Lesson 2 – Learning Basic Strategy

This is a very simple lesson — I’m going to show you how to memorize your chosen basic strategy perfectly. So perfect, in fact, that you won’t have to think about which play is proper; you’ll just do it automatically. That skill is developed through a lot of practice; many hours of repetitious exercises which will leave you knowing basic strategy as well as your own name. (I didn’t say this was easy, just simple).

But we can make those hours of practice a little more fun and somewhat interesting — even challenging — by using different methods of training. If you’re a competitive person the timed exercises will appeal to you; it’s a lot of fun to see if you can post a new “personal best” in each of them. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a Type A personality to learn perfect basic strategy. Just take your time and do as many exercises in a day as you want and if you keep at it on a regular basis, the knowledge will come. Remember, you are learning a skill here which you will be able to use for the rest of your life. Spending a few dozen hours now may return hundreds of hours of profitable play in the future; seems like a fair trade to me.

Let’s get started.

Flashcards – By now, you should have a set of these made up and are using them on a regular basis. Start timing yourself as you go through all of them; a good goal is to recite all the rules perfectly and get through your pack in under two minutes. The time pressure works well in “forcing” you to learn, so record your results so that you can see your progress. If you have a stopwatch, so much the better, because you can use it not only with the flashcards but with many other exercises as well. Don’t go out and buy one, though; the approximate time is all we’re interested in here, so a wrist watch will do just as well.

Basic Strategy Reconstruction Exercise – Print out the form below and run off a bunch of copies. This resource can also be downloaded for printing purposes. You will notice that it is just a “blank” of the form we used in Lesson 1 to create the rules for each of the player’s starting hands. The object here is to write in the rule for each hand and then check for accuracy. Remember the old saying; “I read and I forget; I do and I remember.” That’s what this exercise will do for you. Time yourself as you do it and see if you can get under 60 seconds with 100% accuracy.

Player’s handDecisions
5 thru 8_______________________________
9_______________________________
10_______________________________
11_______________________________
12_______________________________
13 thru 16_______________________________
17 or Higher_______________________________
A,2_______________________________
A,3_______________________________
A,4_______________________________
A,5_______________________________
A,6_______________________________
A,7_______________________________
A,8-A,9_______________________________
2,2_______________________________
3,3_______________________________
4,4_______________________________
5,5_______________________________
6,6_______________________________
7,7_______________________________
8,8_______________________________
9,9_______________________________
10,10_______________________________
A,A_______________________________

Basic Strategy Decision Exercise – Here I’ve made up a lot of player hands along with a dealer’s up card. Use your “Basic Strategy Matrix” from Lesson 1 to make a “correction copy” and mark it as such at the top. Then, just go down the columns of another copy and fill in the proper play. Use your correction copy to check for accuracy. Speed is of the essence here, so work towards a goal of completing this in under two minutes with 100% accuracy. This resource can also be downloaded for printing purposes.


(Indicate proper play under “Decision”)
S=Stand H=Hit P=Split Pairs D=Double


PDDecPDDecPDDec
8,3A____2,3,64____A,4,23____
6,64____9,97____7,63____
5,46____10,33____8,2A____
7,77____9,87____8,810____
9,68____A,72____10,72____
7,53____A,45____9,33____
A,25____6,410____7,4A____
3,34____A,45____6,37____
9,210____10,86____A,65____
5,59____6,87____A,96____
A,76____9,78____10,45____
6,34____A,2,56____9,99____
5,22____3,64____2,42____
10,23____7,89____6,52____
9,97____10,33____7,72____
10,49____A,44____3,45____
6,59____10,57____4,46____
A,62____5,210____A,2,46____
4,46____8,88____10,2,A3____
10,105____A,A7____8,210____
8,67____8,310____6,66____
7,910____5,510____5,42____
10,2,A3____A,5,A3____A,73____
A,2,26____2,27____3,32____
2,64____A,54____7,87____
9,A6____6,62____9,97____
10,63____3,79____2,5,42____
7,76____3,32____10,46____
A,A9____5,59____9,35____
2,22____A,63____A,26____
9,44____10,67____9,87____
A,3,49____6,63____A,4,A2____
A,4,26____9,42____7,53____
8,810____A,410____2,26____
5,58____6,49____3,37____
A,86____8,3A____6,62____
5,22____9,910____2,910____
A,46____7,54____9,75____
2,3,4,A6____7,79____5,43____
A,AA____9,37____7,410____

The Importance of Speed – I stress speed in my classes because the ability to do anything quickly and accurately means you know it well. The play of your hand must be “automatic” because once you learn how to count cards, you’ll be too busy counting to think about the proper play. Make sense?

Card Practice #1 – Now, with a copy of your Basic Strategy Matrix next to you, get out a deck of cards and try this exercise. Deal one card up for the dealer and then two cards for your starting hand. Play that hand according to proper basic strategy and, without playing out the dealer’s hand, push all the used cards off to the side and do it again. Keep going until the deck is used up, shuffle and repeat. This exercise will get you used to making playing decisions in a casino-style setting. Refer to your Matrix as often as you must in order to assure yourself that you are making the proper play.

Card Practice #2 – Some player hands, like A-7 are difficult to learn. So set up a practice like the one above but leave the player’s hand the same and change only the dealer’s up card after each round. Continue to hit or double as before. This exercise is particularly good for getting you used to playing “soft” hands (those which contain an Ace) properly. Time is not important here but accuracy is.

Card Practice #3 – This is a variation on the practice above. On this one, keep the dealer’s card the same — say a 6 — then deal two cards for the player. Play out the hand and then move just the player’s cards off to the side. “Stack” your deck a bit by putting in a lot of pairs so you can get used to splitting properly.

Homework



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

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Rob
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Rob

Just FYI. Three or four of the three-card combinations in the Basic Strategy Decision Exercise above are not possible scenarios. That is, sometimes the first two cards (or any two of the three shown) would dictate a double, preventing three cards from ever being dealt to your hand.

Rob
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Rob

Correction: When you double, of course you will end up with three cards. What I meant to say was that when you have two cards and double down, you will never be presented with another decision question. Your third card will be your final card, and there is no decision to make. No “decision exercise.”

Kel
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Kel

In Austria the pay 3:2 also on 777 which means always hit on 7,7 for the basic strategy, right?

But they use a CSM with 6 decks and a stack of max 2,5 decks. Is this game beatable?

a5teve
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a5teve

In the above drill, “Basic Strategy Drill exercise” You have made up STARTING hands and given the dealers up card. If these are meant to be starting hands, what is the idea behind some of the Three figured player hands?

esnatch
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esnatch

Getting an account on Quizlet.com for free is great for doing drills. You can make your own flash cards, and it will drill you at break-neck speed. The advantage is you can access your flash cards from any internet source, even an iphone. Doing so will give you the ability to burn through thousands of repetitions as opposed to the old fashioned way. It’s really easy to set up. Just go to the website, give your email, and set up cards however you want them. Once you get the basic strategy down, you can make sets of cards that cover… Read more »

VonMots
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VonMots

Really helpful website and app; wish I had known about this in the 1st lesson before I made up my flashcards…