Blackjack Basic Strategy

Blackjack is a smarter game than roulette, slots or baccarat, where winning is more likely a matter of chance and less dependent on the players’skill. Blackjack is the opposite. Proper assessment of the situation and the ability to calculate the risks are the most important conditions for a successful game. Based on the theory of probability, gamblers-mathematicians have long ago calculated the optimal solutions for each blackjack combination, creating a universal basic strategy that has long been proven efficiency.

The basic strategy of blackjack is reduced to a mathematical analysis that is not so difficult in comparison with poker, but rather effective: a lot of amateurs and professional blackjack players all over the world prefer this particular strategy. And for good reason. After all, this system of counting chances in some cases can reduce the casino's advantage to a minimum of 0.5%. Another advantage of the basic strategy is that it is suitable for most varieties of blackjack, and is equally applicable for playing in land based and online casinos.

Combination probability

To begin with, let's look at the quite popular predicting tactic of the final combination of a dealer using his first open card. All the probabilities of a particular number of points from the dealer are presented as a following percentage. From the contents of the table it can be seen that with a certain dealer's start card, the probability of a certain amount of points or “bust” (Bust) may increase or decrease dramatically.

blackjack strategy

It is worth considering that the dealer has good chances to get “blackjack”: with the initial 10, J, Q, K – 7.7%, and with the first Ace this probability increases to 30.8%. Analyzing this pair of cards and the first card of the dealer, comparing this information with the odds of a combination that is unfavorable to the player, he can make more informed decisions and avoid unnecessary risks.

Basic strategy in the table

Back in 1962, American professor of mathematics and an ardent blackjack fan, Edward O. Thorp, presented the world with a basic strategy that for more than 50 years of existence has not changed and has not lost its relevance. The whole strategy is summarized in a user-friendly table that contains a column with the player’s card combinations, a row with the dealer's first card, as well as actions at the intersection of the column and rows recommended in a given game situation. You can verify the effectiveness of the blackjack basic strategy while playing in free mode. Just keep the cross-table in sight and follow all the indicated actions every time the cards are dealt.

Blackjack strategy

  • H – Hit (take another card)
  • S – Stand (pass, pass your turn to the dealer)
  • D – Double (double bet), if you cannot double, then just take another card
  • Ds – Double (double bet), if you cannot double, then pass
  • P – Split (split cards)
  • H / P – Split (split cards), if you can double after splitting, otherwise - take a card
  • H / R – Surrender (surrender), if allowed, otherwise take a card
  • A – Ace (ace, 1 or 11 points)

The first column on the left side shows all possible player’s combinations / points: hard hand – all combinations of numbers without an Ace from 8-17; soft hand – combinations with an Ace that have a double meaning (4/14, 7/17, etc.); Split – pairs of cards with the same value, which can be divided into two combinations.

Note that the table lacks the most profitable "hard" combinations. The fact is that the player’s actions with 17 points and above are absolutely identical – S (Stand), since the probability of busting is high.

How to use the table

For example, in the hand you received a “hard” 13 (5 + 8). At the dealer, the first card came out 8. We turn to the base strategy table: at the intersection of 13 players and 8 dealers, we see the letter H, which means Hit / Take. We take another card.

Suppose you had 4, and now the sum of points was “hard” 17 (5 + 8 + 4). Again, we turn to the base strategy table: at the intersection of 17 players and 8 dealers, we see S, which means Stand / Pas. In this case, you are advised not to take more cards, as the probability of busting is high. Press the Stand button. The turn goes to the dealer.

Example 6 and 6, in the table – this is not 12, but “split” 5.5. If Ace and 5 came out, you need to look at the "soft" A5, not 16. Do not panic if the strategy does not work right away. Its effectiveness is confirmed at long distances. Also, this strategy is optimal when playing by the Atlantic rules: the game is played on four or more decks, the bet can be doubled after the split (Split), it can be split no more than three times , doubling is allowed for any amount of points, the dealer must stop the set of cards by 17 "Soft" points. A combination with an Ace is called “soft” if it can be considered, for example, for 8 and 18 (A + 7).

Bad blackjack strategy

Often, players come up with their own strategies for blackjack, which, in their opinion, can increase the probability of winning. And this is not bad in principle. But quite often, when developing an author's strategy, players rely not on rigorous mathematical calculations, but on their own intuition, which in no way contributes to an increase in profits in the game. There are a few simple rules below, following which you will invariably reduce your own chances of winning and give the casino a few percent advantage.

Refuse to add cards. Many players are too afraid of busting, so they stop picking up cards when they only have 12-16 points in their hands. It seems to them that by taking a new card, they will receive a “ten”, since this denomination is most often found in the deck (10, J, Q, K). This strategy only leads to an increase the casino advantage to 4%.

Copy the style of the game dealer. According to the game rules, the dealer takes a card, if he has 16 or less points, and does not pick up, if he has 17 or more. The fact is that the dealer is a casino employee and does not lose money on betting. In this situation, the player loses the possibility of doubling and dividing the cards, which, as a result, increases the casino's advantage to 5.5%.

Constantly agree to insurance. If the dealer received the first Ace card, he offers players to insure against blackjack. But the probability that he will get a card with 10 points is extremely small – 4/13. This means that in 9 out of 13 cases, players lose their insurance. At the same time, the share of casinos at such rates grows from 6% to 7.5%.

Afraid of hidden dozens. It seems to the player that the second dealer's card will be exactly 10 or J, Q, K. And there are risky pat hands for 18-19 points, and busting. Such fears of players add casino advantages in the form of 10%.

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