What is the basic playing strategy? It is the optimum way to play your hand if you are not counting cards. The strategy is derived by computer simulation where the computer deals out millions of hands, plays them in all possible ways, and then records and analyzes the results. The basic strategy is not based on guesswork or hunches. It is the mathematically correct way to play your hand against every dealer’s upcard.
What does the basic strategy get you? The casino’s initial edge in the game of blackjack is about 5.75%, which includes the 3 to 2 payoff on player blackjacks. By employing the correct basic strategy plays it is possible to whittle down the casino’s edge to about 0.5%.
Initial casino’s edge 5.75%
Correct hitting and standing -3.25%
Correct doubling -1.5%
Correct pair splitting -0.5%
Casino’s edge with basic strategy 0.5%
Of course it’s possible to lower the casino’s edge to less than 0.5% by playing in games that have very favorable rules. One of the best blackjack games is offered at the Slots-A- Fun Casino in Las Vegas. Here they deal a single deck game with the dealer standing on soft 17 and double after pair splitting is allowed. A basic strategy player has in fact a slight edge against the casino (ca. 0.1%) in this game.
The basic playing strategy is slightly dependent on the number of decks of cards. Thus the basic strategy for a single deck game is slightly different than a six deck game. For simplicity the table below summarizes the basic strategy rules that you can use for any number of decks.
To use the table, go across the top to find the dealer’s upcard and go down the first column and find your hand. Where the row and column intersect you’ll find the correct basic strategy play. The strategy assumes that doubling after pair splitting is allowed (see bottom of chart for deviations if doubling after pair splitting is not allowed)
Generic Basic Strategy
H=hit S=stand D=double down P=pair split Su=surrender
X/Y=Do X if allowed, otherwise do Y
If the dealer hits soft 17, then double down on 11 against dealer’s ace, double down on soft 19 against dealer’s 6, double down on soft 18 agaist a dealer’s 2, and surrender hard 15, hard 17, and a pair of 8’s against a dealer’s ace.
For European Rules, (dealer does not take a down card until players complete their hands and all player double down and split bets are lost to a dealer blackjack) do not split or double down against a dealer’s ace, do not double down against a dealer 10, and do not split a pair of 8’s against a dealer’s 10.
Using the information in the table, how would you play this hand. You hold 2,2 and the dealer’s upcard is a 6. Go across the top and find the dealers 6 upcard. Go down the first column under Players Hand and find 22. At the intersection of the row and column you’ll find a P which means you should split.
How about an, Ace,7 (soft 18) against dealers 3. The table shows D/S. This means you should double down if they allow doubling on soft hands. If the rules do not allow you do double on a soft hand, the you would stand.
How about this hand: 2,3,Ace (soft 16) against dealers 5. The table shows D/H. Since most casinos will not allow to double down on 3 or more cards you should hit.
The basic strategy in the table should be memorized. This is not as difficult a task as your first think because you probably know most of it already. You must be able to play each and every hand dealt to you perfectly. Mistakes will cost you money so practice the basic strategy and always use it when you play.