How to Win at Blackjack Using Basic Strategy and Side Bets

Blackjack is a game of strategy, chance and math. Using basic strategy, you can improve your odds of winning by increasing the size of your bets in favorable situations and making wise decisions when the dealer shows his up card. There are also several side bets available in blackjack that change the payout you receive and can turn the odds in your favor, but these should only be made if you understand them and how they work.

Blackjack basics

A player’s goal in blackjack is to have a hand value of 21 or higher from the first two cards that are dealt to them. This hand must beat the dealer’s hand to win. If a player busts (goes over 21) they lose the hand. If the dealer’s up card is a 2, 3, or 6 the player should always hit. However, if the dealer’s up card is a 7, 8, or Ace, the player should stand.

Doubling down

If a player has a total of 11 from the initial two cards they have, they can double down. This is a good move, because it increases the chances of hitting a 21 or better. However, doubling down is only effective if the dealer has a weak hand. You should never double down on a hard 11, and you should only double when the dealer’s up card is 10 or an A.

Splitting pairs

It is best to always split a pair of 8s and aces in blackjack. This will result in more winning hands than not splitting them. However, it is important to note that not all casinos allow this. Some even reduce the payout on blackjacks from 3:2 to 6:5; this makes it more expensive for players.


If the dealer has an ace showing and you have a blackjack, you should always take insurance. This is a side bet that gives you back half of your original stake if the dealer has blackjack. This is a great way to reduce your losses and end the game in the black.

Learning how to count cards can make blackjack an even more profitable game for players. In simple terms, as the number of face cards in a deck decreases your advantage grows because you will be making more blackjacks and the dealer will be busting more often. There are many different card counting systems, but the most popular is the Hi-Lo method. It’s a bit complicated and requires practice to be successful, but it can help you get more wins in the long run than if you don’t count cards. A good guide to card counting is the book “Blackjack Blueprint” by blackjack expert Rick Blaine.