Blackjack: Basic Strategy

Got the basics of blackjack down, and want to learn how to maximize your chances of winning?  Great!  Read on below for some strategy and get the most out of your next trip.  Still looking for tips on how to play?  Check out our guide here.  

Basic Blackjack Strategy

With Blackjack, it’s all about knowing when to Hit, Stand, Double Down, or Split your hands.  That depends on two variables:  your hand, and the dealer’s hand.  More specifically, the one card the dealer is showing, since you don’t get to see his or her full hand until after you’ve had to act on your own hand.

Here’s a handy card that will help you out.  Here’s how to use it:

  • Use the hand values on the left-hand column for what you’ve got in your hand.  So, if you’ve got a 9 and a 5, you’ve got 14.
  • Use the top row for the card that the dealer is showing.
  • So, if you’ve got 14, and the dealer has an 8 showing, you’ll see a yellow H on the card.  You should Hit.

Note that this card shows the optimal strategy – it definitely doesn’t guarantee that you’ll win or lose!  In the above example, your odds of winning aren’t very good.  If you hit on the 14, you could easily bust and lose the hand.  But, very smart people and very powerful computers have run millions of hands and done the math to come up with these strategies.

Here’s some notes about the card:

  • S means Stand, H means Hit, D means Double Down, SP means Split.
  • On the left column regarding your hand, note how the strategies vary if you have an Ace in your hand.  If you’ve got an Ace and a 7, don’t use the top row for hands of 17 or above.  Use the A,7 row.  This is because your Ace can be a 1 or an 11 value, so if you Hit, you can’t bust regardless of the card you get.

Blackjack Strategy Card

There are a ton of different versions of this card out there, depending on the number of decks used and different table rules you might see at different casinos all over the world.  This strategy card here assumes the use of multiple decks (typically 4-6), and table rules consistent with what you’ll see at casinos in the Southeast U.S. (and most all over the country, really).

Whatever casino you visit, you’ll find cards like these in the gift shop that you can bring with you to the table.  You definitely don’t have to memorize it.  However, the more and more you play, you’ll start to naturally pick up on the strategy and you’ll be making the right decisions in no time.  Also, the dealer knows the best strategy most of the time, and they’ll give you what the “Book” rules tell you to do.  Your fellow players at the table will do the same, although you can take their advice with a grain of salt.  They may not know any better than you about what to do!

Good luck!

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