If you don’t know basic strategy, you don’t know how to play real money blackjack. Without it, you cannot expect to enjoy the lowest possible house edge. Let us show you how blackjack strategy works, complete with play charts for some of the best online 21 games at Australia’s top real money casinos.
Best casino sites for online blackjack
Each of the online casinos above is officially licensed, fully regulated and 100 per cent legal for Australian blackjack players over the age of 18. They support numerous AUD banking methods for instant deposits and fast withdrawals, including VISA, MasterCard, POLi, Neteller, Skrill, Paysafecard and direct bank transfers. All games on offer at these sites, including both RNG-based digital 21 and live dealer blackjack tables, are audited and tested several times a year by third-party regulators such as eCOGRA (eCommerce Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance), so there is no need to doubt whether they are safe, fair and honestly run.
What is basic strategy in blackjack?
Many casino games don’t offer players the scope to improve their odds of success through skill and smarts. Popular pursuits such as online baccarat, real money roulette and especially the pokies are beasts of pure chance where all a punter can do is put down a bet and hope for the best.
In blackjack, however, players can control their destiny to some degree by choosing when to stand, hit, double down, split, or surrender. It is still a game of chance, and there is no way to completely overturn the house edge (besides counting cards, which is a pointless ploy when playing online), but knowing the right move for each and every scenario means we can give ourselves the best possible odds of winning.
That’s what basic strategy is: a list of preset plays that describe what to do for any given situation in a hand of real money 21. Each move is calculated to provide the most likely route to success in accordance with the specific rules in play and how they affect probability, expected returns and true odds. All we have to do is read the charts, memorise the plays and put them in action.
Best strategies for online blackjack games
While most Australian, American and European blackjack games have much in common, the vast array of rule variations in 21 means the ideal strategy can differ from game to game. That being said, blackjack strategy sheets are not hard to find – a simple Google search will do the trick – and there are a number of strategy calculators on the web that will show you the right plays for any set of rules.
Below are the proper basic strategies for some of the most popular online and mobile blackjack games, all of which are available at our approved safe casino sites for Australians. These charts were formulated with the assistance of the excellent blackjack strategy calculator devised by gambling guru Michael Shackleford (Wizard of Odds).
S = Stand
H = Hit
Dh = Double down if allowed, hit if not
Ds = Double down if allowed, stand if not
P = Split pairs
Rs = Surrender
Microgaming Gold Series
House edge = 0.13 per cent
Vegas Strip Blackjack
Microgaming Gold Series
House edge = 0.35 per cent
Single Deck Blackjack
NetEnt Pro Series
House edge = 0.48 per cent
VIP Live Blackjack
House edge = 0.49 per cent
(Same as Vegas Strip Blackjack)
How to read blackjack strategy charts
If you have never seen a basic strategy chart before, it might look a little complicated at first glance. There is no great mystery to it, however, and it becomes pretty straightforward once you get a handle on how things are laid out.
Most strategy sheets are divided into three parts, each of which details the different plays for a hard hand (one with no Ace, or where an Ace can count only as one point), a soft hand (one with an Ace that can count as either one or 11 points) and a pair that can be split to form separate hands. Charts are displayed as tables upon which the player’s possible hands are listed on the left and the dealer’s possible up-cards are listed across the top. Each cell on the grid shows the correct move for X (the player’s total) in the event of Y (the dealer’s card).
For example, let’s say we are holding a hard total of 10 and the dealer is showing an Ace. If we find the row labelled ’10’ on the left of the chart and follow it to the column labelled ‘A’, the cell where those two intersect will tell us the correct play is to hit (‘H’).
Perfect strategy for real money 21
Simple, effective and repeatable, basic strategy is all most players need in order to enjoy a low house edge on 21 games. As shown above, it can keep the casino advantage well under 0.50 per cent when you play real money blackjack online. That’s much better value than you will find at any land-based Australian casino in this day and age, never mind the obvious convenience of playing via Mac, PC, smartphone or tablet.
However, there are other, more complex play charts available that take into consideration not only the hand totals and whether they are hard, soft, or paired, but also exactly which cards are on the table, the number of cards the player has drawn and other such specifics. This type of play is known as perfect composition-based strategy, or optimal strategy, and it provides the lowest blackjack house edge possible (without executing a flawless card count).
In most cases, the difference between basic play and perfect blackjack strategy is minute. In Vegas Strip Blackjack Gold, for example, a mere 0.0055 per cent separates the theoretical returns for basic strategy (99.64701 per cent) and optimal play (99.65251 per cent). So while the hardcore high stakes blackjack players might miss that extra five-and-a-half cents out of every $1000 wagered, most punters will give up little to nothing by sticking to basic strategy 21.