Basic Blackjack Strategy
Preface: Blackjack is a numbers game. Every decision you make directly affects the outcome of your game. Skill and strategy are just as important as good fortune in blackjack. Players are required to make important decisions with limited information. Your understanding of basic blackjack strategy will greatly improve your chances of winning over the long term. Blackjack players have to choose between several actions, including hitting, standing, splitting, doubling, surrendering, and taking insurance where appropriate. Casinofy will introduce you to the most important elements of basic blackjack strategy to help get your game on track.
What is basic blackjack strategy and how can it help?
As far as casino card games go, blackjack trumps the competition. It has widespread appeal among card players, and is certainly more easily understood than Texas Hold’em, Omaha Hi-Lo, and 7 Card Stud. With blackjack, the objective is clear: beat the dealer’s hand total without exceeding 21. This proves to be a challenging undertaking. Enter blackjack strategy – the quintessential resource for optimal gameplay. Experts agree that basic blackjack strategy can help players make the best possible hand decisions.
Basic blackjack strategy is predicated on mathematically sound foundations which give rise to ‘advantage play’ for blackjack players. This technique teaches players precisely what to do based on every possible hand combination that arises. For example, if you are holding a King + 5, and the dealer’s up card is a 10, basic blackjack strategy will tell you to surrender if allowed, or hit, when 4-8 decks of cards are used, with the dealer standing on a soft 17. These basic blackjack rules are formulated in a table that anyone can easily follow. Oftentimes, basic blackjack strategy charts will have color designations for specific types of actions such as Hit, Double, Stand, Split, or Surrender (if permissible).
Will you lose if you play blackjack according to your gut instinct?
There are many blackjack players who avoid using blackjack strategy charts and blackjack odds calculators when determining their actions. These players tend to go with their ‘gut feel’ about whether to hit, stand, double, split, surrender, or take insurance. However, blackjack is a rules-based game where statistics comes into play. To better understand the mechanics of basic blackjack strategy, one has to focus on several key elements:
- Blackjack typically pays 3:2 or 6:5
- The Blackjack dealer draws to 16 and stands on all 17s (hard and soft).
- Blackjack is played with standard 52-card decks, comprising 4 suits (clubs, hearts, spades, diamonds), and 13 cards from 2-Ace per suit.
- There are 4 x 10-value cards in every suit (10, Jack, Queen, King) and 16 x 10-value cards in every deck. That means the likelihood of drawing a 10-value card is 30.8 %. The likelihood of drawing a card under 10 is 69.2%.
- Blackjack is always played with imperfect information. Players only know the value of their cards, and 1 of the dealer’s cards, known as the up card. This is the only information that you can work with at the table.
While ‘gut instinct’ has generated many big wins for players over the years, it is not a strategy, nor is it a proven way of winning. Lady luck a.k.a. variance is like a pendulum which swings in either direction. It is far better to bolster your game by employing basic blackjack strategy and allowing luck to play its part in the process.
What basic blackjack strategy should be employed at all times?
Casinofy has identified many key actions that should be taken with regard to different blackjack decisions. These include the following:
- Never split a pair of 10s
- Always split a pair of Aces
- Always double on a hard 11
- When holding a pair of 9s, split them when the dealer’s card is 2 – 9, with the exception of 7. In all other cases, stand.
- 8s should be split.
- 7s should be split when the dealer’s card is 2 – 7. In all other cases, hit.
- 6s should be split when the dealer’s card is 2 – 6. In all other cases, hit.
- 5s should never be split.
- 5s should be doubled when the dealer is holding 2 – 9. In all other cases, hit.
- 4s should be split when the dealer is holding 5 – 6. In all other cases, hit.
- 3s should be split when the dealer is holding 2 – 7. In all other cases, hit.
- 2s should be split when the dealer is holding 2 – 7. In all other cases, hit.
Remember, the Ace can assume 2 values in blackjack – 1 for 11. When a hand contains an Ace as one of the two cards, that is known as a soft hand. A hard hand is worth its nominal value or, face value. The objective of using blackjack strategy is to reduce the house edge to a negligible amount. In this case, the optimal figure is 0.5%, or less.
It is worth pointing out that many factors come into play in determining the house edge in blackjack, notably the number of decks of cards that are used, blackjack payouts (6:5, 3:2), rules on splitting, surrender options, standing on hard or soft 17, et cetera. While basic blackjack strategy is applicable to blackjack games in general, specific blackjack strategies must be employed with certain types of blackjack games.
Below is a blackjack strategy table that you can use to determine when to hit, stand, or surrender if applicable with a soft hand table and then a hard hand table.
Soft Hand Table – Player Card Vs. Dealer Card
Hard Hand Table – Player Card Vs. Dealer Card
|4 – 7||Hit||Hit||Hit||Hit||Hit|
We encourage you to follow our series of blackjack strategy guides, tips, tactics and resources at Casinofy.com.