The basic blackjack strategy is the first key to reducing the casino’s odds and winning in blackjack. You also need to know the basic strategy and betting spread to effectively win money when you count cards. Practice makes perfect. You can only learn so much from reading from a book. The best way to learn blackjack is to sit down and actually play, whether it be free blackjack online, or for real at a casino. You need to learn what it means to split or double down. Reading a book will give you a good base of knowledge, but you need to actually apply this knowledge. Also, here you can read about Composition Dependent Blackjack Strategy with Examples.

I recommend that you start by learning the basic terms like hit or stand, double down, insurance, surrender, hard hands/soft hands & split aces and eights in blackjack. Upon having a basic understanding of the game, starting playing for free at an online casino. I recommend that you even play for free for at least a month before moving on to the real thing. Once you are betting for real, start with very small bets so that you don’t blow your entire bankroll at once. Amateurs sit down and blow through their entire bankroll in 5 bets, don’t do that. As your bankroll increases, you can gradually increase your bets as you become more comfortable.

Let’s examine the house edge in blackjack. The house’s only advantage over the player is that when the player breaks before the dealer does, he or she loses. This gives the house an initial edge of about 8%. However, the fact that blackjack pays 3:2 decreases the house edge down to 5.7%. Now, by knowing when to hit and stand, you decrease the house edge to about 2.5%. Knowing the correct doubling decisions trims the house edge to 1%, and finally, knowing when to split pairs cuts the house edge to under 0.5%.

This means that a completely uneducated blackjack player can expect to lose ten times as much as a player who knows perfect basic strategy. Of course, the vast majority of players fall somewhere in between these two extremes, but this shows how important basic strategy is in reducing the house edge.

If you want to gain an advantage over the casino, it is imperative that you first learn basic strategy. By learning basic strategy, you will typically cut down the house’s edge to less than 0.5%. Learning basic strategy does take hours of memorization, but it is well worth the effort. You must know these sets of rules like the back of your hand, and be able to make the correct decision instantaneously.

Before we begin discussing basic strategy, one point must be stressed. Never play under conditions where you cannot gain an advantage over the casino. If there are no casinos near you that offer a beatable game of blackjack, and they only offer games with terrible conditions, such as 8 decks with 60% penetration (see glossary if you do not know this word), don’t even bother playing: you are only wasting your time and money. Anything less than 66% penetration for a multi-deck game is almost impossible to beat.

Also avoid variations of blackjack such as Super Fun 21 and Spanish 21. These games give the players the impression that they are much better than regular blackjack by allowing liberal blackjack rules such as doubling on any number of cards, but they also have conditions (for example no 10’s in the deck) that make the game impossible to beat, even with card counting.

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What is basic strategy? It is a set of rules on how you should play a hand (for example, when to split 7’s) under a certain set of conditions (e.g. number of decks, whether surrendering is allowed, etc.). These rules have been derived from computer simulations, involving millions of simulated hands. When you play according to basic strategy, you minimize the house edge. Without playing basic strategy, the house edge is about 2 – 5%. This means that for every dollar you bet, you will lose 2 to 5 cents in the long run. By learning basic strategy, you cut the house edge down to about 0.5 percent.

Before you can go on to learn basic strategy, you must know what the blackjack rules are at your casinos, and choose the one with the most favorable conditions. If you live near Las Vegas, you are very lucky, as they offer single deck blackjack, which is much easier to beat than multiple deck blackjack. If you are in Atlantic City, you are not as lucky, as they use eight decks, which is quite difficult to beat. On top of that, surrendering is not allowed. Still, it can be beaten, as long as you have a big spread. For example, if your maximum bet is ten times your minimum bet, that can beat the casino, but it may also attract some unwanted attention.

Find out which casinos offer the most advantageous conditions, the fewer the number of decks, the better. What casinos offer other favorable conditions such as surrendering, or doubling after splitting? Try to avoid casinos with rules that are bad for the player, such as dealer hits soft 17. Go to the site below to find your basic strategy charts. It will also show the house edge. Try to find the casino that offers blackjack with the most favorable conditions, that is, the lowest house edge.

How do you find the game with the lowest house edge? Some of the information below was obtained from Stanford Wong’s Professional Blackjack book which you can find here

  • Start with the following numbers, depending on how many decks are being used.

DecksPercent
One0.01%
Two-0.32%
Four-0.49%
Six-0.54%
Eight-0.57%

  • Next add or subtract the following percentages to the number you obtained above.

RulePercent Change
Dealer Hits Soft 17-0.2%
Double After Splitting Allowed0.14%
Double on Ten and Eleven Only-0.17%
Double Only Nine, Ten, and Eleven-.08%
Respitingt Aces Allowed (if four or more decks)0.08%
Late Surrender0.08%
Early Surrender0.6
Lose All Doubles/Splits Against Dealer's Blackjack-0.11%

An Example of Basic Strategy

Below are the correct basic strategy charts for a game with following conditions:

  • Four to eight decks
  • Dealer stands on all 17’s (even an ace and 6)
  • Double after Splits
  • Double on any two cards (except blackjack, of course)
  • Late Surrender (but the chart can also be used if surrendering is not allowed)

Hard Hitting and Doubling

soft hitting doubling chart

pair splitting chart

How to Use the Charts

Below are three examples on how to use the charts.

  • 1You get an 8 and a 4, and the dealer is showing a 5. Since your hand is neither a soft hand, nor a pair, you refer to the hard hitting and doubling chart first. Your point total is 12, so you look 12 up on the leftmost column (“Your Cards”), and follow this row until it intersects with the dealer’s up-card (5). There is an “S” in that cell, meaning “Stay”. Therefore you stay on all hard 12’s against a 5.
  • 2You get two 5’s, and the dealer is showing a 6. You look up the decision in the pair splitting chart first, and see that it says NOT to split the cards. Next, since it is a hard hand, you look up the decision in the hard hitting and doubling chart, which tells you to double.
  • 3You have an ace and a 2, dealer shows a 7. Since this hand contains an ace, you look it up under the soft hitting and doubling chart first. It says to hit. You hit and get a four. Now you have a soft 17, so you look it up under the soft hitting and doubling chart again. This chart says to hit (A, 6 in the chart should read as any soft 17, not just an Ace and 6), so you do, and get a ten. Now you have hard 17 against 7, and you look at the hard hitting and doubling chart, and finally you can stay.

At first trying to learn the charts may seem intimidating, but trust me, memorizing these charts is much easier than it seems. We just have to break it down, and once I am done explaining the logic behind the decisions, learning the right decisions should be much easier. I have summarized all the basic strategy rules for a blackjack game with the playing conditions above (highlighted in yellow.) I recommend writing a summary for your own basic strategy chart, if the playing conditions are different.

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Summary of Multiple Deck Basic Strategy Chart

The basic strategy for multiple decks can be summarized as follows:

  • Hard Hitting and Staying

If you can break by taking another card (that is if you have 12 or higher), always stay when the dealer is showing a 6 or less. The only two exceptions to this rule are when you have a 12 and the dealer is showing a 2 or 3, in which case you hit.

Logic behind this rule: Take a look at the chart below. As you can see, when the dealer is showing 6 or less, she is much more likely to break. This makes sense if you think about it. Since about a third of the cards are tens, if the dealer is showing 7 or higher, a third of the time they will have 17 or higher without even taking another card. Whereas if the dealer is showing 6 or lower, no matter what the dealer has underneath, she will have to hit again, increasing the odds that she will break (the only exception of course is when the dealer has an ace under the 6). Always play as if the dealer has a ten as the hole card. If the dealer has a 6, pretend she has 16. If you have a hard 12, and the dealer has a 6 showing, stay and hope that the dealer breaks. Don’t hit and break before the dealer does.

When the dealer is showing a 2,3,4,5, or six, she is more likely to break. For this reason, these cards are commonly referred to as the dealer’s break cards

Dealer's Up CardProbability of Breaking
235.4%
337.4%
439.4%
541.6%
642.3%
726.2%
824.5%
922.8%
1021.2%
A16.7%

If the dealer is showing a 7 or higher, always hit until you have 17 or more points.

Logic: When the dealer is showing a 7, pretend she has 17. If you have 16 against her 7, you will lose if you don’t hit, so hit. There is no sense in ever hitting a hard 17, you will break more often than create a winning hand, so stay, even if the dealer is showing 8 or higher.

  • Soft Hitting and Staying

Hitting and staying for soft hands is somewhat different than from hard hands.

Always hit a soft 17 and lower (except if doubling)

Logic: It may seem strange to hit 17, but this time if you get hit with a 10 you still have 17, if you get an ace, two, three, or four, you’ve improved your hand. Even if you do get stuck with a hard hand such as 13 after getting a 6, you’d be surprised at how often you can turn that into a good hand by taking another card.

Hit soft 18 against 9,10, A.

Logic: You have to assume that there’s a 10 under the 9. This means that you have 18, and she has 19. Although it seems crazy to hit 18, you must always do so against a 9,10, or ace. Soft 18 is the highest hand you will ever hit.

  • Surrendering

Surrender all 16’s (except two 8’s, which you split) against a 9, 10, or Ace. If you are not allowed to surrender, just hit.

Logic: 16 is the worst hand you can get. When the dealer is showing a 9,10, or Ace, you will lose more than 75% of the time if you either hit or stay. Surrendering is an excellent choice that will save you lots of money over time.

Surrender 15 against a 10. Again, if you are not allowed to surrender, hit.

Logic: 15 is not as bad as 16. Surrender only against tens.

  • Hard Doubling

Always double 11 except against an ace.

Logic: If you get a ten, you have a perfect 21. Since the dealer will break only about 11% of the time with an ace showing, this is the only time you don’t double on an 11, since if you don’t get the ten or, you have a greater chance of losing. Remember, you must follow basic strategy always, without exception (unless you are counting cards). If the dealer is showing 10 and you have 11, with a 100 dollar bet up, you must double, don’t think. Always follow basic strategy.

Double tens against everything except an ace or ten.

Logic: Doubling ten against a ten is foolish. Even if you do get another ten, the dealer is probably going to push you with her own twenty. Not worth the risk.

Double nines against a 3,4,5, or 6.

Logic: Even if you do get a 10, 19 is not such a great hand. Double nines against only against the dealer’s worst break cards.

  • Soft Doubling

Double soft 17 and 18 against 3,4,5,6. Double soft 15 and 16 against 4,5,6. Double soft 13 and 14 against 5,6.

When you double on a soft 13 against a a 5, you are hoping that you either get a good card (5 – 8), or that the dealer breaks.

True Anecdote: A dealer once told me about this player wanted to split tens. This is a very greedy move, since you are breaking up a solid 20 in the hopes of doubling your money. To his delight, he got an ace on of the tens for a perfect 21. But this man’s greed was unparalleled. Claiming that the ace could count as a 1, and that he had an 11, he wanted to double. The dealer called her supervisor, who agreed with the player. The player ended up losing that hand. Later, the dealer found out that the player was not allowed to double on that hand, despite what the supervisor said.

  • Splitting

Always split Aces and 8’s.

Logic: Two aces combined are either 2 or 12 points, not a great hand. But two separate aces are two 11’s. If you get a ten on either of them, you should end up pushing in the worst case (that is, you win with the 21 and lose the other hand). 16 is the worst hand you can get, it’s much better to have two eights. Many players don’t like splitting eights against a 9,10, or Ace, because if they end up with two 18’s and the dealer has a ten in the hole, then the lose both hands. But it’s still the correct move.

Never Split 10’s and 5’s.

Logic: 20 is a very strong hand, don’t risk creating two losing hands by splitting. Splitting 20’s and hitting a hard hand against a break card are the two things that other players will hate you the most for doing. Splitting two fives easily creates two losing hands, instead of a winning hand.

Split 9’s against everything except a 7,10, or an Ace.

Logic: 18 is not really a winning hand, and two separate nines have a lot of potential for winning, especially against a break card. Again, if you assume that the dealer always has a 10 as the hole card, this decision makes perfect sense. If you have two 9’s, and the dealer is showing a 7, you probably have her beat, so stay. On the other hand, two 9’s against an ace or a 10 is probably going to lose either way, so it’s better to lose one hand instead of two, so stay. Split two 9’s against a dealer’s 9 in the hopes of getting two 19’s and pushing, instead of losing with 18 against 19

Split 2’s, 3’s, and, 7’s against 7 or less.

Logic: When the dealer is showing her weakest cards, take advantage of the situation by creating as many hands as you can. Hopefully, you will get more splits and doubles and the dealer will end up breaking or get stuck with a weak 17.

Split 6’s against 6 or less.

Logic: Same reasoning as above. Split 6’s against all her break cards, but not the 7: It’s too easy to get stuck with a 16, with the dealer getting 17.

Split 4’s against 5’s and 6’s.

Logic: Split 4’s against the dealer’s weakest cards only, as two separate fours can easily turn into two losing hands if you get a ten on them.

Basic Strategy Chart in Blackjack

(Six decks, dealer stands on all 17s, double after split allowed.)

Basic Blackjack Strategy chart

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