On the surface, Blackjack is a very simple game. Your goal is to beat the Dealer by building a hand with a higher score—up to a maximum of 21 points. Strategy consists of following a set of guidelines established long ago by the pros. You can even learn a basic strategy for every variant you’ll encounter, be it the number of decks in the shoe, whether the dealer hits or stands on soft 17, or any other standard set of rules. 

Despite having long-established strategies to help players along the way, it does take some time and effort to learn these strategies and avoid common Blackjack mistakes. As Alexander Pope once wrote, to err is human. There are specific hands in Blackjack that seem to cause more mistakes than others, from what to do with a hard 12 to how to approach a Dealer Ace. Here are seven of the most common ones, which should be kept in mind when you play online Blackjack for real money.

Hard 12 vs. Low Dealer Upcard

Most Blackjack players with a little experience are aware that it’s bad for the Dealer to have anything lower than a Seven showing. These cards have high bust probabilities because he’ll be forced to draw two cards in order to reach a score of 17 – provided you don’t go bust first. As a result, many players will simply stand with anything higher than a score of 11. It’s a decent simplified strategy, but in most online Blackjack games, there are two situations where you should hit instead: when you’ve got 12, and the Dealer has a Deuce or a Trey.

Pair of Nines

Some players prefer to stand when they’re dealt a pair of Nines, especially when the Dealer has one of those low “bust cards” we just mentioned. But the odds say otherwise. Take advantage of Blackjack pair splitting here; a pair of Nines should be split when facing one of these up-cards, and also when the Dealer is showing an Eight or a Nine. Go ahead and stand if he has a Seven, a 10-value card, or an Ace. 

Player Soft 17

Right now, somewhere in the world, someone is standing on Soft 17 (Ace-Six). This is never correct. While a hard 17 is a decent hand that you should stand on, a soft 17 is another story. You’ll win more often if you hit, no matter what the Dealer’s up-card is. Better yet, if doubling is allowed, double down if the Dealer is showing a Trey, Four, Five or Six.

Soft 18 vs. Dealer’s Nine or Ten

This one gets confusing as a soft 18 needs to be played in one of three ways depending on the Dealer’s upcard. In the case where the Dealer has a Nine or higher card showing, it’s best to hit as you need to be more competitive to stand a chance against such a strong Dealer upcard. When the Dealer has a Seven or Eight, you can take it easy and stand. Anything lower means the Dealer will likely bust, so you should take advantage and double down if possible. If it’s not possible, stand instead.

Dealer’s Ace

Many Blackjack variants (including here at Ignition Casino) allow you to buy Insurance when the Dealer’s up-card is an Ace. This side bet pays out at 2:1 if he does indeed have a Blackjack, which means you’ll break even on the round. However, this is never the right move. Some players will only do this when they have a strong hand like two 10-value cards. This is even worse, since you have two of the 10-value cards that the Dealer needs to get Blackjack. As a general rule, just say no to insurance.

Pair of 10s

Oftentimes, players will split 10s hoping to land two pairs of 10s instead of one. The odds of that happening while playing Single Deck Blackjack are roughly 27%, as there are only 14 more 10-value cards in the shoe once your pair is accounted for. While it’s not the worst move you can make, the better move is to stand and take the (almost) guaranteed win with a score of 20.

Hard 16

A hard 16 is one of the worst online Blackjack hands possible. It’s not strong enough to be competitive, but also is at great risk of busting if you hit. As a result, the optimal play depends on two things: the Dealer’s upcard, and the version of Blackjack you’re playing (number of decks primarily). With all versions, you should stand against anything lower than Seven, and hit against a Dealer Seven and Eight. What you do against the better Dealer upcards depends on the version you’re playing. With Single and Double Deck Blackjack, you should hit against a Nine, and Surrender against anything higher. With more decks in the shoe, you should Surrender against a Nine and higher. If the version you’re playing doesn’t allow Surrender, like our Single and Double Deck Blackjack, hit instead.  

Blackjack Hand Charts

All of this information and more can be found on Blackjack strategy charts online. These handy tools compare all of the possible Dealer upcards with every score you can possibly get, and they tell you the optimal move to make based on the math. One version of Blackjack comes with three charts: one for hard hands, one for soft hands and one for pair splitting. When you implement this strategy, you can whittle the house edge to well under 1%. Just be sure to get your chart from a reputable source.

There’s no denying that Blackjack is the most popular table game in the world. People are drawn to it because of the mixture between skill and luck, and the low house edge. But in order to benefit from the low house edge, you need to play your cards right. Avoid these commonly misplayed hands, and you’ll be on your way to building the optimal online Blackjack strategy. Start today by practicing what you’ve learned with one of our nine real money Blackjack games in the Table Games section of our casino.