Following basic strategy makes blackjack fun

Feb 5, 2013 3:02 AM

I really like to look at smart and fun gaming, which doesn’t always equate to playing the games with the best rules and perfect strategy.

But, I like when it does.

Once finding a game that limits the house edge as much as possible I like to learn how to play with the right strategy in order to maximize my wins and minimize losses. Winning is fun to me.

I have a super simple twist on basic blackjack strategy I’ve shared before that essentially says to split Aces and Eights, stop taking cards when you reach 17 and hit when your hand is 12 against a dealer 2.

That’s a simplified version of basic strategy that isn’t perfect. Today I want to look at optimal basic strategy, which is what we need to know in order to play the best blackjack possible.

Basic is easier to remember than perfect strategy but it’s not quite as simple as my modifications. That being said, basic should be easy enough to remember and will give you the best bang for your gaming buck.

Let’s assume we have a good game that pays 3:2 on blackjack and where the dealer stays on all 17’s. Basic strategy begins with knowing when you should hit or stand since these are situations we’ll run into most often.

Always hit hard 11 or less.

Stand on hard 12 against a dealer’s 4-6, otherwise hit.

Stand on hard 13-16 against a dealer’s 2-6, otherwise hit.

Always hit soft 17 or less.

Stand on hard 17 or more.

Stand on soft 18 except hit against a dealer 9, 10, or Ace.

Always stand on soft 19 or more.

If you’re an intermediate player you probably know when to hit or stand already. Basic strategy gets a little more confusing when you are looking to split cards or double your bet. Here is the basic strategy of when to split cards and when to double down.

Split: Always split aces and 8s.

Never split 5s and 10s.

Split 2s and 3s against a dealer 4-7, and against a 2 or 3 if double after splitting is allowed.

Split 4s only if a double and split is allowed and the dealer shows a 5 or 6.

Split 6s against a dealer 3-6, and against a 2 if double after splitting is allowed.

Split 7s against a dealer 2-7.

Split 9s against a dealer 2-6 or 8-9.

Double: With hard 9 vs. dealer 3-6; Hard 10 except against a dealer 10 or Ace; Hard 11 except against a dealer Ace.

Also, Soft 13 or 14 vs. dealer 5-6; Soft 15 or 16 vs. dealer 4-6; Soft 17 or 18 vs. dealer 3-6.

Many people, myself included, find doubling and splitting to be where the real money is made in blackjack. Instead of winning a single unit we have the potential for taking two units (or more) for a single hand. When perfect basic strategy is played the house edge can be less than 0.35%. That’s a house edge of 30 cents for every $100 and among the best odds you’ll find in any casino.

Marc Meltzer covers Las Vegas, gambling and men’s lifestyle for various outlets. Follow Marc on twitter @eastcoastgamblr. Check out his blog at Contact Marc at [email protected].

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