Basic Strategy

The most important thing to learn about playing blackjack, and I can not stress this enough, is to learn basic strategy. Basic strategy was created by using a computer simulation of millions of blackjack hands. One of the first blackjack simulations was done by Julian Braun of IBM.

Basically, these computer simulations showed the mathematical probability of improving the blackjack hand or beating the dealer, by a certain playing strategy. In other words, telling the blackjack player what action he or she should take (hit, split, double-down, etc.) for each and every possible card combination.

The important thing to remember is that nearly all basic strategy rules are indisputable in the long run, the finite nature of mathematical science dictates that a particular playing decision, based on the player's cards and the dealer's exposed card, will yield a predictable outcome after millions of hands of play.

It is imperative as a blackjack player to learn this basic strategy, because by using it, you will eliminate the normal 5 or so percent advantage the casino has over the unskilled player. With basic strategy the house advantage is only about 0.5 percent! That is less than a 1 percent disadvantage to the player. This is why blackjack can be one of the most profitable games to play in a casino.

Basic strategy varies according to the type of playing conditions that you are exposed to. Namely, how many decks that are in the shoe you are playing. Below I have listed the basic strategy rules for single deck games and for multiple deck shoes. Another fact that I must stress is to play exactly the way listed below. Do NOT alter your play based on some hunch that you have, or by a perceived idea that you always lose when you split eights for example. You may think that you lose more often than you win in certain basic strategy situations, but this is NOT the case over the long run. The only time you should vary from basic strategy is under certain circumstances where you are counting cards. I will explain this in more detail under the card counting section of this web site. But always remember, even the most skilled card counter will still use basic strategy for the vast majority of his or her playing decisions.

So I urge you to study the rules below and practice them until they do not require any thought on your part. There are many inexpensive blackjack games which you can buy for your PC, and several shareware ones which you can easily obtain off of the internet. The best commercial version that I have found is called "Play to Win" by Wizard Works, and it is available now in any major computer software supply store. This game also has a coaching option where it will tell you what decision to make based on basic strategy. In fact, if you attempt to make a wrong decision a dialog box will pop up and suggest to you the proper playing decision to make. You can also play online for free here on Blackjack Center via the link found above. Since it opens a new window you can ALT-TAB back to Blackjack Center whenever you want to review the basic strategy rules listed below. Regardless on what you use to practice, whether it be a computer blackjack game or simply a deck of cards, you MUST learn basic strategy to have any hope of being a consistent winner at the blackjack tables.

The charts below should be self explanatory. On the left hand column is the total of the cards you have in your hand and the proper playing strategy based on the dealers up card.



SINGLE DECK - BASIC STRATEGY


Your Hand     vs        Dealer's Upcard

8			Double on 5 to 6. Otherwise hit.
9			Double on 2 to 6. Otherwise hit.
10			Double on 2 to 9. Otherwise hit.
11			Always double.
12			Stand on 4 to 6. Otherwise hit.
13 to 16		Stand on 2 to 6. Otherwise hit.
17 to 21		Always stand.
A,2 to A,5		Double on 4 to 6. Otherwise hit.
A,6                     Double on 2 to 6. Otherwise hit.
A,7                     Double on 3 to 6. Stand on 2,7,8 or A.
                        Hit on 9 or 10.
A,8                     Double on 6. Otherwise stand.
A,9                     Always stand.
A,A            	        Always split.
2,2                     Split on 3 to 7. Otherwise hit.
3,3                     Split on 4 to 7. Otherwise hit.
4,4                     Same as 8 above.
5,5                     Same as 10 above.
6,6                     Split on 2 to 6. Otherwise hit.
7,7                     Split on 2 to 7. Stand on 10. Otherwise hit.
8,8                     Always split.
9,9                     Split on 2 to 9 except 7. Stand on 7,10 or A.
10,10			Always stand.

The above chart assumes the casino doesn't allow doubling
down after pair splitting.  If the casino allows doubling down
after pair splitting then use the following pair splitting rules.

Your Hand    vs 	Dealer's Upcard

2,2                     Split on 2 to 7.   Otherwise hit.
3,3                     Split on 2 to 7.   Otherwise hit.
4,4                     Split on 4,5 or	6. Otherwise hit.
6,6                     Split on 2 to 7.   Otherwise hit.
7,7                     Split on 2 to 8.   Stand on 10. Otherwise hit.


FOUR, SIX, EIGHT DECK - BASIC STRATEGY Your Hand vs Dealer's Upcard 5 to 8 Always Hit. 9 Double on 3 to 6. Otherwise hit. 10 Double on 2 to 9. Hit on 10, A. 11 Double on 2 to 10. Hit on A. 12 Stand on 4 to 6. Otherwise hit. 13 Stand on 2 to 6. Otherwise hit. 14 Stand on 2 to 6. Otherwise hit. 15 Stand on 2 to 6. Otherwise hit. 16 Stand on 2 to 6. Otherwise hit. 17 Always stand. 18 Always stand. A,2 Double on 5,6. Otherwise hit. A,3 Double on 5,6. Otherwise hit. A,4 Double on 4 to 6. Otherwise hit. A,5 Double on 4 to 6. Otherwise hit. A,6 Double on 3 to 6. Otherwise hit. A,7 Double on 3 to 6. Stand on 2,7 or 8. Hit on 9,10 or A. A,8 to A,10 Always stand. A,A Always split. 2,2 Split on 2 to 7, Otherwise hit. 3,3 Split on 2 to 7. Otherwise hit. 4,4 Split on 5,6. Otherwise hit. 5,5 Never split. Treat as 10 above. 6,6 Split on 2 to 6. Otherwise hit. 7,7 Split on 2 to 7. Otherwise hit. 8,8 Always split. 9,9 Split on 2 to 6, 8 or 9. Stand on 7,10, or A. 10,10 Always stand. The above multiple deck basic strategy is valid if the players are allowed to double down after pair splitting. If doubling down is not allowed after pair splitting, then use the following pair splitting rules. Your Hand vs Dealer's Upcard 2,2 Split on 4 to 7.Otherwise hit. 3,3 Split on 4 to 7. Otherwise hit. 4,4 Never split. Always hit. 6,6 Split on 3 to 6. Otherwise hit.