in a two-deck game, even knowing that three aces are already out of the deck is enough to tell you that your odds of you or the dealer getting one in the future have dropped significantly.
Here’s a simple rule to follow, never take insurance! While it can feel like you are protecting yourself, you will lose money in the long run by buying insurance. Similarly, don’t accept even money on a blackjack when the dealer is showing an ace: this is mathematically the same as taking insurance, and will cost you money in the long run.
As in any form of gambling, bankroll management is key to long term success in blackjack. While it can be tempting to move up in stakes to chase losses, find a small betting unit that you are comfortable with it and stick with it. This will protect your bankroll from short-term losing streaks that are very common in blackjack.
Practice Your Blackjack Skills
Now that you’re armed with all the tools you need, it’s time to apply them in real blackjack play, or practice your strategies with free play. Sign up with one of our recommended online blackjack sites to perfect your skills today!