The basic Blackjack stategy
So what is the basic blackjack strategy and why am I looking at a chart?
Blackjack is a game of probabilities – not random luck. While luck does come into it, knowing the probability of winning or losing with each decision you make is a massive part of the game. This chart – the basic strategy – is your key to making the best calls on any blackjack game you play, and maximising your chances of winning.
Down the left hand side of the chart you will see your hand total; along the top of the chart you’ll see the dealer’s up card. The strategy is to simply follow the chart down and across to find the best decision you can make. As you get closer to 21, your chances of winning naturally increase; unfortunately, so do your chances of going bust. This strategy is based on everything from years of work from leading statisticians, to a whole world of computer simulations looking to refine the strategy to the point where it’s virtually unbeatable.
If the strategy were unbeatable, however, no casino in the world would offer the game as they wouldn’t be making any money. The basic strategy simply tells you what your mathematically best choice is, based on a couple of assumptions:
- You’re playing either a shoe game or a hand game using a set number of decks
- The dealer stands on a soft 17
- You can double down after splitting
Your best choice will naturally vary depending on how the game you’re playing works out and how many cards are left in the deck. This is why it’s easier to learn the strategy online, as each round is effectively played with a fresh deck. It’s also worth noting that the more decks a dealer shuffles together, the lower the chances of seeing the card you want as the game plays out, throwing the maths off ever so slightly.
Some people will tell you that you need to completely memorise the strategy in order to be a good player. This isn’t strictly true – you’re allowed to carry a card with the strategy printed on at a physical casino, and online casinos won’t be able to tell if you have the strategy open in front of you. Rather than overthinking things and trying to memorise the entire chart, simply practice using the chart and the best choices will start coming naturally. If you want to memorise anything, make sure you memorise the following simple rules and tips on playing blackjack:
1. The rule of 10’s – 10-value cards are by far the most common cards in the deck. Assume that every card coming up, along with the dealer’s face-down card, will be a 10-value card.
2. Hit on a soft 17 – it’s impossible to bust out on a soft 17, and there’s a fair chance of getting to 21. Sticking on a soft 17 is the worst possible call.
3. Beware the hard 17 – 17 is a relatively low hand total, though it’s still fairly easy to bust out. Be aware that unless the dealer’s up card has a value of 3-6, your chances of winning on a hard 17 are fairly low.
4. 16 is the worst hand total – unless the dealer busts, you can’t win on a 16. Hitting and hoping for a 5 is usually your best option.
5. Always split the Aces and the 8’s – a soft 2 is a terrible hand, and two chances at a blackjack are much better. Remember that 16 is the worst hand, so split the 8’s, safe in the knowledge that it’s impossible to bust on your first hit.
6. Don’t split the 10’s – you’re already on 20, which is fairly hard to beat. Splitting the 10’s reduces your chances of winning by a surprising amount.
7. Never split the 4’s or the 5’s – splitting these will often leave you with incredibly low hand totals, whereas hitting leaves you in a safe area where it’s still impossible to bust out.
8. Doubling down is risky – since you only get one more card, doubling down can be a risky move. If you want to try your luck, only double down when you have:
I. a hand of 11 and the dealer shows anything but a Face or an Ace.
II. a hand of 10 and the dealer shows anything but a Face, an Ace or a 10.
III. a hand of 9 and the dealer shows anything from 7 to 3.