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Blackjack Strategy

Having a good blackjack strategy is the key to playing a profitable blackjack game. Blackjack is one of the few casino games that offer a low house edge, and a nearly non-existent one when combined with a foolproof strategy. Many things are involved when trying to come up with the perfect game plan that will rake in the dollars, some of which might have not occurred to you before. The basic blackjack strategy below is the fundamental set of rules that any, more complex strategy can be built upon. There are many proven strategies around, but they all come back to the same thing. There are many things that affect the game you play, which I have outlined for your reading pleasure below.

Seating Position

This strategy starts before you even begin to play. Your position at the blackjack table may have a substantial effect on the game. The position to the farthest left of the dealer is known and first base and is the first player to receive cards. The player seated to the farthest right of the dealer is in the “third base” seat and receives cards from the dealer last. Many believe the player at third base to have some control over the game. To some extend this player controls which cards the dealer gets if the dealer must draw. This player’s moves can also determine whether the other players at the table win or lose. A reckless player in third base could have a negative effect on the whole table as well. If you are a card counter this is a great place to sit. This player has the opportunity to see and count more cards before you make your play.

Basic Blackjack Strategy

Here is the basic blackjack strategy all smart blackjack players follow. These will tell you when to hit, stand, double down and split.

Soft Totals

Dealer's Up Card
  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 H 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

S=stand, H=hit, D=double down, DS=double down if possible or stand

Hard Totals

Dealer's Up Card
  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 D D D D D 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

S=stand, H=hit, D=double down, DS=double down if possible or stand

The truth is basic strategy is merely a starting point and alone will not tip the overall advantage in favor of the player. However, there are some things you can do to increase your advantage against the house.

The ultimate extension to basic strategy is counting cards. It worked for the MIT blackjack team in the mid 1990s and can work for you too. See our section on card counting.

If you bet high when you think you are on a hot streak, without employing basic strategy, you will only give advantage to the house. If you know when these streaks started and ended, that would be a different thing and you could bet accordingly.

Blackjack is a game of high cards and low cards. In general, high cards are advantageous to players and low cards help the dealer. The reason for this is that if the dealer wins with blackjack you lose your bet. If you win with blackjack you win 1.5 times your bet. In the long run you will profit more as a result of high cards in the deck.

Once of the most difficult hands to play is your 16 against a dealer’s 10 (since you need either a 4 or 5 to beat the dealer). If your hand contains any fours or fives you should stand. Since you must get a four or five to have any kind of chance against the dealer you need to ensure as many as possible are still in the deck. Most of the time a player should stand on a hand of 16.

If the dealer shows 6 or lower they are more likely to bust. In this case, the player need not take risks and just avoid busting. Players may choose to double down and increase their bets, depending on whether or not you have been counting cards.

If the dealer shows 7 or higher they are more likely to get a good hand of 18, 19, 20 or 21. Here the player will want to take more risk and try to get a hand as close to 21 as possible. In this case you may want to be conservative in your betting and again, depending on whether or not you are counting cards.

Betting Strategy

One common betting strategy is called the Martingale system. This system entails doubling your bet after every loss. On its own you would need a blackjack table with a very high limit and very deep pockets of your own. With this system you would wipeout your bankroll pretty fast. The key here is to combine this with card counting. This combination is practically unbeatable. Here’s how to play it:

Start with a small $5 bet and double it after you lose, if the count is positive. Never go over $100. When the count is negative, don’t increase your bet. As you win more money you can bet more aggressively on positive counts. You will appear to the casino to be a “system” player – someone who plays using only a system which the player thinks is unbeatable. Casinos don’t like player who are obvious card counter, but if they think you are using a betting system they treat you like royalty. The casino knows that a system player will always lose to the house. Little will they know you are counting cards as well!



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