The Correct Way to Play Blackjack: Basic Strategy

Monday, December 15, 2014

Blackjack Basic Strategy is the correct way of playing Blackjack and its purpose is to keep the casino's long-term winning margin (house edge) to around 0.50%. This house edge is calculated by simulating millions of hands in a computer and depends on the Blackjack rules followed in a casino. For example in a 6-deck Blackjack, by making just one change of allowing doubling only on 9-10-11 instead of any first two cards, the house edge will go up from 0.55% to 0.64%. Still, whatever the rules in a casino be, not playing by the basic Strategy will cost the player heavily and will increase the casino edge substantially. In this page, you will see a graphic representation of Blackjack Basic Strategy, significance of some casino rules that increase or decrease winning odds, and tips for fine-tuning of the basic strategy. Also, please remember that Basic Strategy does not guarantee winning but instead will only help improve your long term winning average. It is recommended to play at least 100 hands of Blackjack at a time, so please divide your bet amount in such a way that you are able to play 100 hands. On a Blackjack table with a minimum bet of 100 units of money, you need to have 10,000 units of money with you. Play just for fun and always know that in the short or long term, Blackjack is never going to make you rich or richer. Keep reading...

Blackjack Basic Strategy

Blackjack Basic Strategy Chart
Abbreviations used:
H: Hit
S: Stand
D: Double
P: Split
SR: Surrender

Fine-tune the Basic Strategy

1. When Surrender is not allowed, the correct way to play will be "Hit".

2. When Double Down is not allowed, the correct way to play will be "Hit".

3. When the player has a soft 18, the recommendation above is to Double against a dealer's open card of 3,4,5, or 6. Now 18 is a strong hand and if the player does not feel like taking additional risk, he or she may choose to Hit or Stand instead of Doubling.

4. Splitting of 8-8 is advised even against a dealer's 10 or Ace. You may go ahead and do it if you feel really lucky, otherwise just Surrender if allowed and Hit if no Surrender is allowed.

5. It is very rare to find a casino that allows Surrender when the dealer's open card is an Ace. But if you find that option available in a casino, Surrender if you have a hard or soft 14, 15, or 16. If you have a seven-pair and the dealer has an Ace, it is better to Surrender rather than to Hit or Split.

Additional Tips

(i) Never take Insurance or Even Money because that gives additional edge to the casino. Dealers offer these options very strongly knowing that if a player chooses to take Insurance or Even Money, the casino gains more.

(ii) Always Split Aces, even if the dealer's open card is an Ace. Without splitting you have a total of 12 which is a horrible total against a dealer's Ace. Remember, Aces can be split only once and the player gets only one card for each Ace after splitting. No Blackjack is allowed after splitting Aces, thus an A,10 will be counted as 21 and not as Blackjack. If the dealer comes up with a Blackjack, a split hand of A,10 will lose.

(iii) Always Stand a hard 17 or above.

(iv) Always Stand soft 19 (A,8), 20(A,9) or 21 (A,10).

(v) Never "Double" if there is any possibility of the next card taking your total above 21. I have seen some players make that mistake just because they wanted to Double for fun.

Why Double or Split hands

A common and relevant question here is "why double or split?" especially since that will result in additional bets and increase the stake a player has in a particular game. Well, doubling and splitting are the options that will be exercised by a player when he or she has a strong hand against a dealer's weaker hand. These moves improve the winning odds of the player.

Why Double Down

For example, when the player total is 11 and dealer's open card is a less than a 10-point card, the dealer's odds of getting a Blackjack are nil whereas if the player gets a 10 point or a face card next, he or she will make 21 which the highest possible total short of a Blackjack.

Why Split

Splitting is helpful in situations where the dealer has a weak open card and player can possibly make two strong hands after splitting. Splitting two Aces makes getting two 21's possible and splitting two 8's may result in two 18's instead of one 16 which is a bad hand.

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Posted by Narinder Singh


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I left my day job in October 2013 and became a full time blogger. I love travel and hence a travel blog was the obvious place to start from. The result is I currently live in Bengaluru, India. - Narinder Singh.


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