Basic strategy for Blackjack
The basic strategy is described in the table below where the sum of player's cards values points to a certain row. The value of the dealer's face up card points to a certain column. The corresponding symbol in the table determines the optimal decision recommended by basic strategy. The table is divided into hard totals, soft totals and pairs. All possible moves the player can make are listed below:
- stands for Hit
- stands for Stand
- stands for Split
- stands for Double (if that is not allowed, then Hit)
- stands for Double (if that is not allowed, then Stand)
- stands for Surrender (if that is not allowed, then Hit)
The basic strategy described in the table is for American type of Blackjack with 4 or more decks. Dealer always stands on 17, doubling is possible after split and you can surrender against any card.
Optimal decisions to make
For the totals of 12 to 16, we draw a card only if we are betting against a dealer's 7 or higher. The total of 12 is an exception and we draw a card against the dealer's 2 or 3.
The worst face up cards for the dealer are the cards 5 and 6. In this case, the chance that his total exceeds the limit 21 is the highest. We can use this situation to our advantage by doubling the bet on soft combinations up to soft 18. The total sum of 18 is a relatively high, so it might seem risky to draw another card, but it's the best move to make.
When dealing a pair of cards, we never split two 10s, we split two 9s only against a dealer's 7, 10 or an ace. A pair of 8’s is always split with the exception of the European form of the game – in this case, we draw a card only against 10 or an ace. The pair we split the least is a pair of 4’s. This pair is split only if the dealer has a 5 or a 6.
If there is a possibility to surrender, we should do so only if our total is 16 and we are against dealer's 9, 10 or an ace. Having the total of 15, we should surrender only against a dealer's 10.
The bet is most commonly doubled when the total of our hand is 10 or 11. In this case, we should double unless we are against a dealer's ten or an ace. In such cases, we should only hit. When the sum is 9, we should double the bet if we stand against a dealer's 3, 4, 5 or 6.
How to use the basic strategy
As you can see the basic strategy consists of a set of simple rules. If you decide to play, you should have these rules with you. You can either open it on your phone or print on a crib sheet, or you can memorise it, which also isn't that difficult.
To play the optimal game, it is always essential to check the rules of the particular game of blackjack you are playing. However, the differences in basic strategies for different rules are not that big. The easiest way to remember the strategy is to play and to repeat the correct moves until they become routine. For beginners, it is advisable to first play blackjack for free with virtual money, for example in our free games section.