Your guide to Playing blackjack on a budget

The main reason most people play blackjack is for its great pay-outs when natural 21s occur. If you’re playing for real money, there’s usually no need ever to risk your chips on any hand lower than 19; even 18 has only a 45% probability of winning by hitting against soft 17 through basic strategy (and that’s before considering the ‘insurance’ pay-outs).

But what about when you’re playing without betting chips? Obviously, there’s no need to win; all you want is for the dealer not to bust. So, why depend on the basic strategy chart if it tells you to stay or hit only 18% of the time?

The best option to take

Obviously, you don’t have many options, but if your total is 17, 18, or 19, then always stand. If it’s 16, then just stand against anything less than 8 and stand against 2’s through 9’s regardless of how well they can pair with other visible cards (note that standing will also help protect your hand because it might happen at an inconvenient time in an eight-deck blackjack game). But hitting will be better than standing against any 10, including a 9 on this hand, so you should never do it.

If – 13, 14, or 15, always stand if the dealer’s showing anything higher than 4 and stand against 2 through 9 regardless of his upcard if your total is 17.


On the other hand, hitting is better than standing in all situations but one (where everything is equal then hit). This has nothing to do with basic strategy. However, this ‘rule’ only applies when playing blackjack without betting chips because it ensures you’ll have a fighting chance at winning.

The takeaway here is simple: most people who play six-deck single-deck games lose because they don’t know how to adjust their hands from the basic strategy chart properly. If you use the ‘stand’ rule and a few other tactics that will be explained in an upcoming chapter, you’ll win more often and learn to adjust your play depending on whether or not insurance is available. I’ve explained this in greater detail. Go to for more information.