Basic Blackjack Strategy - partycasino

Basic Blackjack Strategy

One of the best ways to learn the basic blackjack strategy is by simplifying it. That way, blackjack players can remember the best possible actions to take based on the hands that they received.

For all, blackjack is a simple game to play, but there’s so much more depth to the game if players want to improve. It has been a focus of mathematicians and academics, with various theories and techniques emerging over the years in response to crunching the numbers.

That, combined with countless millions of blackjack hands played throughout the years since the game’s inception, gives rise to a structured strategy every player can use to maximise their chances of winning at the blackjack table.

Understanding Basic Blackjack Strategy

Blackjack Basic Strategy Chart Uk - partycasino

There are a maximum number of hands that can appear in any Blackjack game – 340 to be precise. Of these hands, around 100 of them play themselves – i.e they are too low to stand, or far too high to hit. It’s the combination of hands in the middle that should draw the bulk of your attention.

Fortunately, Blackjack has a defined basic strategy which can allow you to make snap judgements about when and how to play these hands. The starting point for any successful player is to memorise the strategy, expressed in the strategy chart below, to reduce the house edge and create a fighting chance of winning big payouts playing Blackjack.

The strategy is based on the value of your starting hands and the dealer’s upcard. The interplay between your hand and the dealer’s card gives enough information to make statistical projections about the outcome of each hand. Players who play with these statistical outcomes reduce the house edge in the process, which is the starting point for success.

Should I Play this Hand or Surrender?

The starting point in any hand from a strategic perspective should be ‘should I play this hand?’. There is no obligation to play any hand in Blackjack, and if you are unlikely to win, it’s better to cut your losses, than chase it any further down the road. Where this is possible, it’s often only possible with your starting hand. Based on the value of your hand and its corresponding position on the strategy chart, you should firstly make a conscious decision to play or not.

Should I Split this Hand?

If you decide to play, the next consideration is whether you can split. This is only available for pairs, and only recommended for some pairs in particular. If your hand qualifies, do it. If not, move on to the next consideration.

Should I Double Down?

The next consideration is – should you double down? Double down is reserved for hands where you’re in a strong winning position already, so if the charts say double down, you should already have an inkling that you’re on the right track.

Should I Stand or Hit?

Only once you’ve eliminated these considerations should you start to think about whether to stand or hit. Again, according to the basic strategy charts (which you should be memorising), it should be obvious to you whether to hit or stand, depending on the value of your hand and the dealer’s upcard.

How to Win at Blackjack: Basic Strategy

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Our Blackjack Basic Strategy chart below teaches you exactly when to:

  • Hit or Stand
  • Double Down
  • Split Pairs
  • Surrender

For much of the game, there are some hard and fast rules, factoring in the odds of winning from each hand. Memorising these set-piece moves should be among the first steps taken by any serious player – by making the right call more often, you can decrease the house edge in practice and give yourself a fighting chance of profiting from the table game. Beyond that, applying a simple strategy to bet in the right measures at the right times is often the difference between average players and the most successful.

Modern blackjack players have it easy. They are able to stand on the shoulders of giants, capitalising on the mathematical work and probability calculations of those that have gone before them, unlike players of centuries gone by. The history of basic blackjack strategy is particularly interesting, and it continues to shape how players think about the game today.

How to Memorize Blackjack Basic Strategy?

In case you are not a visual learner and cannot understand the strategy chart above, here are simple phrases that might help you memorise the rules. The idea is to be able to immediately recite the rules in your head, without having to see what the dealer has.

Knowing the rules without seeing the strategy chart will help you understand how they relate to your hand and can make your decision in a split second. Memorising these phrases will make you much faster and have fewer mistakes in your Blackjack.

Hard Totals:

Blackjack Hand Hard Totals - partycasino

A hard total is any hand that is not dealt an Ace, or it has been dealt an ace that can only be counted as 1 instead of 11.

  • 5-8 always hit.
  • 9 doubles against dealer 3 through 6 otherwise hit.
  • 10 doubles against dealer 2 through 9 otherwise hit.
  • 11 doubles against dealer 2 through 9 otherwise hit.
  • 12 stands against dealer 4 through 6, otherwise hit.
  • 13 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
  • 14 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
  • 15 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
  • 16 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
  • 17-21 always stands.

Soft Totals:

Blackjack Hand Soft Totals - partycasino

A soft total is any hand that is dealt an Ace as one of the first two cards, the ace counts as 11 to start.

  • 13 (A&2) doubles against dealer 5 through 6, otherwise hit.
  • 14 (A&3) doubles against dealer 5 through 6, otherwise hit.
  • 15 (A&4) doubles against dealer 4 through 6, otherwise hit.
  • 16 (A&5) doubles against dealer 4 through 6, otherwise hit.
  • 17 (A&6) doubles against dealer 3 through 6, otherwise hit.
  • 18 (A&7) doubles against dealer 3 through 6 (if allowed, otherwise stand), and hits against dealer 9 through Ace, otherwise stand.
  • 19-21 (A&8 ,9,10) always stands.

Splits Pairs:

Blackjack Hand Split Pairs - partycasino
  • A pair of 2’s splits against dealer 2 through 7, otherwise hit.
  • A pair of 3’s splits against dealer 2 through 7, otherwise hit.
  • A pair of 4’s splits against dealer 5 and 6, otherwise hit.
  • A pair of 5’s doubles against dealer 2 through 9, otherwise hit.
  • A pair of 6’s splits against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
  • A pair of 7’s splits against dealer 2 through 7, otherwise hit.
  • A pair of 8’s splits against dealer 2 through 9, otherwise hit.
  • A pair of 9’s splits against dealer 2 through 9, except for 7, otherwise stand.
  • A pair of 10’s always stands.
  • A pair of Ace’s splits against dealer 2 through 9, otherwise hit.

Surrenders:

  • 16 surrenders against dealer 9 through Ace, otherwise don’t surrender (revert to hard totals).
  • 15 surrenders against dealer 10, otherwise don’t surrender (revert to hard totals).

By playing in line with basic strategy, you’re playing with the wind at your back. It won’t guarantee you will win every hand, but it reduces the house edge as much as possible, so you can start to exploit opportunities to profit when your cards permit. So, why not give Blackjack a try at PartyCasino. If you prefer classic online table games then feel free to browse through our Online Blackjack games here, otherwise if you are looking for a more interactive experience, you can give our Live Blackjack games a try.

Other Ways to Help You Memorise the Basic Blackjack Strategy

How To Memorise Blackjack Basic Strategy - partycasino

Memorizing the blackjack basic strategy is one thing and mastering the strategy is another. Practice makes perfect and is the most obvious way of becoming a pro in blackjack. Since it is practically not feasible to visit a land-based casino multiple times in a week, there are some easier methods to help you master the blackjack strategy.

Blackjack Live Stream Games

When it comes to learning and mastering Blackjack, watching other players can be quite helpful. Such live streaming games on blackjack are available on YouTube, Facebook and Twitch. Twitch is a streaming platform where you can find streamers, or streams playing Online Blackjack. Anyone who is trying to master the Blackjack basic strategy can learn from these streams and observe how the certain calls and actions are applied before hitting a live casino.

Free Online Blackjack Games

Free online Blackjack games are alternative ways of mastering and memorising the blackjack basic strategy, and how promptly you can apply the same in an actual game. These free Blackjack games can be found on the internet and they require you to just play Blackjack without involving real money. The main goal of playing these games is to practice and prepare yourself so that you can easily recite the basic strategy at blackjack in a casino later. You can even try free blackjack demos available at PartyCasino. These demos are playable when you sign up for a casino account.

The History of Blackjack Strategy

Blackjack was first devised in the 1700s, popularised in French casinos of the time. Some scholars argue that its origins span back much further in time, possibly even to the Romans, who were known to play similar numerical gambling games using inscribed wooden blocks in place of playing cards. But it wasn’t until the early 1960s that blackjack strategy gained prominent mainstream appeal.

Edward O. Thorp was a professor of Mathematics at the University of Los Angeles, and in later life would go on to become a hedge fund manager, as well as a highly successful blackjack player. Fascinated by the game, and the interplay of odds and probabilities, he channelled his research into a book that would go on to become an international best-seller – Beat The Dealer.

His ideas shaped how people thought about blackjack strategy for a generation, influencing betting decisions and strategies as players tried to put his techniques into practice.

Thorp put his theories to the test in the live casino environment before publishing his book, gaining the validation he needed that his theory was workable. He attempted to distil a basic blackjack card counting method into a format ordinary players could use, and was no doubt single-handedly responsible for revolutionising the strategic approach to the game.

Thorp’s strategy involved adding and subtracting a single point from a running total depending on the cards drawn in each hand. For every card drawn from a deck that was valued at 2-6, a point was added to the running total. Every card of value 10-A was assigned minus one point, while the cards 7-9 were a neutral, zero points.

His theory suggests that when the aggregate point tally is positive, players should bet more aggressively on forthcoming hands. When the points total was negative, players should become more cagey, and avoid betting aggressively on upcoming hands.

The theory was that as more low value cards appear, the chances of higher cards appearing in the next hand are increased. Likewise, the opposite is true with lower cards appearing. His hypothesis that players are more likely to hit blackjack or otherwise win the hand when there are high cards remaining in the deck underpinned this theory, and players were able to use this Basic Blackjack Strategy for informing their betting decisions.

His was the first blackjack strategy to reach a mass audience worldwide. As a result, casinos eventually adapter the structure of the game, to attempt to counteract the inherent advantage players could gain from replicating Thorp’s method.

Now that much of blackjack gaming takes place online, with the help of random number generators rather than fixed decks of cards, the effectiveness of this strategy has been minimised. However, it still remains a helpful starting point for getting to grips with the basics of blackjack strategy.

Frequently Asked Questions About Blackjack Basic Strategy

Can You Win At Blackjack With Basic Strategy?

The main goal of the Blackjack basic strategy isn't to help you win every time you play. That's in fact, impossible. Instead, it is to help you reduce the house edge as much as possible, maximize the chances of winning and minimize your losses.

Should You Hit On A 12 Or 13 In Blackjack?

When the dealer’s upcard is a 3, you should hit on anything that is below 8 and precisely on 12, while standing on anything 13 or above. If the dealer’s upcard is a 2, it is best to hit on anything that is below 9 and stand on anything 13 or above.

Is It Hard To Memorize A Basic Blackjack Strategy?

Memorising all the different rules, especially when combined with the other factors, for example, the number of dealer and player cards - while it may seem intimidating at first, most people can master the basic strategy around two to four weeks. This is possible by practicing at online casinos or watching online Blackjack videos. Players are able to apply the strategy in simulated games or simply by watching the actions of other players.

Are There Tools That Can Help You Memorize Any Blackjack Basic Strategy?

There are numerous blackjack apps or games that are available for players to practice their strategy. Most of these apps or games are free while others require a one-time payment. Another way to practice Blackjack for free is through PartyCasino – where demo Blackjack games are available for players to access at any time.

Should You Consider Taking The Insurance Bet?

Ideally you wouldn’t want to take the insurance bet. An insurance bet is not recommended to average players purely because of its unreasonably high house edge. Unless the player is exploiting the game by utilizing a card counting method to their advantage, it is not recommended to take the insurance bet when a dealer has an ace.

Can I Use The Blackjack Basic Strategy In Any Casino?

Most casinos do not have a rule in place against the use of Blackjack basic strategy. It is considered acceptable to even print out the Blackjack strategy chart and take it with you to any casino. However, dealers will not be too content with players who take too much time consulting their cards when it is their turn to act. Therefore, it is advised that players practice the basic Blackjack strategy regularly and memorise all the rules before visiting any casino or online casino.

Do I Need To Know Card Counting In Blackjack To Win?

Blackjack card counting can potentially increase a player’s chances of winning, albeit this does not guarantee a high return on their bets over a period of time. Practicing and implementing a basic Blackjack strategy is all you need to keep the house edge low while maximising your odds of winning.
  • David Winter
    ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    David Winter

    David Winter is our in-house casino aficionado with over 10-years experience in the industry. Having written for several major casino groups in the UK and Europe, we are proud to have snagged him for ourselves. He’s been with us for six years now and writes about all our upcoming slots and our casino strategy guides.