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Composition dependent blackjack strategy is one of those aspects of the game that can truly make the difference between skills that are at a professional level and skills that remain recreational in nature. Any blackjack player who hopes to play the game successfully for a living will eventually have to learn composition dependent techniques.

The reason why composition dependent strategies are so important when playing blackjack is because blackjack is a dynamic game. It is always changing. The deck is never static and fluctuates between favorability to the player and favorability to the house. Knowing basic blackjack strategy can make you a winner in the short term, but it is not enough.

An Overview of Dependent Strategy

In blackjack there are two forms of basic strategy. They are referred to as total dependent and composition dependent.

If you are a recreational blackjack player then total dependent basic strategy is what you are most familiar with. This is the strategy found on pocket charts that you can carry to the table and on most websites. A total dependent strategy represents what the correct play should be in every situation if the game of blackjack were to remain static. In other words, total dependent strategy works when the variables of the game do not change. The variables of blackjack include the count of the deck, the play of other players at the table, and the various rules of different casinos.

Composition dependent strategy was developed to address those variables. It is a strategy that is dynamic in the same way that blackjack dynamic. It can change and fluctuate in tandem with what is going on at the blackjack table.

In order to fully understand composition dependent strategy you must understand total dependent strategy. Think of it like this. Total dependent strategy is the engine of your car. Composition dependent strategy is an additive you put in the oil to get better performance from your engine. It doesn’t do you much good to put additive in an engine that isn’t firing on all cylinders. You need to perfect total dependent strategy first before you tweak it with composition dependent strategy.

Examples of Composition Dependent Strategy

Composition dependent strategy differs from basic blackjack strategy in that it takes into account ALL of the cards on the table instead of just the point value of a starting hand of two cards. An example of this would be that composition dependent strategy changes if you have 7-6 as opposed to 10-3. Both hands total a 13, but your decisions for each hand would be different when using composition dependent strategy.

The most frequent application of composition dependent strategy involves a hard total of 12. In total dependent strategy, you always stand on a 12 against the dealer’s weak cards—4, 5, or 6. The reason for this is that any ten will bust your hand. It just isn’t worth the risk.

With a composition dependent strategy, you must consider which cards make up your total of 12 before acting. If you hold a 9-3, 8-4, or 7-5 then you would stand in this situation. If, however, your hand is a 10-2 you will hit the hand or even double down if it is permitted.

The reason why you would do this is because the ten in your hand has removed one ten from the deck. In theory, your chances are now greater to draw any card besides a 10. Of course, this doesn’t always work out in live play. Remember, blackjack is a dynamic game. The next card out of the shoe can change everything.

Using composition dependent strategy in the above example is such an expert play that many dealers must loudly announce, “DOUBLING DOWN ON HARD 12!” to alert the pit boss whenever it happens. If you do it too many times with success you will most certainly face scrutiny as a card counter.

The Disadvantage of Composition Dependent Strategy

Composition dependent blackjack does have one serious flaw which makes it difficult to support. It works best in single-deck games where the dealer stands on all 17’s. This type of game is almost never found in any live casino today.

Fortunately, there is one place where you can still find this kind of blackjack game. It is pretty much the only blackjack game played online! Some online casinos use more than one deck, but most of them use a single deck. Since card counting is not very effective online because the deck is shuffled after each hand of play, learning how to use a composition dependent strategy can give you a huge edge when playing online blackjack.

If you are going to use a composition dependent strategy when playing online there are many blackjack books which provide a complete chart for every hand. We will narrow our focus to a few basic situations:

  • 1Hit or double down a 10-2 against the dealer’s 4, 5, or 6.
  • 2Double all soft hands up to 20 against the dealer’s 4, 5, or 6.
  • 3Split pairs as normal except when you have 2-2, 3-3, or 4-4 and the dealer has 4, 5, or 6. In these cases double down if it is permitted.

In a single-deck game you need every advantage you can get. In other words, you need to get paid off big when the odd are in your favor. Using a dynamic composition dependent strategy will make you a dynamic blackjack player.


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