BlackJack : Basic Strategy : Cards

So you've learned how the game works, now you're ready to learn how to make the game work for you. Have a deck of cards and some coins or chips handy because we're going to be dealing some hands a bit later.

It wasn't long ago when players ventured into casinos armed with nothing, no real knowledge of how to play blackjack against casinos... and by and large, they lost miserably. With the rise of computers and the incredible research of mathematicians (such as MIT professor Edward 0. Thorp in his groundbreaking book Beat The Dealer) millions of hands of simulated blackjack play have been analyzed using advanced computer methods and from it has arisen BlackJack Basic Strategy. Based on these models, mathematicians have developed a way of playing every possible blackjack combination. Adherance to these strategies will, over time, result in the outcomes that are advantageous to the player. You aren't guaranteed to win everytime, but over the long run, you will reduce house advantage to almost nothing, and with the addition of card counting to your arsenal move the advantage into your favor. We'll cover card counting in the next lesson.

Basic Strategy

BlackJack Basic Strategy was developed by MIT mathematics professor Edward O. Thorp using rigorous computer simulations and analysis. It has been theorized upon and expanded by numerous blackjack analysts over the years, most notably Stanford Wong (author of Professional Blackjack and other fine books on the subject). BlackJack basic strategy is a set of rules for the player that tells them how to most effectively play their hands based on what the dealers up card is showing. It maximized the opportunity the player has regarding Double Down, Split and Surrender. For the purposes of this demonstration we will leave Surrender out of the equation because most Las Vegas casinos don't allow the Surrender option.

The Cheat Sheet

To the right you will see a BlackJack Basic strategy grid. Small wallet-sized plastic versions of this are available in most casino gift shops. These cheat sheets are completely legal to possess, but if you would like to use it at the table, be sure to ask the dealer if its ok. It might be advantageous for you to print and cut the strategy guide out for reference later on.

On the top of this card you will see Dealers Up Card, to the Left, stacked vertically are the possibilities for the players hand. To find what to do, find the Dealers Up Card... then move down vertically until you reach the row which has the Players Hand in it and follow the given instructions for that hand. It's that simple. With time and practice, the player should memorize this card and not bring it to the casino. For one, you'd rather not attract attention to yourself as a smart player (more on this in the section on Card Counting) and secondly, you'll look like a dork referring to this card every 30 seconds... holding up the play at the table.

Continue to the next page where we'll deal some imaginary hands.