Blackjack Professor

Basic Blackjack Strategy

The exciting thing about card games in general is that the results are somewhat more predictable than games involving dice and wheels.

Sixteen cards, a whopping 30 percent of the deck, are valued at ten when playing blackjack. That climbs up to 38 percent when you include nines and 46 percent when you include eights. Consider the dealer's hole card. There's a really good chance it's an eight, nine, or ten. Does that change your impression of a six upcard? There is a nearly one in two chance that the hand is a fourteen, fifteen, or sixteen. And consider what will come out of the shoe when the dealer hits.

Meanwhile, you have a hard thirteen. What's coming out of the shoe for you? Hitting a hard thirteen against a dealers six doesn't seem so appealing anymore. With a six upcard, the dealer will bust about 42 percent of the time. Why screw that up?

Mathematicians have worked out the various probabilities. The result is a basic strategy for playing blackjack that in most cases reduces the overall house edge to less than one percent. Favorable rules push the edge past zero into positive territory. The "Basic Blackjack Strategy" table below contains a version of the strategy that is optimized for multiple deck games when the dealer stands on soft seventeen and when doubles are not allowed after splits. Variations of the strategy for hitting soft seventeen and doubling after splits are minor and we'll cover them in a later section.

Basic strategy is easy to use. Just find your card combination on the left and the dealer’s upcard at the top. Follow the upcard column down and your card combination across the row until the two intersect. That's how you should play the hand. If some of the strategy choices seem odd, then you'll find our "Dealer Bust Probabilities" below useful. It shows the probable outcome of a dealer's hand based in the upcard.

At first glance, basic blackjack strategy may seem complicated, but it's simple. About one-third of the hands should always be played the same way, regardless of what the dealer is showing. The rest of the hands, with a few exceptions, should be played one of two ways. This is determined by the dealer's up card.

Hard Totals
Dealers Up Card
Hard Totals 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T A
8 H H H H H H H H H H
9 H D D D D H H H H H
10 D D D D D D D D H H
11 D D D D D D D D D H
12 H H S S S H H H H H
13 S S S S S H H H H H
14 S S S S S H H H H H
15 S S S S S H H H H H
16 S S S S S H H H H H
17-20 S S S S S S S S S S

Soft Totals
Dealers Up Card
Soft Totals 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T A
A 2 H H H D D H H H H H
A 3 H H H D D H H H H H
A 4 H H D D D H H H H H
A 5 H H D D D H H H H H
A 6 H D D D D H H H H H
A 7 S D D D D S S H H H
A 8 S S S S S S S S S S
A 9 S S S S S S S S S S

Pair Splitting
Dealers Up Card
Pairs 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T A
2 2 P * P * P P P P H H H H
3 3 P * P * P P P P H H H H
4 4 H H H P P H H H H H
5 5 D D D D D D D D H H
6 6 P* P P P P H H H H H
7 7 P P P P P P H H H H
8 8 P P P P P P P P P P
9 9 P P P P P S P P S S
10's S S S S S S S S S S
A's P P P P P P P P P P

Legend

Hit

Stand

Double

Split

* HIT = If double after splitting is not allowed.

Note: Hard totals are total hand values without an ace in your hand a soft total is when you have an ace in your hand. The strategy changes depending on which you have. Table's fro both strategies are directly above.

For definitions of these terms please visit our: blackjack dictionary

This table shows how the upcard affects the probability of a dealer bust. Numbers are rounded and reflect multiple decks when the dealer stands on a soft seventeen. Hitting soft seventeen will produce slightly different numbers.

Dealer's Uphand
17+
18+
19+
20+
21
BJ
Bust
2
65%
51%
37%
24%
12%
0%
35%
3
63
49
36
24
12
0
37
4
60
47
35
23
11
0
40
5
58
46
34
22
11
0
42
6
58
41
31
20
10
0
42
7
74
37
23
15
7
0
26
8
76
63
27
14
7
0
24
9
77
65
53
18
6
0
23
10
71
60
49
38
4
8
21
A
58
45
32
19
3
31
11

Additional blackjack strategy help and advice:

Basic Strategy Engine & Calculator - Download a basic blackjack strategy calculator. You choose the number of decks, dealer hit rules, double down rules etc.., to formulate the best possible strategy. It calculates the probability and odds for you. Best off all, this program is free to download and install onto your computer.

Pocket Sized Blackjack Strategy Card - Carry around our free blackjack strategy card. Download and print our compact blackjack strategy card today. You can take this card and use it right at your side when playing at your favorite land-based or online casino.

Note: The pocket blackjack card requires that you have adobe acrobat reader installed on your computer. If you don't please download it at the following location: www.adobe.com/reader, or click here to view our ".JPG" version.

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