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Card Counting: Section II - Back to Basics

 Now that you’ve had a chance to soak up the remedial rules of Blackjack, it’s time for Phase 2 of our little crash course: Basic Strategy.

You probably remember super-sexy Jill Taylor (Kate Bosworth) going on about this right when our beloved Ben was about to make his foundering first attempt at some hot lovin’. Okay, okay, you might be thinking, just the kind of daddy-daughter blather a chick is always trying to lay down when she starts getting “comfortable.” And as far as the movie’s dramatic mechanisms go, you’re more than likely right. But we’re not talking movies here—if you want to do that, go listen to Richard Maltin or something. No, what we’re talking about is the game 21. And if you really want to get a handle on playing it, the first thing you’re going to have to learn is what exactly “Basic Strategy” is.

To put it to you simply then, Basic Strategy is a system cooked up over the years that dictates the best play given a certain hand. By memorizing Basic Strategy, you can reduce the house edge to about 0 percent overall and pave the way for counting (See: Section III, “Simple Math”) to put the odds in your favor. The following matrix shows Basic Strategy in its entirety:

Your hand

Dealer's face-up card

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

A

Hard totals

17-20

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

16

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

SU

SU

SU

15

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

H

SU

H

13-14

S

S

S

S

S

H

H

H

H

H

12

H

H

S

S

S

H

H

H

H

H

11

Dh

Dh

Dh

Dh

Dh

Dh

Dh

Dh

Dh

H

10

Dh

Dh

Dh

Dh

Dh

Dh

Dh

Dh

H

H

9

H

Dh

Dh

Dh

Dh

H

H

H

H

H

5-8

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

Soft totals

 

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

A

A,8 A,9

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

A,7

S

Ds

Ds

Ds

Ds

S

S

H

H

H

A,6

H

Dh

Dh

Dh

Dh

H

H

H

H

H

A,4 A,5

H

H

Dh

Dh

Dh

H

H

H

H

H

A,2 A,3

H

H

H

Dh

Dh

H

H

H

H

H

Pairs

 

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

A

A,A

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

10,10

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

S

9,9

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

S

SP

SP

S

S

8,8

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

7,7

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

H

H

H

H

6,6

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

H

H

H

H

H

5,5

Dh

Dh

Dh

Dh

Dh

Dh

Dh

Dh

H

H

4,4

H

H

H

SP

SP

H

H

H

H

H

2,2 3,3

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

SP

H

H

H

H

Key:

S = Stand
H = Hit
Dh = Double (if not allowed then hit)
Ds = Double (if not allowed then stand)
SP = Split
SU = Surrender (if not allowed, then hit)

There are two things to keep in mind with this chart, and first and foremost of these is that it only reflects the best Basic Strategy for shoe-style play of three or more decks. Secondly, you need to remember that some casinos stay on all 17s, while others hit on a soft 17. That is, a hard 17 (H17) is made up of any two cards except an Ace (e.g., a 10 and a 7), while a soft 17 (S17) is a 17 that includes an Ace. If you are playing at a table that hits on a soft 17, change up the chart above so that you double down on your 11 vs. a dealer’s Ace, your Ace/7 vs. a dealer’s 2 and your Ace/8 vs. a dealer’s 6.

Card Counting - Blackjack

 

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