Blackjack Strategy

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There is a lot to learn when starting out at the Blackjack table. As players become more familiar with the game, they will find it useful to introduce some form of “system” or “strategy” into their play. These two terms tend to overlap in meaning and can be easily confused.

In this regard, “Blackjack Systems” can be thought of as ways to manage wagers and gain profits, including progressive betting and money management techniques. By contrast, “Blackjack Strategy” refers primarily to hand play and making decisions about the cards that are dealt.

Dealers and experienced players often refer to something they call “playing by the Book.” It is not just a made-up phrase. There is a real book that explains the “right way to play” in all situations, authored in 1956 by Roger Baldwin. It is called “The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack.” Pretty much every book ever written about the game since then uses Baldwin’s book as a basic reference.

Rather than head off to the bookstore or library, it’s possible to learn “playing by the Book” in just a few paragraph, as outlined below. This is what’s known as Basic Blackjack Strategy. All of the “right” ways to play are presented in straightforward language, with no complicated charts of 290 situations to confuse what’s essentially a very simple set of rules.

First, the dealer will always show only one of ten possible up cards, including face cards counted same as 10s. By contrast, the player faces only three situations: a hard total (no Aces), a soft total (one or more Aces), or a pair.

Hard totals of 17 or more are “pat hands.” No decision is required; the player should always stand. When holding a hard total of less than 8, such as a 2-3 or a 3-4, the hand cannot bust on the next card and it has poor odds or improving by doubling down, so the player must always hit.

What remains are hard totals of 8~16, and only three possibilities exist for these: stand, hit or double down. When the dealer shows a 7 through Ace, the player should draw and take one more card. Doubling is possible on counts of 10 or 11 if the dealer’s up card is 2~9. It is also possible on a hard count of 9 when the dealer shows 3~6. For hard totals of 13~16, players should stand if the up card is 2~6. For a total of 12, the right play is to stand against 4~6 and hit otherwise.

Soft hands always require the player to stand on A-8, A-9, or A-X (a blackjack). It is necessary to hit, however, on hands containing an Ace and a 4~6 when facing the dealer’s 7 through Ace. Hit the A-2 or A-3 facing any card other than the dealer’s 5 or 6, in which case the right choice is to double down. Doubling down is also the right decision holding A-4 through A-7 versus the dealer’s 4~6. A hand of A-6 or A-7 can be doubled when a 3 is showing However, if dealer shows a deuce up, the A-6 must hit and the A-7 must stand. A hand with A-7 should also stand against the dealer’s 7 or 8, but hit facing a 9 or higher.

All that’s left to consider now are pairs. Of course, Aces and 8s should always be split, and pairs of 4s, 5s, or 10s (face cards, too) should never be split. Instead, 4s are always hit, 5s are the same as a hard count of 10, and any pair X-X is worth 20 and must stand. Pairs of 2s and 3s should only be split facing the dealer’s 4~7, or else hit. Split a pair of 6s facing the 3~6, but hit against any other card. Split 7s if the dealer’s up card is 2~7, otherwise hit. And for a pair of 9s, split facing anything other than the 7, X or Ace, in which case the proper play is to stand.

That’s really all there is to it. Once Basic Blackjack Strategy becomes a natural part of play, the next step is to reduce the House advantage by using a Blackjack Betting System, such as a progression or card counting. The combination of the right strategy and a good betting system can help turn any Blackjack player into a consistent winner at the tables.

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