Basic Blackjack Strategy – How to Win in This Game

Blackjack basic strategy

12 minutes

Posted by: Ivan

Images from shutterstock.com

If you are looking to play blackjack in either a live or online casino and get the best possible results, you should be prepared to spend some time learning the basic blackjack strategy, as well as some tricks to help you win the most in the game.

The truth is that knowing the blackjack basic strategy will save you thousands of dollars in your life if you play the game often.

Not only are you going to save a lot of money and make your life a lot easier, but you will also guarantee yourself more enjoyable winning nights and fewer frustrating losing sessions.

All of this will only come to fruition over the long run. However, anyone who plays blackjack even a couple of times per month should definitely know how to play the blackjack basic strategy.

In this guide, I will teach you this strategy and show you a blackjack strategy chart you can print and bring with you when playing. I’ll also help you understand why we make the plays we do and what their big advantage is.

What is Blackjack Basic Strategy?

The term basic strategy is used to describe a complex set of rules on how you should play your hands in different scenarios.

The blackjack card I am going to show you includes all the possible scenarios of your two cards and the dealer's up-card, as well as the action you should take in this scenario.

A thing worth noting is that this chart is made for your average game of blackjack, which uses 6 card decks in a shoe and has standard blackjack rules in place in most casinos.

Basic blackjack strategy

However, it is true that many casinos have certain deviations from these rules. This means that some deviations should also be made to the basic blackjack strategy to achieve the optimal result.

Even if you don’t make these slight modifications to your strategy, you won’t be losing a lot of money because of it. So, learning this blackjack chart by heart will give you an advantage over other players who play without it in all forms of the game.

With that said, let us proceed to the actual chart and explain how to read it and how you can make the most of knowing it.

The Basic Blackjack Strategy Chart

It is time to get into the actual blackjack strategy and introduce the blackjack strategy card that will be your main tool in playing the game from now on.

The chart is split into three main sections.

  • The first section shows all the possible hard hands (without an ace) which you can have and cross-references them with the possible dealer's up-card.
  • The second section shows all the possible soft hands (with an ace) that you can have and cross-references them with the dealer's possible holdings.
  • The last section of the blackjack chart shows all the pairs you can have and again cross-references them against the dealer's up-card.

At the bottom, you will also find the convenient key to help you read the chart. You can learn it by heart or bring it with you when playing, as this is allowed in most casinos worldwide.

Blackjack chart

Blackjack Basic Strategy Summarized

The blackjack strategy chart I showed you holds in it all the plays you could ever need while playing the game. However, that’s a lot of information and may be hard to memorize if you were trying to remember each particular box.

Most blackjack players use a different approach instead. They memorize some standard phrases which cover the most common situations that can arise at the tables.

That doesn’t mean that you won’t still need to have the chart on hand while playing. However, knowing these phrases by heart will help you make a quick decision in most situations without much delay.

Not only will you play more hands, but other players and dealers will be thankful that you are not taking forever to find the play in the chart and act on it. Here is what you should know at all times:

Hitting and Standing

  • If you have a hard 11 or less, always hit
  • If you have a hard 12, stand against 4-6 and hit against all other cards
  • If you have a hard 13-16, stand against 2-6 and hit against all other cards
  • If you have a hard 17 or higher, always stand
  • If you have a soft 17 or less, always hit
  • If you have a soft 18, stand against all cards other than 9, 10, A
  • If you have a soft 19 or 20, always stand

Doubling Up

  • Double your hard 9 against the dealer's 3-6
  • Double your hard 10, except against dealer’s 10 or A
  • Double your hard 11, except against dealer’s A
  • Double your soft 13 and 14 against dealer’s 5-6
  • Double your soft 15 and 16 against dealer’s 4-6
  • Double your soft 17 and 18 against dealer’s 3-6

Splitting Pairs

  • Split AA and 88 in all hands
  • Never split 55 or TT
  • Split 22 and 33 against dealer’s 4-7
  • Split 22 and 33 against dealer’s 2 or 3 if DAS is available
  • Split 44 if DAS is available against dealer’s 5 or 6
  • Split 66 against dealer’s 3-6
  • Split 66 against dealer’s 2 if DAS is available
  • Split 77 against dealer’s 2-7
  • Split 99 against dealer’s 2-6 or 8-9

Surrender Rules

  • Surrender hard 16 against dealer’s 9, 10, or A
  • Surrender hard 15 against dealer’s 10

As long as you remember these basic blackjack strategy rules, you will have the right play in your head in more than 90% of all hands.

Another thing to add is that if you have two small cards, such as a 2 and a 3 for a hard 5, you will always be hitting to get to one of the scenarios listed in these rules. There is no reason to ever stand on a starting hand like 5-9.

If you have memorized these rules, you are now ready to get into the action and start playing blackjack either live or online without constantly looking at the card!

Best blackjack strategy

10 Tips for Perfect Blackjack Strategy

Your journey to becoming a great blackjack player starts with learning the blackjack strategy chart and the basic rules to apply in the game, but it does not end there.

There are many slight things you can do to improve your blackjack playing experience. Here are the top 10 tips we can give you to make you an even better player.

1. Never Take Insurance

I haven't mentioned this so far in this guide, but the insurance option offered in some casinos when the dealer is showing an ace is an absolute waste of your money. Whenever the dealer's up-card is an ace, they may offer you insurance.

Always refuse insurance, let them peak down for a blackjack, and keep playing your hand according to the blackjack basic strategy if they don’t actually have one, which will be the case most of the time. Making an insurance bet simply isn’t worth it!

2. Don’t Worry About Other Players

I see this way too often at the casinos! One of the players will be berating others for playing this way or that way. Whether you hit, stand, double, or split, there will likely always be a bystander or fellow player who will claim you made a mistake or cost them money.

Completely ignore such comments, and keep playing the perfect basic strategy in every hand you are dealt. If they get too annoying, call the casino staff to fix the situation.

3. Your Chances are Always the Same

Many blackjack players believe in streaks, being due to win, or having a better chance of winning a hand after losing a few in the row. From a mathematical and purely logical point of view, all of these things are absolutely false.

You are always just as likely to be dealt a winning hand or a losing one. Of course, this doesn’t apply if you are keeping a count on the deck, in which case you may consider upping your bet when the deck is favorable.

4. Stay Sober and Alert

This goes without saying, but playing blackjack in an intoxicated or generally distracted state will cost you money. Remember, you have to play the perfect blackjack basic strategy to maximize your winnings and minimize your losses. This is unlikely if you are not sharp and 100% ready to play.

Every little mistake you make will cost you money, so try to stay sharp. Having a beer or two probably won’t hurt, as long as you are comfortable with your strategy.

5. Look for the Best Rules

If you live in a place where blackjack is offered in multiple casinos or you play online, you should always look for the most favorable blackjack games. Try to find a game in which the dealer will stand on soft 17 and always look for a game in which blackjack pays 3:2.

If you can find a table that lets you double after splitting, that’s even better. Also, try to find a game with only a few decks in the shoe. If you can find a single deck blackjack game in a live casino, definitely play that one and learn how to count cards.

Blackjack strategy

6. Make Use of Comps

In live casinos, you will almost always be eligible for comps, as long as you let the dealer know you would like to be rated and give them your card. In this case, you will be earning comp points while playing, which you can exchange for chips, accommodations, food, ticket shows, and other rewards. The more comps you can get, the more you will minimize the house edge over you.

7. Use Online Blackjack Promotions

If you are an online blackjack player, you can get all sorts of extra perks when playing. You can start out with a juicy bonus on your initial deposit and get involved with various blackjack-specific promotions that will help boost your bankroll and give you an even better chance of walking away with a profit.

If you enjoy the competition, online casinos often organize blackjack tournaments in which you can play, have fun, and won great extra awards.

8. Never Deviate from Blackjack Basic Strategy

The blackjack basic strategy you learned here is the absolute best way to play blackjack, period! That means that any deviations you make to your game will only end up costing you money in the long run, and there is absolutely no reason to make them.

If you are “running bad,” keep playing the perfect strategy, and you will see things turn around as the variance will even out. If you simply aren’t feeling it, leave the casino and go home, rather than misplaying your hands and costing yourself money.

9. Bring Your Strategy Card

When you play at a live casino, you definitely shouldn’t always keep looking at your blackjack strategy card. This slows the game down and can annoy other players.

However, whenever a situation arises in which you are not sure what to do, it’s great to have the card on you and be able to freshen up your memory in order to make the right play. After all, getting a few sighs from fellow players is better than losing extra money.

10. Learn How to Count Cards

Card counting is certainly not an obligatory blackjack strategy and not even one that I necessarily recommend you apply every time you play.

However, if you want to be a great blackjack player and give yourself the best chances, it’s good to know how to count. You never know when a game might come up in which counting is highly beneficial, such as a single-deck game or one in which the dealers rarely shuffle the cards in the shoe.

Blackjack strategy chart

Start Playing with Blackjack Basic Strategy

I have covered all the ins and outs of the blackjack basic strategy in this guide. While the blackjack chart may take some time to memorize and get down to perfection, remember that simply learning the most common situations will be enough to reduce the house edge to well over 1%.

Once you get down all the tricks of the basic strategy, your disadvantage over the casino will be around 0.5%. These are the best possible odds you can hope for at the blackjack tables.

Make sure to also keep my top 10 tips for playing blackjack in mind, and think about using card counting techniques to some degree to reduce the house edge even further or actually give yourself an advantage over the casinos.

Blackjack Basic Strategy FAQ

To wrap things up and make sure you’ve remembered the most important points of this blackjack strategy guide, here are a few key questions and answers to round things up.

What is blackjack basic strategy?

The basic blackjack strategy is the perfect way to play the game, as calculated by the computers running billions of simulations. The basic strategy offers a solution for every possible hand that can come up in the game of blackjack, and you should learn it before you go into a casino to try and play the game.

Am I allowed to use the blackjack strategy card in casinos?

In most cases, the casino staff won’t mind if you have a blackjack chart on hand. After all, the chart does not actually give you an advantage over the house, and if that’s what it takes to get you to come out and play, they will be more than happy to have you. Just make sure you don’t take up too much time from other players.

What if I can’t memorize the basic strategy?

Memorizing the basic blackjack strategy is something that won’t come overnight, but with time, you will get there. In the meantime, feel free to use the actual chart while playing and try to memorize as much of it as possible. As you use it more, the strategy will become second nature, and you won't have to think long in most situations.

Should I ever deviate from the basic strategy?

No! Basic strategy is absolutely the perfect way to play blackjack. Since the game has only a limited number of variables, there is no reason to ever deviate from this perfect strategy. The only time this might change is when you know the deck count, in which case some deviations might be made.

Is there a better strategy to play blackjack?

There is no better strategy to apply in blackjack than the basic strategy. Players change their bets according to many strategies, but in the end, your betting pattern does not impact your long-term results. The only way to reduce house edge is to play the basic strategy as perfectly as possible.

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