Basic Strategy for Blackjack

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Your Citation
Moe, Al. "Basic Strategy for Blackjack." ThoughtCo, Dec. 1, 2016, thoughtco.com/basic-strategy-for-blackjack-537126. Moe, Al. (2016, December 1). Basic Strategy for Blackjack. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/basic-strategy-for-blackjack-537126 Moe, Al. "Basic Strategy for Blackjack." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/basic-strategy-for-blackjack-537126 (accessed September 22, 2017).
Blackjack Table
Blackjack. Duncan Nicholls/Simon Webb102284502

Increase your wins at blackjack by learning the mathematically proven rules called basic strategy. By following these rules you can reduce the house edge to as low as half-of a percent, making blackjack one of the five best casino bets!

Each casino has their own set of rules, and basic strategy varies slightly by how many decks are in use. If you have a choice and all the tables have the same rules, choose a single deck, which has slightly better odds for the player.

Multiple deck (shoe) games and continuous shufflers would be chosen next. If the six deck shoes offer better rules such as re-splitting aces and double down on any two cards, that would be a good choice. Don't expect to win very often if the casino pays 6 to 5 on a blackjack instead of the standard 7.5 to 5. That's a deal breaker as far as I am concerned.

Basic Strategy

You can play basic strategy by using the formula shown below. It is simplified for all blackjack game styles except European no-peak and games that offer surrender. You can still use it for those games, but learning surrender rules will improve your wins. To follow the rules, simply look at your first two cards and then look at the dealers upcard and follow the rules.

Regardless of what the dealer has up, you will always split, double down, or hit until you get at least a hard 12. If you are new at the game, you should learn how to play blackjack first.

Start with your first two cards and check the list:

Hard Hand

  • 12 - Stand against a dealer upcard of 4, 5 or 6, otherwise hit
  • 13 - Stand against a dealer upcard of 2 through 6, otherwise hit
  • 14 - Stand against a dealer upcard of 2 through 6, otherwise hit
  • 15 - Stand against a dealer upcard of 2 through 6, otherwise hit
  • 16 - Stand against a dealer upcard of 2 through 6, otherwise hit
  • 17 - Stand on 17 or higher unless you have a split or soft hand

Hard Doubles

  • 9 - double against a dealer upcard of 3 through 6, otherwise hit
  • 10 - double against a dealer upcard of 2 through 9, otherwise hit
  • 11 - double against a dealer upcard of 2 through 10, otherwise hit

Pair Splits

  • 2/2 - Split against a dealer upcard of 2 through 7, otherwise hit
  • 3/3 - Split against a dealer upcard of 2 through 7, otherwise hit
  • 4/4 - Hit
  • 5/5 - Use doubling rules as a ten
  • 6/6 - Split against a dealer upcard of 2 through 6, otherwise hit
  • 7/7 - Split against a dealer upcard of 2 through 7, otherwise hit
  • 8/8 - Always split
  • 9/9 - Always split except against a dealer upcard of 7, 10 or ace
  • 10/10 - Never split
  • A/A - Always split

Soft Hands

  • A2/A3 - Double down against a dealer upcard of 5 or 6, otherwise hit
  • A4/A5 - Double down against a dealer upcard of 4, 5, or 6, otherwise hit
  • A6 - Double against a dealer upcard of 3, 4, 5 or 6, otherwise hit
  • A7 - Double against a dealer upcard of 3, 4, 5 or 6. Stand against 2, 7 or 8. Hit against a 9, ten or ace.

If you can learn these rules and resist the urge to vary from them because you have a "hunch" (casinos love hunch betters!), you will do very well.

The first book to offer the rules of basic strategy was Beat the Dealerby David O. Thorp.

His book, with the addition of a card-counting system that he included, changed blackjack's popularity immensely. In fact, prior to the release of the book in the early 1960's, blackjack wasn't the casino industry's most popular game, craps was.