Basic Blackjack Strategy

Morten
5 January 2023
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basic-blackjack-strategy

Basic strategy for blackjack is a set of rules and guidelines that help a player make the most optimal decisions when playing the game. It is based on statistical analysis and the probabilities of certain outcomes occurring, and it is designed to give the player the best chance of winning against the house. The basic strategy for blackjack is usually presented in a chart or table that shows the player what action to take in any given situation.

For example, the chart might show that the player should always hit on a hand with a total value of 16 or less and stand on a hand with a total value of 17 or more. The chart considers the player’s hand, the dealer’s up card, and the game’s specific rules, such as whether the dealer hits or stands on soft 17 and whether the player is allowed to double down or split pairs.

Understand that basic strategy for blackjack is not a guarantee of success because the game still involves an element of luck. But, it is considered the most effective way for a player to play the game. By following the basic strategy, players can significantly reduce the casino’s advantage over them and improve their chances of winning.

Basic Blackjack Strategy for One and Multiple Decks

In the game of blackjack, the goal is to beat the dealer by having a hand value higher than the dealer without going over 21. One strategy for playing blackjack with a single deck is to base your decisions on the dealer’s up card and your hand value. If the dealer has a weak up card, such as a 2 through 6, it is generally a good idea to stand on a hand value of 12 or higher.

This is because the dealer is more likely to bust with a weak-up card, and standing on a 12 or higher gives you a decent chance of winning the hand. If the dealer has a strong up card, such as a 7 through ace, you may want to be more aggressive in your play. For example, if you have a hand value of 11 or lower, you may want to hit in an attempt to improve your hand.

This is because the dealer is less likely to bust with a strong up card, and hitting gives you a better chance of getting a hand value that is high enough to beat the dealer. Practising with a card counting trainer or playing online can help you develop your skills and improve your understanding of the strategy for playing blackjack with a single deck.

The basic strategy for playing blackjack with multiple decks is similar to that of playing with a single deck, but there are some significant differences to consider. The basic strategy is a set of guidelines recommending the best course of action based on the dealer’s up card and your own hand value. One key difference to consider when playing with multiple decks is the effect of the increased number of cards.

With more decks, the proportion of high cards to low cards in the shoe becomes more diluted, making it less likely that the dealer will bust and more likely that you will need a higher hand value to win. As a result, you may want to be more conservative in your play with multiple decks.

For example, you might stand on a hand value of 12 or higher with a single deck when the dealer has a weak card. With multiple decks, you might want to stand on a hand value of 13 or higher in the same situation. Similarly, you might want to hit more often with a hand value of 11 or lower when the dealer has a strong up card in order to improve your chances of beating the dealer.

It is also essential to consider the specific rules of the game when using the basic strategy with multiple decks. For example, knowing when to double down in blackjack is crucial: some games may allow you to double down on any two cards, while others may only allow you to double down on specific hand values. Make sure you are familiar with the rules of the game you are playing and adjust your strategy accordingly.

The Blackjack Strategy Table

The mathematician Michael Shackleford has calculated the optimal strategy for most casino games. He shared these casino strategies with the world in 2005 in his book Gambling 102. Shackleford has prepared a table showing you when to hit, stand, and fold for Blackjack. The table below, by Kenneth R Smith-an avid Blackjack player of many years and creator, summarises what it looks like.

Basic Blackjack Strategy (1 Deck)

Hard Total2345678910A
5-7HHHHHHHHHH
8HHHDDHHHHH
9DDDDDHHHHH
10DDDDDDDDHH
11DDDDDDDDDD
12HHSSSHHHHH
13SSSSSHHHHH
14SSSSSHHHHH
15SSSSSHHHHH
16SSSSSHHHRR
17SSSSSSSSSS
Soft Total2345678910A
A,2HHDDDHHHHH
A,3HHDDDHHHHH
A,4HHDDDHHHHH
A,5HHDDDHHHHH
A,6DDDDDHHHHH
A,7SDSDSDSDSSSHHS
A,8SSSSDSSSSSS
A,9SSSSSSSSSS
H = Hit, D = Double Down, S = Stand, R = Surrender or Hit, DS = Double or Stand

Basic Blackjack Strategy (4/6/8 Decks)

Hard Total2345678910A
5-7HHHHHHHHHH
8HHHHHHHHHH
9HDDDDHHHHH
10DDDDDDDDHH
11DDDDDDDDDH
12HHSSSHHHHH
13SSSSSHHHHH
14SSSSSHHHHH
15SSSSSHHHRH
16SSSSSHHRRR
17SSSSSSSSSS
Soft Total2345678910A
A,2HHHDDHHHHH
A,3HHHDDHHHHH
A,4HHDDDHHHHH
A,5HHDDDHHHHH
A,6HDDDDHHHHH
A,7SDSDSDSDSSSHHH
A,8SSSSSSSSSS
A,9SSSSSSSSSS
H = Hit, D = Double Down, S = Stand, R = Surrender or Hit, DS = Double or Stand

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H = Hit, D = Double Down, S = Stand, R = Surrender or Hit, DS = Double or Stand

In the most vertical column, you can look up your score. You can then read what to do in the bar next to your total score. Whether you should fold or hit depends on the dealer’s visible card. We highly recommend printing out this blackjack cheat sheet.

The odds of winning at blackjack with basic strategy are not fixed. They can vary depending on several factors, including the specific rules of the game being played, the number of decks used, and the player’s skill level. However, basic strategy can significantly improve a player’s chances of winning by helping them make the most favourable decisions based on the cards they have been dealt and the card the dealer is showing.

Basic strategy is a mathematical approach to playing blackjack that considers the probabilities of certain outcomes occurring. By following the set of guidelines based on statistical analysis, players can make decisions that will give them the best chance of winning. This may enhance significant improvement in odds.

Also, on average, the house edge for blackjack games played with basic strategy is around 0.5%. This means that for every $100 a player wagers, they can expect to lose an average of 50 cents over the long term. However, the house edge can vary depending on the specific rules of the game and the number of decks being used. For example, a game with a single deck typically has a lower house edge than a game with multiple decks.

The basic strategy for blackjack is not difficult to learn, but it does require some practice and memorisation. Many players find it helpful to use the chart or software that helps them make the correct decisions until they are comfortable with the strategy.

It is also important for players to familiarise themselves with the game’s specific rules and adjust their strategy accordingly. Players must familiarise themselves with basic strategy and practice it to become proficient. Players should also be aware that basic strategy may vary depending on the game’s specific rules and the number of decks used.

Tips to Memorize a Strategy Chart

Memorising the right way to hit, stand, split and double down your hand is a must. It will help you cut the house edge to as low as 0.5 percent. As a player, it could be quite intimidating if you have yet to play or practise with a strategy card before.

According to experts, here are a few tips to help you follow and memorise the chart well:

  • When the dealer has 2-6, and your hand is 12-16, stand.
  • When your hand is 12-16, and the dealer has 7-Ace, hit.
  • Always split Aces and 8s.
  • Hit or double Aces-6
  • Double 11 versus the dealer’s 2-10

Other than using these tips to memorise your chart, there are certain things you need to take into consideration to enhance your winning chances.

Enhancing Your Winning Chances with Basic Strategy

Here are a few points to consider:

1. Avoid Playing Insurance

Insurance is essentially another bet with new money. It is dependent on whether the dealer has blackjack or not. Don’t make this mistake if you are not counting cards. With an insurance bet in blackjack, the house has nearly a 6% edge over you, the player. If you eventually get blackjack, you’re only winning your initial wager, and if the dealer also gets a blackjack with you, then there is neither a winner nor a loser.

2. Avoid Burnouts

Always have an amount you’re comfortable with parting with that does not limit the amount you stand to win. If you’re on a losing streak, move on.

3. Don’t Buy into Gambler’s Myths

When playing, it’s just you against the dealer, and neither of you knows what the other person has. So, whatever everyone else at the table’s decision is should not influence your hand. Just stick to playing correctly, the basic strategy. In this guide, we have already provided you with tips and strategies to increase your chance of winning at Blackjack. But even if you play optimally and follow every clue in the table meticulously, the dealer still has an advantage. On a good night, there is certainly a chance that you will go home with a win, but if you play often enough, you will record some losses in the long run. One way to win long-term at Blackjack is to count cards.

Counting Cards at Blackjack

When counting cards, you, as a player, keep an eye on how many high and low cards are still in the game. When the point is reached where there are more high cards in the deck than the common cards, card counters increase their bets. When there are lower than high cards in the deck of cards, they lower their bet again.

Because remembering every card is impossible for almost anyone, systems have been designed to make it easier. In all these blackjack card counting systems, each card is given a value of +1, 0, or -1. The starting number differs per system and the point at which the bet should be increased or decreased.

By counting cards, you can gain an advantage over the dealer and thus win systematically. Counting cards is not prohibited by law, but casinos have the right to kick you out if they suspect you of card counting. You cannot count cards at online casinos as they use multiple decks for all their blackjack games except Single Deck Blackjack.

Card counters and card counting are well-known figures of speech in movies. For example, Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise count cards in the Oscar-winning 1988 film Rain Man. And in 2009, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis did it all over again in The Hangover.

The Kevin Spacey movie “21” is about card counting; the film tells the true story of the MIT Blackjack Team, which succeeded with the card counting strategy between 1979 and the early 21st century.

Progressive Betting Blackjack Strategies

Counting cards is tricky, and with more decks and frequent shuffling, it is practically impossible in many casinos. Several other blackjack strategies advocates claim to guarantee success. Most of these strategies are based on progressive betting, increasing or decreasing the bet as a particular sequence occurs. Some well-known systems are the Paroli blackjack strategy and the Parlay blackjack strategy.

The best known is the Martingale blackjack strategy. With the Martingale system, you double your bet if you lose a hand. If you win the second hand, you have made up for the loss of the first hand, plus some profit. If you also lose the second hand in a row, you double your bet again on the third hand.

Losing six or seven hands of Blackjack in a row is exceptional but certainly not impossible. And this poses two significant problems:

  • It would help if you kept doubling to make up for your first loss. You must bring a lot of money to the table to keep this up. Especially if you have to split or double now and then according to the optimal strategy, it can be costly. It would help if you had a lot of money to execute this strategy.
  • Casinos all have a maximum bet per hand of Blackjack. So even if you were a millionaire, you cannot keep doubling and will only sometimes be able to make up for your loss with a new bet.

Progressive betting can increase the tension at the table and sometimes compensate for your losses or increase your winnings. But don’t be fooled: progressive betting is not the golden trick to acquiring infinite wealth at the blackjack table. Chances are you’ll lose more than you’d like.

Blackjack dealers are generally expected to know the game’s rules and follow the basic strategy when playing their own hand. Basic strategy is a mathematical approach to playing the game that considers the probabilities of specific outcomes occurring and helps players make decisions that will give them the best chance of winning.

Professional casinos require their blackjack dealers to be proficient in basic strategy and to follow it when playing their hand. This is because dealers are expected to play their hand according to a set of predetermined rules rather than making decisions based on their judgment or intuition. By following basic strategy, dealers can help ensure that the game is played fairly and that all players’ odds of winning are consistent.

While it is generally assumed that blackjack dealers know basic strategy, it is worth noting that dealers are humans, after all, and can make mistakes or deviate from basic strategy from time to time. However, these deviations are typically minor and do not significantly impact the overall fairness of blackjack.

Final Take

By following the basic strategy and considering the specific rules and conditions of blackjack, you can improve your chances of winning and have a more enjoyable experience playing the game with multiple decks.

It is also equally important to remember that these are general guidelines and may not always be the best course of action. When making your decisions, you should consider other factors, such as your hand’s composition and the game’s specific rules. In addition to following the basic strategy, you may also consider using a card-counting system to gain an advantage.

Author Morten

After being a recreational gambler for over 10 years, my professional gambling career started at LeoVegas in January 2019. I am now Head of SEO & Content at Casinogrounds, responsible for what you read on UKCasino.com, Casinogrounds.com, and Casinoscores.com.