The Blackjack Basic Strategy

Most people often mistake the goal of blackjack, which they think is to get as close to a total of 21. If you stick by this strategy, it’s the quickest way to lose more money than you think.

Blackjack is one of the most unique casino games where it’s possible for you to swing the odds in your favor

Experienced players tend to poke at beginners who follow the basic blackjack strategies. What they forget is how blackjack is a game of skill, not a chance. 

In this guide, I’ll walk you through the blackjack basic strategy rules for a single deck and multiple deck games.

What Is The Basic Blackjack Strategy?

In blackjack, there are only two main objectives for winning against the dealer:

  1. To have a total that exceeds the hand of the dealer
  2. Don’t go over 21 when the dealer does

The basic blackjack strategy uses certain playing and betting techniques. These techniques increase wins, by mathematical proof.

Unlike other casino games, blackjack is mathematically different and has a fixed set of rules

With this, it’s possible for players to take calculated steps in improving their blackjack hand.

The only information you have is your hand, and the exposed card held by the dealer. A player can choose any of the following actions: surrender, split, double-down, hit, or stand.

The basic blackjack strategy predicts all the possible outcomes for each and every card combination. This is based on whichever action the player chooses during their turn.

House Edge

Playing by the basic strategy reduces the house edge over you by about 5 percent.

Because players have to draw first, they automatically lose from a hand that exceeds 21. Even if the dealer’s hand busts in the next round, the house edge remains higher than yours.

This is known as a “double-bust” in blackjack, where the casino has an advantage over the player.

With the blackjack basic strategy, the house edge stands at only about 0.5 percent. This means if you were to bet $100 dollars, the dealer gains only 50 cents from a win.

If you learn how to play your cards right using the basic strategy, blackjack can be a profitable game.

How Effective Is The Blackjack Basic Strategy?

If you’re still wondering how the blackjack basic strategy works, let’s put it into a story of two players. Player A  mimics the dealer, while Player B is a blackjack basic strategist.

Let’s say both have played 500 hours of blackjack per year, with an average bet of $10 dollars per hand. If they’ve played for an average of 100 hands per hour, below is the total amount waged:

500 hours x 100 hands x $10 dollars = $500,000 wager per player

Let’s assume this is a 6-deck game where the dealer stands on soft 17 and doubling down after pair splitting allowed.

Player A

Because Player A plays by intuition, he expects to lose $10,000 in his lifetime. This is assuming a casino’s edge of 2 percent.

$500,000 lifetime wage x 2% disadvantage = $10,000 loss of Player A

Player B

As someone who’s used to playing the blackjack basic strategy, Player B expects a loss of $2,000 in his lifetime. This is assuming a casino’s edge of 0.4 percent.

$500,000 lifetime wage x 0.4% disadvantage = $2,000 loss of Player B

Between the two players, Player B was able to save $8,000 dollars by memorizing the blackjack strategy. Imagine the value you can keep by using the basic blackjack strategy.

Types Of Strategies For Blackjack

Are you now convinced to win using the basic strategy for blackjack? Learning to deal with your hand in the right way can be tricky.

Below, I’ll show you the different blackjack strategy rules and how you can use them to your advantage:

Surrender Strategy

Most people would be surprised to find out that surrendering is part of the basic strategy for blackjack. This is because when you surrender, you also give up half the amount you bet on.

Players fail to see the value of using the ‘surrender’ technique, especially when their chances of winning that round are slim.

If you think that your two cards will bust against the dealer, you can surrender to discard those cards. You lose your right to play your cards for that round, and half your wager will be taken away.

There are two ways you can use the surrender option in basic strategy. Here are two types of blackjack surrender:

Late Surrender

Late surrender applies after the dealer checks her face-down card for a blackjack. You can use the late surrender option if the dealer is showing a ten or an ace.

If the dealer has a blackjack hand, you will automatically lose and you can no longer use the surrender option. You immediately lose your entire bet unless your hand is a blackjack.

For players who use the late surrender strategy correctly, they reduce the casino’s edge by about 0.07 percent. This is applicable in multiple-deck games where the dealer stands on soft 17.

Early Surrender

Another way to use the surrender option is before the dealer checks her face-down card for a blackjack. Early surrender is applicable when the dealer is showing a ten or an ace.

If a player surrenders early when the dealer shows an ace, they gain a 0.39 percent advantage.

If a player surrenders early when the dealer shows a 10, they gain a 0.24 percent advantage.

For multiple-deck games where the dealer stands on soft 17, the player has a total advantage of 0.63 percent.

This is why compared to the late surrender, most players opt to play the early surrender option to their advantage.

Using Surrender in Basic Strategy

Here are some examples of using the surrender strategy correctly:

  • (Single-deck game, dealer stands on hard 17) If you hold 16 against dealer 10 up-card, surrender.
  • (Double-deck game, dealer stands on hard 17) If you hold 15 against dealer 10 up-card, surrender.
  • (Six-deck game, dealer stands on soft 17) If you hold 16 against dealer 9 up-card, surrender.

Pair Splitting Strategy

The rules for pair splitting apply if you’re dealt with two cards of the same value. Pair splitting allows you to increase the individual value of your two-hand cards.

Some players always split any pairs they’re dealt with. When you misuse splitting pairs in blackjack, the casino gains even more money.

A rule of thumb for this strategy is to always split pairs of aces and eights. When you are dealt with pairs of tens and fives, you should never split.

Bold Strategy

One good way of splitting is by using the bold strategy. This is when your hand is likely to win, but you choose to split these to increase the winning value.

An example is when you have a pair of nines, and the dealer shows a six. Let’s assume this is a six-deck game where the dealer stands on soft 17, and the no double after split rule applies.

Combining the pair of nines to get an 18 is strong against the dealer’s six. Choosing to stand against the dealer creates a greater possibility of winning.

But if you choose to split, the chances of winning decreases only by a little. Does this mean the chances of winning more money also decrease? It doesn’t because in this case, you can still win against the dealer.

By splitting, you’ve also doubled your bet which is profitable for you by twice as much.

Defensive Strategy

Another type of pair-splitting is by playing a defensive strategy. Most players refrain from this strategy when they have a weak set because it results in a loss of money.

But between splitting defensively and not splitting, you lose more money by choosing the latter.

An example is when you’re dealt with a pair of sixes against a dealer 2 up-card. Let’s assume this is a six-deck game, with a hard 17 and re-splitting of four hands at maximum.

By choosing to stand on 14 against a dealer 2 up-card, you are more likely to lose. But if you split by 7’s, this improves your chances of winning by a slight bit. This also cuts the amount of bet lost.

Using Split in Basic Strategy

Here are some examples of using the pair splitting strategy correctly:

  • (Single-deck game with no doubling after split) Pair of 3’s against dealer 7 up-card, split.
  • (Double-deck game, with doubling after split) Pair of 4’s against dealer 5 up-card, split.
  • (Six-deck game with doubling after split) Pair of 9’s against dealer 9 up-card, split.

Doubling Down Strategy

The casino rules for this strategy allows you to double down the amount of your wager. In return, you only get to draw one card.

A normal blackjack game allows you to draw more than one card per round. With the double down strategy, you immediately forfeit this option.

Some casinos will not allow the rules for doubling down on any two-card hands. Before you can play this strategy, make sure to ask first if this rule is allowed.

The doubling down basic strategy comes in handy when the chances of getting a blackjack is likely.

Doubling Down on Hard Hands

The rules for doubling down on hard hands apply when you’re dealt with an 8, 9, 10, and 11.

There are two ways you can play offensively using the double down strategy:

  • When the dealer is most likely to bust
  • When your cards have a greater possibility of a blackjack against the dealer

Doubling Down on Soft Hands

The goal of doubling down on soft hands isn’t to reach 21 before the dealer does. If the dealer is more likely to bust, doubling down can gain you even more profit.

You can double down if you’re dealt with a soft 13 (A-2) through soft 18 (A-7) hands.

Let’s say your hand is a soft 13 against the dealer 2 up-card. You can use this strategy if the dealer shows you a low-value up-card of 2 through 6.

Using Doubling Down in Basic Strategy

Here are some examples of using the doubling down strategy correctly:

  • (Single-deck game, dealer stands on hard 17) If you hold 9 against a dealer 2 up-card, double down.
  • (Double-deck game, dealer stands on hard 17) If you hold A-8 against a dealer 6 up-card, double down.
  • (Single-deck game, dealer stands on hard 17) If you hold 7-4 against a dealer ace up-card, double down.

Hitting and Standing Strategy

Hit or stand is a common decision made by players in blackjack. Using the basic strategy requires knowing when to hit and stand for both soft and hard hands.

In the casino rules, hitting is when you draw two more cards. Standing is when you’re satisfied with your hand, and you choose not to draw.

You can choose to hit or stand if your total is 21 or less. If you’ve busted taking a hit, it means your total has already exceeded 21.

The worst hands you can hold are hard 12 through 17. You’ll be dealt with these kinds of hands at least 4 times out of 10 when playing.

On average, this is a losing hand no matter what the exposed dealer up-card is.

In the basic blackjack strategy for hitting, if you’re holding a 12 against a dealer 2, you must hit. This gains you more profit compared to standing.

Hitting and Standing on Hard Hands

The hit and stand strategy on hard hands can be tricky if you’re likely to bust. Blackjack players often stand on hard hands with a value of 12 through 6.

For example, let’s say you’re holding a hard 16. A one-card draw could lead to bust, which is what we call ‘stiff’.

If you’re playing a hard 16 against the dealer 3 up-card, standing would be a mistake. By the basic strategy rules, you must never stand on your stiff hands against dealer 2 through 6 up-card.

As part of hitting rules in basic strategy, it’s better to hit a hard 12 against a dealer 2 and 3 up-card.

Hitting and Standing on Soft Hands

To give an example of a hit or stand on soft hands, let’s assume you hold a soft 17 (A-6).

Your total is already a power play against the dealer. Most players choose to stand on soft 17 so they don’t bust before the dealer does.

This puts them at a disadvantage because it’s impossible to bust from a one-card draw for soft 13 through soft 17.

As part of the rules for hitting and standing, you must never stand on soft 13 through soft 17. Your goal should be to hit until you get a hard 17, or a soft 18 through 21.

Unless the dealer has a total of 9, 10, or holds an ace up-card, you must stand on soft 18.

Using Hitting and Standing in Basic Strategy

Here are some examples of using the hitting and standing strategy correctly:

  • (Single-deck game with hard 17) Your 16 against a dealer 7 up-card, hit.
  • (8-deck game with soft 17) Your 12 against a dealer 3 up-card, hit.
  • (Double-deck game with soft 17) Your A-6 against a dealer 2 up-card, hit.
  • (Double-deck game with soft 17 and doubling after the split) Pair of 9’s against a dealer 7 up-card, hit.

Card Counting

Card counting is a strategy you can use to determine if the next hand is an advantage for you or not. Like the strategy, players can use card counting to gain an advantage against the casino.

Additionally, card counting helps you determine whether to increase or decrease your bets for that round.  You can make a smaller bet or forfeit the round if the advantage is in favor of the dealer.

Players can use card counting to determine the mix of remaining cards left after playing the earlier rounds. If they have a better chance at blackjack, they can start betting higher than the original wage.

Final Note

We hope this guide to the basic strategy has taught you to play blackjack in the correct way. 

Starting with the basic strategy not only helps you enjoy the game but as well as the profit you gain.

No matter how skilled a player gets, following the basic strategy is proven to increase your advantage against the casino and with no deposit.

To succeed as a blackjack player, you need to scratch out the idea of playing on intuition alone.

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