Basic Blackjack Playing Strategy

Blackjack Playing Strategy

Simplified Blackjack Playing Strategy

Let’s start with this Blackjack Playing Strategy.

There are several aspects to becoming a winning player using the Nine-Count Blackjack Strategy. Obviously, the first thing you must do is learn how to play the game of Blackjack. The second is to learn the best Blackjack playing strategy for each combination of cards you are dealt with in a game.

The Basic Blackjack Playing Strategy is a system of rules for playing against every dealer up-card in the best possible manner. The strategy differs slightly, depending on the rules the casino uses for the game and on the number of decks used in a game.

The concept of the basic blackjack playing strategy began in 1953 when Roger Baldwin and his associates did the first scientific analysis of the game of blackjack. Using hand calculators, they completed voluminous calculations and derived optional playing strategies which were published in the Journal of the American Statistical Association in 1956.

Subsequently, Baldwin and his associates published the first book describing basic strategy, Playing Blackjack to Win

, in 1956.

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Blackjack Playing Strategy

If you are interested in learning how to play perfect basic strategy for any number of decks or combination of rules, you are referred to the late  Dr. Peter Griffin’s The Theory of Blackjack

.

If you are already familiar with using basic strategy, then you may want to skip most of this chapter and just learn the Nine-Count Blackjack Playing Strategy.

The modern blackjack playing strategy was first developed by removing the three cards shown by the players first two cards and the dealer’s up-card from a “computerized” deck(s) of cards.

Then every possible combination of cards that can be drawn was played, with the results evaluated and tabulated to show the most efficient way to play each hand. Later, as computers became more powerful and easier to use, high-speed computer simulations  The Nine-Count Blackjack Strategy verified the accuracy of those earlier calculations, and a correct basic strategy of play was created. With it, the casino’s edge in a typical multi-deck game falls to about 1/2%.

Without counting cards, player decisions are based on two pieces of information. You know the value of the hand dealt you and you know the value of the dealer’s up-card.

Suppose you are dealt a hand of 10 and 6 totaling 16, versus the dealers up-card of 10. Should you hit or stand? You might make this play on a hunch, but the correct answer is to hit, even though you are likely to bust. Subsequent to Baldwin’s work, numerous computer studies have confirmed that even though you are likely to bust by hitting, in the long run, you will lose less money taking the hit and running the risk of busting than you will by standing against the dealer ten.

Many players reason that since the house usually wins, mimicking the dealer and always hitting a hand totaling less than 16 is a viable strategy. The casino will have an edge of 5.5% over this “mimic the dealer” strategy. Blackjack players playing on hunches may give the casinos as much as a 10% to 15% advantage.

Casino playing rules also effect the casino’s advantage in blackjack. The table below summarizes the effects of different rules on the casino’s advantage over the player, assuming the player always plays perfect Basic Strategy (positive signs indicate the casino advantage over the player).

Single deck

No advantage

Double deck

+0.35%

Four decks

+0.52%

Six decks

+0.58%

Eight decks

+0.61%

Dealer hits soft 17

+0.20%

Double on 10 and 11 only

+0.25%

Double down after splitting

-0.13%

Conventional surrender

-0.05%

Early surrender

-0.62%

No splitting of pairs

+0.18%

With this information, it is possible to compute the casino’s advantage against a basic strategy player for each different set of rules. For example, for a four-deck Las Vegas Strip casino where the dealer stands on a soft 17, where any two cards may be doubled, and with no surrender allowed, the casino advantage is the same as that for a four-deck game, as shown in the previous table, of 0.52%.

Blackjack Playing Strategy for Typical Casino Playing Rules

Las Vegas Strip

    • Dealer stands on soft 17
    • Doubling allowed on any two cards
    • Multiple pair splitting allowed
    • Doubling after pair splitting
    • Single and multiple decks
    • Surrender widely available

Downtown Las Vegas

    • Dealer hits soft 17
    • Doubling allowed on any two cards
    • Multiple pair splitting allowed
    • Doubling after pair splitting allowed
    • Many single-deck games
    • Surrender widely available

Atlantic City

    • Dealer stands on soft 17
    • Doubling allowed on any two cards
    • Multiple pair splitting allowed
    • Doubling after pair splitting allowed
    • Mostly 2, 6 and 8 deck games
    • Surrender is available in some casinos

Mississippi Gulf Coast

    • Dealers stand on soft 17
    • Doubling permitted on any two cards
    • Multiple pair splitting allowed
    • Doubling after pair splitting allowed
    • Mostly 2, 6 and 8 deck games
    • Surrender is available in some casinos

Northern Nevada

    • Dealer hits soft 17
    • Multiple pair splitting allowed
    • Doubling on totals of 10 and 11 only
    • Mostly 2, 6 and 8 deck games
    • Surrender is not available

International – Typical

    • Dealer stands on soft 17
    • Doubling on totals of 9, 10 and 11
    • Multiple pair splitting allowed
    • The dealer takes hole card after players finish hands
    • Mostly 6 and 8 deck games
    • Surrender is not available

The preceding chart summarizes the typical playing rules for a number of different casino locations. The blackjack games you must avoid are games in which the dealer wins all ties. This rule will give the casino more than a 9% advantage over you — an insurmountable advantage to try to overcome, even using the Nine-Count Blackjack Strategy!

These playing rules are accurate as of the date of this publication, but you are advised that casinos can change the rules, and different rules may apply when you play.

The optimal way for a player to play each hand against every possible dealer up-card was derived by playing millions of blackjack hands on a simulated basis using computers.

Because of differences in playing rules between different locales, such as the difference in the way the game is played in northern Nevada and the Las Vegas Strip, and because the number of decks used in a game can affect playing strategy, most experts present a slightly different playing strategy for each variation in rules, with adjustments for multiple decks versus single deck play.

It is far too complicated to memorize pages of different charts, trying to learn a slightly different blackjack playing strategy for each rule variation. It is simply not necessary to take this approach to beat blackjack. Learning every possible difference in how to play your hand will, at best, improve your mathematical probability of winning by 0.03%. If you make a couple of mistakes in playing strategy, because of the complexity of the rules, these will more than negate the slight advantage of learning the many variations in playing strategy gives you.

For these reasons, the Nine-Count Blackjack Playing Strategy uses only one strategy, which can be used in single as well as multiple deck games, with nearly every rule variation.

We shall review the applications of this strategy under the different playing options available to the player.

As you go through the pages which follow, I will present the basic strategy in several different ways. I will also go through each part of the strategy showing the reasoning behind it and giving you clues that will help you remember the strategy.

Even though a different basic blackjack playing strategy have been developed for single deck, 2 deck, 4 deck, 6 and 8 deck games, as well for different rule variations, there is not that much difference in the strategy and the version which follows contains a complete basic strategy you can use for games in the United States.

The chart below contains the complete Basic blackjack playing strategy. This strategy is optimal for games with four to eight decks where the dealer stands on a soft 17. It is excellent for a game that allows doubling down on any first two cards and allows doubling after splitting. If the dealer’s up-card is a 4 and you receive a pair of 3s, you should split the 3s into two hands. If you receive an 8 on the first hand for a total of 11, you should double down on this hand where doubling after splitting is allowed.

The blackjack playing strategy presented here is also optimized for games where you can re-split pairs out to four hands except for Aces.

Complete Blackjack Playing Strategy

 

The DEALER is showing a:

YOU have:

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

T

A

5-8

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

9

H

D

D

D

D

H

H

H

H

H

10

D

D

D

D

D

D

D

D

H

H

11

D

D

D

D

D

D

D

D

D

H

12

H

H

S

S

S

H

H

H

H

H

13 or 14

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

H

H

H

15

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

H

G

H

16 not 8s

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

G

G

G

17-21

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

17 soft

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

18 soft

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

H

A+2 or A+3

H

H

H

D

D

H

H

H

H

H

A+4 or A+5

H

H

D

D

D

H

H

H

H

H

A+6

H

D

D

D

D

H

H

H

H

H

A+7

S

D

D

D

D

S

S

H

H

H

A+8 or A+9

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

2+2 or 3+3

P

P

P

P

P

P

H

H

H

H

4+4

H

H

H

P

P

H

H

H

H

H

6+6

P

P

P

P

P

H

H

H

H

H

7+7

P

P

P

P

P

P

H

H

H

H

8+8

P

P

P

P

P

P

P

P

P

P

9+9

P

P

P

P

P

S

P

P

S

S

A+A

P

P

P

P

P

P

P

P

P

P

H = Hit, S = Stand, P = sPlit, D = Double Down, G = Give up (surrender if allowed, otherwise Hit) T = Ten-valued card

    1. Never take insurance
    2. Never split 5s or Ts
    3. Always hit soft hands of 17 or less when doubling is not an option.

Download and print the chart of the Blackjack Playing Strategy »

Blackjack Playing Strategy — Hitting and Standing with Hard Totals

A player with a hard hand has a hand without any Aces or a hand in which an Ace must be valued as a 1 to avoid going over 21. A player will always hit a hard hand with a total of 11 or less, as there is no single card that can bust the hand.

If a player’s hard hand totals 17 through 21, he will always stand, as the risk of busting is too great to draw to these hands.

If a player’s hand totals 12 to 16, the player’s strategy will depend on the dealer’s up-card.

If the dealer shows an up-card of 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6, the player is more likely to stand as these are the dealer hands with a greater chance of busting. If a dealer shows a possible pat hand with an up-card of 7, 8, 9, 10 or Ace, the player is more likely to have to draw, knowing that he faces the possibility of busting, but recognizing that the dealer’s possible high total has forced him to draw and face the risk of busting.