The Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Shortcut Guide

Closeup of Ace and Jack of Spades With Books in Background

Blackjack is the most popular casino table game offered by casinos, and has held this crown for a long time. It gives players a chance to walk away from the table as a winner more often than most casino games, and if you’re willing to do the work you can even play with a small edge in the long run.

This ultimate blackjack strategy shortcut guide is designed to get you started playing as quickly as possible while taking advantage of a small house edge. Once I teach you how to get started, I’ll share with you the next steps if you want to learn more about beating blackjack.

The Importance of Rules

Most casino games have a single set of rules. The rules for each game are directly related to the house edge, so when the rules are always the same, the house edge is usually the same. But blackjack has a wide range of rules options, so if you want to play with a low house edge you need to find games with good rules.

Because there are so many different rules variations in blackjack, it’s difficult to simply list one set of rules that make a good game.

A game with one bad rule and several good rules can still be a good game. And a game with several decent rules can be a good game, even if it doesn’t have a single great rule.

Because of this, I’m going to list common blackjack rules and explain which ones are better than others. When you find a game with more good rules than bad ones you know you have a game you can play.

Natural blackjack payout – One hard and fast rule for blackjack players is to never play at a table that pays worse than 3 to 2 for a natural blackjack. More and more casinos are offering games that only pay 6 to 5, and you should never play one of these games. The house edge goes up too much with a short payout to let you overcome the added edge.

SurrenderThe surrender rule allows you to fold your hand before the end and receive half of your original wager back. This isn’t a common rule, but some casinos offer it. Surrender is a good rule for you. You might see things about early and late surrender, but it’s almost impossible to find a game offering early surrender. The difference is in early surrender you can surrender before the dealer checks their down card and in late surrender you have to wait to see if the dealer has a natural blackjack.

Splitting cards – The best rules are that you can split any pair and that you can split as many times as possible. If you split your pair and receive a second pair, it’s best to be able to split again. Common rules allow you to split three or four times.

Doubling down – When you double down you place a second bet equal to your first one and receive exactly one more card. This is valuable when you have a total of 10 or 11 and the dealer has a poor face up card. The best rule allows you to double down at any time on any number of cards. This isn’t common. The most common rule is you can double down on any two cards.

Doubling down after splitting – Most casinos don’t allow you to double down after splitting, but if you can it offers you another advantage.

Dealer stands or hits on soft 17 – This rule isn’t as important as the other rules listed here, but when the dealer stands on a soft 17 it’s slightly better for you than when the dealer hits a soft 17. If the other rules are favorable, the dealer hitting on a soft 17 isn’t enough to make it a bad game.

Number of decks – The number of decks in play makes small difference to the house edge. The basic rule is the smaller the number of decks, the lower the house edge. Blackjack games are commonly dealt using a single deck, double deck, four decks, six decks, and eight decks. A single deck blackjack game is best, followed by a double deck game, etc. If all of the other rules are good, the number of decks isn’t overly important.

You can find rules variations beyond these, but most of them don’t matter. Find games with as many of these good rules as possible and you should be ok.

Using Blackjack Strategy

Finding real money blackjack games with good rules is only one part of the equation. Once you find a game with good rules you have to learn how to use strategy to lower the house edge more. Every possible card combination you can have at the blackjack table has a mathematical correct way to play. Making the single best possible play either wins the most money or loses the least amount of money.

If you try to determine the best play on your own it can be quite challenging. The good news is you don’t need to figure out the best blackjack strategy on your own. You can find a detailed blackjack strategy card here.

Closeup of a Blackjack Table Game

The way to use a blackjack strategy card is to find your hand down the left hand side and the dealer’s face up card along the top. Where the two meet it shows the best play. Using proper blackjack strategy is this simple. Simply use a chart or card every time you play.

The other two things you need to know about proper blackjack strategy are to never take the insurance bet and never make any of the side bets. The insurance wager is simply a disguised side bet that increases the house edge. All side bets are designed to increase the house edge, so you should always avoid them.

How to Start Playing Now

Here’s how to start playing real money blackjack now with a low house edge. You can use these steps whether you play online or in a land based casino.

The first step is to print out or buy a blackjack strategy card. Always use you chart or card when you play. Eventually you’re going to memorize the best plays, but don’t worry about that now. Simply use your chart.

The next step is to find real money blackjack games with good rules.

Many casinos offer tables with different rules and different numbers of decks so don’t give up when you see the first table.

Once you find a table with good rules take a seat and start with table minimum bets. As long as you play with good rules and use proper strategy, you should always bet the minimum. The only reason to bet more is covered in the next section.

When you follow these simple steps you’re playing blackjack with a low house edge. Depending on the exact set of rules, you’re usually going to play with a house edge of under a half percent.

The Next Steps

Once you learn how to find blackjack tables with good rules and learn how to use the proper strategy, you can start learning how to improve your chances of success even more. You can find information on this site and in books about advanced strategy for blackjack including card counting, shuffle tracking, hole carding, and ace sequencing.

I recommend learning as much as you can about card counting once you master the rules and basic blackjack strategy. It’s possible to develop a long term edge over the casino if you learn how to count cards

While you can use the other advanced methods I listed above to get an edge, the easiest way is to master counting cards. It’s more challenging than using basic strategy, but it’s not too hard for most players to learn if you’re willing to work at it.

Closeup of a Blackjack Hand

The first thing to do is learn the basics of counting cards. Once you understand how card counting works, the next step is to pick a card counting system and master it. You can use almost any card counting system, but the ones I recommend investigating first are the Knock Out, Red 7, and High Low.

These are all simple systems that are easy to learn and produce powerful results.

I mentioned in the last section that you shouldn’t raise your bets as a basic strategy blackjack player. Once you learn how to count cards you raise your bet in specific situations to help you overcome the house edge. Complete details are included in the system you choose to learn.


Playing blackjack with a low house edge is as simple as finding games offering good rules and using the proper strategy. This isn’t complicated, and there’s never an excuse to ignore this advice. The casinos allow the use if a strategy card or chart at the table, so make sure you always use one.

When you follow this advice you can start playing right away. Once you get comfortable with the rules and using proper strategy, start learning more about counting cards.