Helping you become a winner in Blackjack is why we are putting together this five-part series of articles equipping you with the strategies you need to help you in any given situation.
Do you want to be a winner at blackjack? Of course, you do! And to to be a long-term winner, you must learn the art of card counting and we will delve into that subject a little bit later. But first, let’s learn about the best way for the average player to improve their game and that is by learning the basic strategy of Blackjack.
According to computer studies carried out on the game of Blackjack, which involved analyzing millions of hands, a basic formula has been developed, showing the best way to play your hand in any given situation. Every decision you make is based on the fact that the dealer keeps on drawing cards until their total is 17 or more. Since they are forced to play by this rule, that gives you the advantage of making your decision based on the dealer’s upcard that you are able to see.
Now, according to the results of these computer studies, and as shown in the chart below, the dealer will complete more hands when having an upcard value of 7,8,9, 10 – or an Ace, and will bust more often with an upcard of 2,3,4,5, or 6.
Chance the dealer’s upcard will bust
We can see from this chart that having a 5 or 6 as an upcard will make the dealer bust more often. And, you can also see that will change when the dealer has an ace as the upcard because they will bust the least amount of times. Therefore, it is best to stand when the dealer has weak cards giving you the chance that they will bust early. However, when their upcard is a 7 through Ace, you shouldn’t stand. Rather, you should hit as much as you can until you reach 17 or above.
You should have noticed by now that whatever hit or stand decision you make will depend on the dealer’s upcard. This is illustrated more in the following basic Blackjack strategy tips.
Blackjack Basic Strategy Charts
We are now going to show you the basic strategies to use when playing your blackjack hands. Keep in mind that all of these strategies were derived from computer simulations of millions of blackjack hands and they show that there is always only one mathematically correct way to play your blackjack hand in any given situation.
All of the results have been put into basic strategy charts that players should try to memorize before stepping foot in the casino. Sometimes, the casinos will actually let you bring a basic strategy chart with you to the blackjack table, but it would be best to first ask if it is allowed.
Keep in mind that the blackjack strategy can vary slightly, based on the number of decks used (single-deck or multi-deck) and the rule variations (stand/hit on soft 17? double any two cards? surrender allowed? etc.). That is why there are multiple strategy chart variations, but most of those situations can be addressed in just six unique blackjack basic strategy charts and we have all of them available for FREE download on our website at https://www.americancasinoguidebook.com/blackjack/free-blackjack-strategy-charts.html
And, not only can you download them for FREE, but you can also print them out to take them with you to the casino, or to study at home. Feel free to print them out now and follow along as we delve further into understanding basic strategy in blackjack.
First of all, we will look at both hard hand and soft hand strategies. Your hand is always hard, unless you have an Ace as one of the two cards dealt to you. Remember that an Ace can be counted as either a 1 or 11, depending on your choice as a player. Hence, your hand becomes soft if you choose the value of the Ace to be one. Otherwise, your will be hard if you choose the value of the Ace to be 11.
Blackjack Strategy: Hard Hands
Let’s see how your hands will be played only with a hard hand. We are using principles that apply to casinos that deal more than one deck and the dealer hits soft 17. These rules are seen in the vast majority of casinos today. It’ll be a slightly different approach when you play against a single deck and the dealer stands on a soft 17. Let’s see how it’s applied.
When the total of your first dealt cards is between 17 and 21, you should stand no matter what the dealer’s upcard is (if surrender is not allowed).
When your total is 16, you should stand only if the dealer has an upcard between 2 and 6. Take a hit when their upcard is between 7 and Ace. By doing this you will bust more often, but in the long run, you will lose less money.
For a total of 15, stand if the dealer has an upcard between 2 and 6. Otherwise, you should hit until you total 17 or more where you’ll have to stand.
Same rules for 15 and 16 apply to 13 and 14.
Having a total of 12 means you only stand when the dealer’s upcard is at its weakest, that is, 4,5 or 6. This means the dealer will bust more often and you’ll want to be in a position of not busting yourself. Take one more card and stop with a total of 13 or more when the dealer’s upcard is between 2 and 3. Lastly on this, if the dealer has anywhere between 7 and an Ace, hit till your total is 17 or more.
With a total of 11, always hit because you can’t bust. You can also consider doubling down, if the casino rules permit it. If the casino doesn’t allow a double down, take hits and play by the rules we have given above.
Blackjack Strategy: Hard Hand Double Down
If you have a total of 10, you will want to double down unless the dealer has the same 10 or an Ace as their upcard. In this case, take hits and play by the above-mentioned rules depending on your total. If you have a 10 against a dealer’s 9 or less, you should double down, if allowed. In not, then take hits until you total 17 or more.
With a total of 9 doubling down will be best for you when the dealer’s upcard is showing 3,4,5 or 6. If the dealer’s upcard is showing a 2 or a 7 through Ace, you should take hits using the standard playing rules discussed above. Let’s assume you have a 9 against the dealer’s upcard of 4, it’ll be wise to double down and take another card. But when the casino refuses doubling down on a 9, you’ll take a hit and let’s say you got a 3 raising your total to 12, you should stand on this 12 against the dealer’s 4.
Lastly, on the hard hand strategy, you should always take hits and play by the standard rules we’ve given you when your total is 8 or less.
Blackjack Strategy: Splitting Pairs Strategy
The question of when you should split pairs may be totally dependent on the casino you are visiting because some will allow you to split pairs and some casinos may not. Let’s take a look into when to split a pair if the casino allows it.
When you’re allowed to split, remember to always split your Aces and 8’s. Splitting a pair of 8’s helps remove the terrible number, 16, from your hand and you play the 8’s separately. This gives you a better chance to win.
When you split a pair of Aces, you might get a 10-value card which gives you a perfect 21. Though it is not counted as a blackjack, you still get an even-money payoff rather than a 3-to-2 payment for blackjack as we saw earlier in this article.
Next rule. Never split a pair of 5’s or 10’s. A pair of 10’s gives you a 20 which is a great number, and a pair of 5’s gives you a 10 that you’ll want to double down on unless a 10 or an Ace is the dealer’s upcard.
Splitting 2’s, 3’s and 7’s should only be done when the dealer has any number between 2 and 7 as their upcard. Split 4’s only when the dealer’s upcard is at its weakest (5 or 6 as we shall see later on). Doing a split on 6’s should only be done when the dealer’s up card is between 2 and 6. Lastly, 9’s should always be split with the exception that the dealer has an upcard of 7 a 10 or an Ace.
You don’t split 9’s against 7, because, should the dealer have a 10 as the down card, your pair gives you an 18 which is greater than his 17. It is rather obvious why you shouldn’t split 9’s against a dealer’s upcard of 10.
Make these quick changes when the casino does not allow you to double down after a split. Only split 6’s against an upcard of 3,4,5 or 6. Never split 4’s; and split 2’s and 3’s only against an upcard of 4,5,6 or 7. You can stick to the rest as they apply in this case too.
Blackjack Strategy: Soft Hards
Remember we said a soft hand contains an Ace which is counted as 1 or 11 depending on your choice. Here are the rules for playing a soft hand.
Always stand when you have a soft 19. Also stand when you have a soft 18 against a dealer’s 2,7 or 8. Take a hit when the dealer has a 9,10 or an Ace. For an upcard showing between 3 to 6, take a double down, but just stand when the casino rules don’t permit a double down.
You should always take a hit with a soft 17, but if a double down is allowed, you should double when the dealer’s upcard is between 3 to 6.
Always take a hit for a soft 16 and soft 15. But you should double down against a dealer’s 4,5 or 6 with the exception that doubling down is allowed.
When you have a soft 14, take a hit. When the casino allows you a double down, do so against and upcard of 5 or 6. The same rules apply for a soft 13.
Another thing we must point out with respect to the surrender rule which we discussed earlier is, it is applied to only hard 15 or 16. When choosing a surrender for a hard 16, do it when the dealer’s upcard is a 9,10 or an Ace. For a hard 15, you can surrender only when the dealer has a 10 for an upcard. That wraps it up.
Okay, having covered basic blackjack strategy, let’s now move on to Part Four: Blackjack Odds Change With The Rules.
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