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Blackjack Basic Strategy

Blackjack Basic Strategy

Blackjack basic strategy is a series of guidelines that may help you determine when to request another card from the dealer (Hit), when to stick or stay with the cards that you have (Stand), when to double your initial bet (Double down) or when to split your initial two cards (Split a pair).

Although blackjack basic strategy does not guarantee that you will win, it is the optimal method of playing any hand and essentially the best way to play blackjack. It's formulated using statistical probabilities and the game of blackjack can be very rewarding when the basic strategy is followed correctly.

Following blackjack basic strategy can also lower the house advantage. The house edge in a typical blackjack game is around 0.50 percent when a player applies basic strategy correctly during play. Without applying basic strategy, the house advantage can go as high as 2.5 percent or more. Now you see why it's important to learn Blackjack Basic Strategy and never play the game without applying it correctly.

Soft and Hard hands (also known as hard and soft totals)
How to Play Blackjack

There are two blackjack basic strategies. The first assumes that the player has not been dealt an Ace (Hard Hand) and the second assumes he has been dealt an Ace (Soft Hand). The difference between a "hard" and "soft" hand in blackjack is the Ace.

A hand that contains an Ace is called a "soft" total if the Ace can be counted as either 1 or 11 without the total going over 21. For example (Ace, 7) is a soft 18 or (Ace, King) is a soft 21 (Blackjack or Natural). A soft hand offers more liquidity and better choice for the player. A soft hand also allows the player to draw another card to a soft total without the danger of "busting" by going over 21.

A hard hand in blackjack, on the other hand, means the absence of an Ace. The hand (Ace, 7, 10) is a "hard" 18, since the Ace now must be counted as only 1, because counting it as 11 would make the hand go over 21.

Blackjack Basic Strategy Card

Blackjack basic strategy cards and charts are very easy to come by. Many of these cards can be downloaded online and printed for free or if you prefer, you can purchase a credit card-sized blackjack basic strategy card from casino gift shops at most Las Vegas resorts.

As you will see below, its graph style is easy to understand. Dealer's up-card is shown along the top of the chart and the Player's hand is shown vertically on the left side of the chart.

Basic Strategy for Soft Hands

The term “soft” refers to a hand where you have an ace plus another card. A soft total is any hand that has an Ace as one of the first two cards. The Ace counts as 11 to start. Soft hands are actually the most misplayed hands in blackjack.

This is basic strategy for soft hands in a multiple-deck game.

Blackjack Basic Strategy Card

Soft 19 - 21 always stands.
Soft 18 (A,7) doubles against dealer 2 through 6, and hits against 9 through Ace, otherwise stand.
Soft 17 (A,6) doubles against dealer 3 through 6, otherwise hit.
Soft 16 (A,5) doubles against dealer 4 through 6, otherwise hit.
Soft 15 (A,4) doubles against dealer 4 through 6, otherwise hit.
Soft 14 (A,3) doubles against dealer 5 and 6, otherwise hit.
Soft 13 (A,2) doubles against dealer 5 and 6, otherwise hit.

Basic Strategy for Hard Hands

A hard total is any hand that does not start with an Ace in it, or it has been dealt an Ace that can only be counted as 1 instead of 11.

This is basic strategy for a multiple-deck game, dealer stands on soft 17, late surrender, doubling after splits and doubling on any two cards is allowed.

Blackjack Basic Strategy Card

17 through 21 always stand, regardless of the dealer's up card.
16 stands against dealer 2 - 6, otherwise hit.
15 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
14 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
13 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
12 stands against dealer 4 through 6, otherwise hit.
11 doubles against dealer 2 through 10 otherwise hit.
10 doubles against dealer 2 through 9 otherwise hit.
9 doubles against dealer 3 through 6 otherwise hit.
8 and under always hit, regardless of the dealer's up card.
Basic Strategy for Splitting Pairs

This is basic strategy for splitting pairs in a multiple-deck game.

Blackjack Basic Strategy Card

Always split Aces
Stand on a pair of 10's
A pair of 9’s splits against dealer 2 through 9, except for 7, otherwise stand.
Always split 8’s
A pair of 7’s splits against dealer 2 through 7, otherwise hit.
A pair of 6’s splits against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
A pair of 5’s doubles against dealer 2 through 9, otherwise hit.
A pair of 4’s splits against dealer 5 and 6, otherwise hit.
A pair of 3’s splits against dealer 2 through 7, otherwise hit.
A pair of 2’s splits against dealer 2 through 7, otherwise hit.

Blackjack Terms

Hit A hit is when you request another card from the dealer.

Stand - To stand means that you want to stick or stay with the cards that you have and that you don’t need another one.

Double - When you double down, you are doubling your initial bet, and you will receive one more card from the dealer. A double bet gives the player an opportunity to take advantage of a strong hand.

Splitting Pairs - You may split the first two cards you are dealt, but it can only be done if they have the same numerical value as each other (two 9’s for example). The player may then split them into two hands and play separate hands in the same game. The bet on the second hand however must be the same amount as the original stake.

How to Play Blackjack
How to Play Blackjack
Blackjack Etiquette
Blackjack Etiquette

Do you know: you can print out a cheat sheet and bring it to the table with you. It's 100 percent legal. The casinos won't give you any slack for it.

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Blackjack House Edge
Blackjack is a game with strategic decisions and if you’re willing to put in a little work (learning the game). Blackjack offers one of the best table game odds in Las Vegas. The game has a house edge of about a .5 percent. Meaning, for every dollar you gamble, you'll lose only half a penny on average.

Blackjack House Advantage and Expected Loss

  House Advantage For Every $100 bet, the player can expect to lose
Natural pays 3 to 2 0.5%-1.5% 50c - $1.50
Natural pays 6 to 5 2.0%-3.0% 2.00 - $3.00
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