Lesson 1 – Basic Strategy

The foundation of winning at Blackjack is to utilize proper basic strategy in playing the hands.

“Proper” means that each decision you make on hitting, standing, doubling or splitting pairs is the correct mathematical play for that hand. There is no room for intuition, gut feelings or guessing when it comes to basic strategy; you must make the “percentage” play each time. Even if you’ve doubled an 11 against a dealer’s 10 five times in a row and lost, when that hand comes up a sixth time you must double. Consistency is a big part of playing a winning game, so resolve right now that you are going to make the proper play, regardless if the dealer rolls his eyes upward or the other players at the table groan quietly when you do it. You are there for the money — there’s no other reason to play blackjack — and the application of proper basic strategy is going to get that money for you; what others think of your play is not important.

The correct basic strategy for a blackjack game depends upon the rules of the casino where you will be playing. The strategy which applies to a single deck game in Reno, for example, is quite a bit different than the strategy for an eight-deck game in Atlantic City. I’m going to show you how to learn the basic strategy of your choice; exactly what that strategy is will depend on you. To select a basic strategy, go to the Blackjack Strategy Engine and simply fill in the blanks. Once your strategy is computed, print it out.

Here’s what that looks like for a fairly common game: Six decks, double on any first two cards, double after splitting pairs is permitted and the dealer stands on A-6.

Basic Strategy Matrix :
for 6 Decks, S17, DA2, DAS, No surrender

This resource can also be downloaded for printing purposes.


Splitting Pairs

Splitting Pairs

Pairs 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T A
(A,A) Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
(T,T) N N N N N N N N N N
(9,9) Y Y Y Y Y N Y Y N N
(8,8) Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
(7,7) Y Y Y Y Y Y N N N N
(6,6) Y Y Y Y Y N N N N N
(5,5) N N N N N N N N N N
(4,4) N N N Y Y N N N N N
(3,3) Y Y Y Y Y Y N N N N
(2,2) Y Y Y Y Y Y N N N N
Keys:
Y
Yes, split the pair
N
No, don’t split the pair

Soft Totals

Soft Totals 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T A
(A,9) S S S S S S S S S S
(A,8) S S S S S S S S S S
(A,7) S Ds Ds Ds Ds S S H H H
(A,6) H D D D D H H H H H
(A,5) H H D D D H H H H H
(A,4) H H D D D H H H H H
(A,3) H H H D D H H H H H
(A,2) H H H D D H H H H H
Keys:
H
Hits
S
Stand
D
Double (Hit if not allowed)
DS
Double (Stand if not allowed)


Hard Totals

Hard Totals 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T A
17 S S S S S S S S S S
16 S S S S S H H H H H
15 S S S S S H H H H H
14 S S S S S H H H H H
13 S S S S S H H H H H
12 H H S S S H H H H H
11 D D D D D D D D D H
10 D D D D D D D D H H
9 H D D D D H H H H H
8 H H H H H H H H H H
Keys:
H
Hits
S
Stand
D
Double (Hit if not allowed)

This is the chart that you will eventually know as well as your own name — but don’t worry, you’re not going to memorize it in this form. What we are going to do is convert all this into what a “normal” person can understand. I call what’s above the “Basic Strategy Matrix” and you’ll use it in some of your training. But what we need to do in order to memorize this is to translate the information above into all-inclusive rules. Let’s do a few as examples.

Look at the strategy for a player’s hand of 9 on the matrix above; it says to double against a 3,4,5 or 6 and hit it against everything else. We can turn that information into a simple rule: “With a hand of 9, double versus 3 through 6, otherwise hit.” See how this works? We are going to take each player’s starting hand and convert the proper play of that hand into one easy-to-understand rule. Now look at a hand of A-2. Proper basic strategy says to double against 5 and 6 and hit it against everything else, so our rule for A-2 is “Double vs. 5 & 6, otherwise hit.” As a bonus, we can group A-2 with A-3 since the play for each is identical. So we end up with a rule like this “A-2 , A-3; double vs. 5 & 6, otherwise hit.” One more example; a pair of 3’s. When double after split is permitted, proper basic strategy says to split 3’s whenever the dealer is showing a 2,3,4,5,6, or 7. Against any other dealer up card, we do not split; we should just hit the hand. Thus, our rule for a pair of 3’s becomes “3,3; split vs. 2-7, otherwise hit”. Clear on all that? Good. Below is the basic strategy chart for the matrix shown above.

Basic Strategy Decision Chart
for the Basic Strategy Matrix shown above.

This resource can also be downloaded for printing purposes.


Player’s Hand Decisions
5 thru 8 Always Hit
9 Double 3 thru 6, o/w hit
10 Double 2 thru 9, o/w hit
11 Double 2 thru 10, o/w hit
12 Stand 4 thru 6, o/w Hit
13 thru 16 Stand 2 thru 6, o/w Hit
17 or higher Always Stand
A,2 Double vs 5&6, o/w Hit
A,3 Double vs 5&6, o/w Hit
A,4 Double vs 4 thru 6, o/w Hit
A,5 Double vs 4 thru 6, o/w Hit
A,6 Double vs 3 thru 6, o/w Hit
A,7 Double 3 thru 6, Stand vs 2,7,8 Hit vs 9,10, A
A,8-A,9 Always Stand
2,2 Split 2 thru 7, o/w Hit
3,3 Split 2 thru 7, o/w Hit
4,4 Split vs 5 & 6, o/w Hit
5,5 Never Split, treat as “10”
6,6 Split 2 thru 6, o/w Hit
7,7 Split 2 thru 7, o/w Hit
8,8 Always split
9,9 Split 2 thru 9 except 7; o/w Stand
10,10 Never Split
A,A Always Split

Remember The Basic Strategy Decision Chart shown here applies only to the game described earlier; you must produce your own to fit the rules of your favorite casino.

Once you’ve made your Basic Strategy Chart, we can begin to memorize it. To do that, we will produce a set of “Flashcards”. Remember those? You probably learned how to add or subtract using those cards and they will also teach you how to win at Blackjack. You need to make one flashcard for each starting hand by reproducing the information above on a 2″ x 2′ piece of paper. (Manila file folder material does well for this.) Here’s what one looks like…

Flashcard sample

When you’re finished, you’ll have a pack of flashcards which will help you to memorize the proper basic strategy for the game you’ve chosen. Start carrying them with you and as you encounter those “lost” moments we each seem to have in our day — waiting for a plane, sitting at the dentist’s office or even while watching TV, pull your cards out and start reciting the rule for the hand shown. Check your accuracy by flipping over the card and then put it on the bottom of the pack. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you begin to learn all these rules.

Homework

I said this was a school, didn’t I? Well, you will also have some homework to do before we get together again next week. Here are your assignments

Flashcards: Spend a minimum of one hour each day going through the cards.

Next lesson we’ll finish with how to learn basic strategy through a discussion and demonstration of additional training aids and exercises which will give you the means to check your accuracy. It is not necessary for you to have your chosen basic strategy memorized perfectly at that point; all you need to know now is HOW to learn basic strategy. Exactly WHEN you learn it is up to you, since each part of this course is separate and does not depend on you knowing perfectly what came before.



All material in the Blackjack School is © Copyright 2007 The GameMaster Online, Inc.

62
Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Tyler
Guest
Tyler

So I’ve been working on learning the basic strategy for all possible rule combinations I can think of that I may encounter in the US. I made flash cards for BS pertaining to the following: 4 Decks, DAS, S17 4 decks, DAS, H17 (Same as both above, no DAS) (All above rule variations with 2 decks and 1 deck) I hope that makes sense, I was just feeling lazy and didn’t want to type out 12 variations. Just basically any combo with 1,2, or 4 decks, with and without DAS, and both S17 and H17. Also with surrender as an… Read more »

Tyler
Guest
Tyler

Hey Ken,
I asked a couple questions about progressive betting and navigation of the blackjack school. And I want to thank you for the responses. I just came up with another question. So on this matrix a Hard16 vs 10 says to hit. So why is it when I plug the same game in to the engine, and turn on the option to surrender, the engine says to surrender on 10, but if that’s not an option, to stand(RS)?

Tyler
Guest
Tyler

Something I want to add, I saw a video of Henry Tamburin talking about the top five most misplayed hands. And when he mentioned the 16 v 10, he said to hit when you have a two card 16, but when your 16 is made up of three or more cards (5,7 &4 for example) to stand. I know counting will give you a better idea on what to do in these scenarios, but what is your take on this?

Nicholas Konyn
Guest
Nicholas Konyn

I’ve got a question regarding the charts. In the chart for the rules of: 6-deck, dealer hits on soft 17, double after split, late surrender allowed, peek, it says to double down on a soft 14 15 or 16 in certain scenarios, but what if they are 3+ card soft 14, 15, or 16s? (Then you CAN’T double down, of course.) Soooooo what happens then?

anonymous
Guest
anonymous

Why are you telling people to follow basic strategy if they’re to be counting cards? They shouldn’t be following a simple hit-stand-double-split table, there should be a threshold in many entries. Like you double 10 against 10 if the truecount is over 4, you double 10 against A if the truecount is over 3, you hit 16 against 10 if the count is 0 or negative, stand if anything positive, double 11 against A if truecount is positive, don’t if 0 or negative, etc. I think it’s counterproductive to learn these things as fixed entries, they’re functions. It’s just, that… Read more »

JR Russell
Guest
JR Russell

Ken: I would like to thank you for your knowledge and course. I read the course did the practice and it payed off big. Had a large bankroll to start $25k and get comps. in Vegas due to my slot losses on previous trips. I looked on websites for lowest house advantage, and started at Bellagio (-.252)6 Deck $25 game, dealer stands soft 17, DAS, Surrender, all the right rules. Played for six hours and noticed was being watched by pit boss after and hour( I am sure I was obvious as first time playing with all the rules and… Read more »

Jose
Guest
Jose

If I am playing in the European style, with no hole card and I am the last player in the table. I have 16 against a dealer 10. Basic strategy says you must hit. But in the European style, the next card can be for the player (if he hits) or for the dealer (if he stands). If the player hits good cards for the player are A, 2, 3, 4, 5. But, except for the Ace, all other is also good for the player since it is possible he bust with the next card. It is the same for… Read more »

Glen
Guest
Glen

Hi Ken. I’ve been playing basic strategy for years and am starting to learn to count properly. I’m going on a trip to Connecticut and playing at MS. The BSE says to surrender 16 against a 10, I get that, but it says to stay if no surrender. I’ve never stayed on 16 against a 10, is that really mathematically correct?
Thanks,
Glen

Glen
Guest
Glen

I’m also not sure if they H17 or S17, but if it’s H17 it says to surrender, or stay with 17 against an Ace. Ok, so I’ve never stood on 16 against 10 and I’ve never surrendered a 17. Can you help me understand these 2 plays?
Thanks again,
Glen

James Ong
Guest
James Ong

If the casino does not pay out 3 to 2 for blackjack after splitting Aces, do we still proceed to split ace pair?

pili
Guest
pili

first i want to apologyze about the thing concerning my security, it was just bullshit. i was trolling a bit, my country is not dangerous, i love colombia. but some people get angry at you when you play BS. i have another question, here in my city there is a side bet which you gamble to get a pair. if you get a mix pair(red and black) like a 6 of diamonds and a 6 of spikes they pay 6 times your side bet. if you get a color pair(red and red or black and black) like a 6 of… Read more »

Jim
Guest
Jim

i dont understand, is the BS always used or just when playing alone against the house, and if so, why???
when im studying BS i see suicidal hands

Wufei
Guest
Wufei

Spliting 8s against a ten? Isnt that a sucker play? I mean your going up against the highest card a dealer can have isnt that just asking for punishment?

Jim
Guest
Jim

i dont understand the charts, please help, im a total begginer

Chad B.
Guest
Chad B.

Ken, when trying to print this lesson, the charts don’t print in color. Not sure why, but it shows up fine on-screen but just doesn’t print in color.

George
Guest
George

Hey Ken, I have a question.
In your basic stategy matrix you write to split the 8,8s against a T or A, but in a matrix for a UK casino would just hit. What is the difference between them?

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

How frequently should we move on to the next lesson?

Ali
Guest
Ali

Hi,

What about cutting the decks half? Many internet casinos cut the 8decks to half. Does that nulify card counting also?

Joe
Guest
Joe

What do you mean about Continuous shuffle machines and a regular shuffle machine? whats the difference?

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

thanks

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

8 Decks Machine wash You can use it

Tim Brown
Guest
Tim Brown

I do great playing bj against my phone app with proper modified rules as my casino But when I break out my six decks I lose 5 out of 6 fully dealt shoes! I shuffle them well but they seem to fall against me like the often do at the casino? At home I am following 100% Basic Strategy. Is their a logical explanation?

Tim Brown
Guest
Tim Brown

It’s called variance. Get used to it! Thanks for the great advice you sound like your smarter than you thought since you figured out the answer to your own Question! Keep up the good work. This is a Great website and I am sure it is going to help me win all my money back plus interest.

Tyler
Guest
Tyler

Yeah I experience it the other way around. I haven’t gotten a chance to try it in a real casino yet, but I always struggle on my app whereas whenever I play at home I’m usually pretty successful.

Top 10 Blackjack Strategy Mistakes

What are some common mistakes made by blackjack players?  Subscribe and download our detailed report to find out.

You have Successfully Subscribed!