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Blackjack Basic Strategy

In this section, we'll run through some strategies that, when employed consistently and accurately during a blackjack game, will reduce the house edge by nearly 2 percent.

Unlike baccarat and other non-interactive games, you have quite a few options when playing a game of blackjack.

Naturally, this makes strategy all the more vital. Below, are the different decisions you will face in a typical hand of blackjack, and a few suggestions on how you should go about handling them:

These are the strategies we go through in this section:

  • Hitting and Standing
  • Splitting Pairs
  • Doubling Down
  • Taking Insurance
  • Surrendering

Blackjack Strategy No. 1 - Hitting & Standing

The first rule of blackjack strategy is, you should always consider the exposed dealer's card - and not just your own cards - when making a decision. That is, don't always take a card if you have a low hand.

The dealer may have a very weak hand too and could just as easily bust.

Here are the basics for hitting or standing on a hard hand:

S = Stand, H = Hit

Dealer's Upcard
Player 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
17-21 S S S S S S S S S S
13-16 S S S S S H H H H H
12 H H S S S H H H H H
4-11 H H H H H H H H H H

Blackjack Strategy No. 2 - Soft Hand

A "soft hand" occurs when you are dealt an ace. An ace affects your decision to hit because it can count as either 11 points toward your total hand or one point toward your total hand.

Obviously, then, hitting on a soft hand is less risky, and our blackjack Basic Strategy chart for soft hands reflects this:

Dealer's Upcard
Player 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
A, 8-10 S S S S S S S S S S
A,7 S S S S S S S H H H
A, 2-6 H H H H H H H H H H

Blackjack Strategy No. 3 - Doubling Down

To increase your chances of winning, when you're dealt a strong hand you have to take advantage of it as it's your only means of offsetting the house advantage. Casino rules vary on what kinds of hands you can double down on.

The following chart shows when to take advantage of a hard hand in all blackjack situations:

Y = Double down, N = Don't double down

Dealer's Upcard
Player 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
12 N N N N N N N N N N
11 Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y N
10 Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y N N
9 N Y Y Y Y N N N N N
8 N N N N N N N N N N

Blackjack Strategy No. 4 - Doubling Down on Soft Hands

A slightly different strategy applies here. The chart below outlines the best possible plays:

Dealer's Upcard
Player 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
A,8-9 N N N N N N N N N N
A,6-7 N Y Y Y Y N N N N N
A,4-5 N N Y Y Y N N N N N
A,2-3 N N N Y Y N N N N N

Blackjack Strategy No. 5 - Splitting Pairs

Splitting pairs is also very important because it maximizes your odds of coming away a winner; simply put, you have to split. Most casinos allow you to split all pairs, although some casinos will only allow you to split a pair of aces once and online casinos usually limit splitting in some fashion.

Try to commit this table to memory. As a general rule for beginners, never split 10s or 5s, and always split aces and 8s.

The chart below shows the rest of the possible pairs in 52-card deck and how to hadle them. Splitting pairs is one of the simplest blackjack strategies you can capitalize on.

Y = Split, N = Don't Split

Dealer's Upcard
Player 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
A,A Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
10,10 N N N N N N N N N N
9,9 Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y N N
8,8 Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
7,7 Y Y Y Y Y Y N N N N
6,6 Y Y Y Y Y N N N N N
5,5 N N N N N N N N N N
4,4 N N N Y Y N N N N N
3,3 Y Y Y Y Y Y N N N N
2,2 Y Y Y Y Y Y N N N N
*Remember that re-splitting in blackjack is permitted except, in some cases, with aces. If you draw a second pair, follow the same rules as you did with your first pair.

Blackjack Strategy No. 6 - Surrendering & Insurance

Experts in blackjack strategy recommend you use neither of these options.

 

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