Understanding the basic rules of the game should be your first step in winning at the blackjack table You need to know the correct moves for the different hands to maximize your opportunity for success. The skill part of blackjack is to avail yourself of the mathematically proven best plays to make when faced with any dealt hand at your blackjack table.
When to stand, hit or double down with any hand has been figured out based on the laws of probability, of wins versus losses. Just taking into consideration basic strategy, not using any card counting, there is only one correct play to make in blackjack for any given hand, based on strictly mathematics. Other factors, such as house rules and number of decks used will make a difference in the correct playing strategies as well, which is why you might see several “basic” strategy charts available. Let’s go into a little bit of why that is so.
The Reason Basic Blackjack Strategy Works
First, as a quick refresher on the basic rules of blackjack, the value of your combined cards must beat the value of the dealers combined cards, without going over 21, for you to win. In a deck of 52 cards there are 16 cards valued at 10 and only 4 cards of each of the other denominations, Ace – 9. So, you are 4 times more likely to pull a ten-count card than any other denomination card. Therefore, when the dealer’s upcard is high (7 or above), he is more likely to be close to 21, with a presumed 10-spot as his “hole” card and therefore hard to beat because he won’t have to hit his hand. Conversely with a low upcard (2-6), he is more likely to have to hit his hand to come close enough to 21 and hopefully, for the player’s sake, bust because of that.
Basic strategy tells you that if the dealer’s upcard is a 7 or better and you have a hand totaling 12-16 (aka a “stiff”), you should hit. The reason being that the dealer’s hand indicates strength, so you don’t want to stand with a weak hand. A weak hand is considered anything 16 points or less. This is difficult concept for a novice to believe in. It is probable that by hitting a stiff hand, you would probably bust, but you have to give yourself that better chance of beating the dealer by taking that hit to improve your hand. If you don’t take the hit, you will definitely lose if the dealer is showing strength with a 7 or better upcard. You must make the assumption that the dealer’s hole card is a 10-spot and if you hold with a hand of less than 17, you lose anyway. You have to take the hit to try and improve your hand. Standing on stiff hands, against dealer’s hands showing a 7 or better upcard, loses more often than it wins in the long run, believe that.
If the dealer’s upcard is a 2-6, you can assume he has a stiff hand and therefore you want to stand with your own stiff hand. With stiff hands more likely to bust, you want to stand with your stiff hand and let the dealer bust when he has to hit his hand. In addition, if the dealer’s upcard shows he may have a stiff hand, it makes it a more opportune time to split pairs or double down, getting more money on the table when the dealer has a great chance of busting.
This is the simple theory behind basic blackjack strategy. Of course there are expections to these rules, but it does give you a proven winning strategy to use in almost any blackjack game.
Keep it Simple 10-point Strategy
If you’ve looked at blackjack charts and decided they’re too difficult to memorize just remember these simple rules:
- Never Take Insurance
- If the dealer’s upcard is 7 or better, hit until you get a hard 17 or higher hand
- If the dealer’s upcard is 2-6, stand on all your stiffs (hard totals of 12-16)
- Hit all soft hands of 17 or below
- Stand on all soft hands of 18 or higher
- Double Down on 10 & 11, versus any dealer upcard of 2-9
- Always split Aces and 8’s
- Never split 4’s, 5’s, or 10’s
- Split all other pairs (2’s, 3’s, 6’s, 7’s and 9’s) versus dealer’s upcard of 4, 5, or 6
- Surrender 16 versus dealer’s 9,10, or Ace.
Remember, basic strategy can be the best weapon at the casino blackjack table, if you simply use it correctly.