Blackjack Basic Strategy

Blackjack
Blackjack. Christian Thomas fst050020 Getty

Blackjack can be broken down to a mathematically-proven, best way to play each hand called Basic Strategy that has been tested and refined through computer simulations based on the work of early pioneers like Dr. Edward O. Thorp. When followed correctly, basic strategy reduces the house edge to as little as 1/2 of one percent.

If you want to be successful at blackjack you need to learn basic strategy.

Most players start learning by referring to a basic strategy chart. The strategy chart shows you how to play your first two cards based on the dealers up card. Referring back to beginning blackjack you know that the house gains its edge by the fact that the player must act first. Since the basic strategy chart only deals with the first two cards, you will also need to learn what decisions to make after taking a hit.

Translate the Chart

The best way to do this is to translate the basic strategy chart into plain English that explains how to play each of your two-card starting hands.

For example, if your first two cards are and a 5 and a 3 you have a total of eight. The chart tells you to hit. You draw another 3, which gives you a total of eleven. The chart tells you to double on 11 but you can only double on your first two cards. Therefore, you must hit.

When we translate the strategy chart into plain English, we use the word "otherwise" when dealing with situations that are different because of multiple cards.

If we were to write out the example above it would be: If you have 11 - double, otherwise hit.

I have written out how to handle multi-card decisions for hard hands, soft hands, and split pairs. I have placed this information into three "How to Play" pages that you can link to below. Here is how to play basic strategy when there are more than two cards involved written out in plain English.

How to Play Hard Hands: -A hard hand is two starting cards that do not contain an ace.

If you have eight or less, always hit.
If you have Nine: Double if the dealer has 3 thru 6 - otherwise hit.
If you have Ten : Double if the dealer has 2 thru 9 - otherwise hit.
If you have Eleven: Double if the dealer has 2 thru 10, Hit if dealer has Ace.
If you have Twelve: Hit if the dealer has 2 or 3, Stand if the dealer has 4 thru 6, otherwise hit.
If you have 13- 16: Stand if the dealer has2 thru 6, otherwise hit.
If you have 17 - 21: Always Stand.

How to Play Soft Hands:- A soft hand is when one of your starting hands contains an ace.

If you have Ace 2 or Ace 3: Double if the dealer has 5 or 6 - otherwise hit.
If you have Ace 4 or Ace 5: Double if the dealer has 4 thru 6 - otherwise hit.
If you have Ace 6: Double if the dealer has 3 thru 6 - otherwise hit.
If you have Ace 7: Stand if the dealer has 2, 7 or 8. Double 3 -thru 6 - otherwise hit.
If you have Ace 8 or Ace 9: Always Stand.

How to Play Pairs

If you have a pair of Aces or Eights: Always split.
If you have a pair of twos or threes: Split if the dealer has 2 - 7, otherwise hit.
If you have a pair of fours: Split if the dealer has 5 or 6, otherwise hit.


If you have a pair of fives: Double if the dealer has 2 thru 9 - otherwise hit.
If you have a pair of sixes: Split if the dealer has 2 thru 6 - otherwise hit.
If you have a pair of sevens: Split 2 thru 7 - otherwise hit.
If you have a pair of nines: Split 2 thru 6, and 8 or 9. Stand if the dealer has 7, 10 or Ace.
If you have a pair of tens: Always Stand.

Translating the Blackjack Basic Strategy Chart into plain English makes it a lot easier to memorize. You can even make up flashcards to help you learn.