Can I/should I Surrender?
If you’re playing at a casino that offers surrender (also known as late surrender or LS), you will only have the option to surrender on the first two cards you’re dealt. You won’t be able to surrender if you’ve already taken a hit card. This is why surrender is the first thing you have to think about when playing your hand. If the answer is NO you can’t or NO you shouldn’t surrender, you then ask yourself….Can I/Should I Split?
The second most important decision is whether or not to split. This will only be an option when your first two cards are a pair or if you have two ten-valued cards (like a jack and a king). If the answer is NO you can’t or you shouldn’t split, you ask yourself….Can I/Should I Double?
When basic strategy calls for doubling, it’s a really good thing! It means you’re likely to win the hand! Some casinos restrict doubling on certain hands so it may not always be possible, but you want to make sure you’ve ruled it out before you move on. If the answer is NO you can’t or you shouldn’t double, you ask yourself…Should I hit or should I stand?
The last thing you should think about when it comes to basic strategy is whether or not to take another card. If the other options above are not appropriate for your hand then you would choose to hit or stand.
In case you’re not a visual learner these simple phrases might help you commit these rules to memory. The goal with remembering phrases is to be able to look at your hand total and immediately recite the rule in your head, without having to see what the dealer has. That way when you’re at the table and you look up to see what the dealer has, you already know how it relates to your hand and you can make your decision in a split second. Memorizing these phrases will make you much faster and have fewer mistakes.
16 surrenders against dealer 9 through Ace, otherwise don’t surrender (revert to hard totals).15 surrenders against dealer 10, otherwise don’t surrender (revert to hard totals).
Always split aces.Never split tens.A pair of 9’s splits against dealer 2 through 9, except for 7, otherwise stand.Always split 8’sA pair of 7’s splits against dealer 2 through 7, otherwise hit.A pair of 6’s splits against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.A pair of 5’s doubles against dealer 2 through 9, otherwise hit.A pair of 4’s splits against dealer 5 and 6, otherwise hit.A pair of 3’s splits against dealer 2 through 7, otherwise hit.A pair of 2’s splits against dealer 2 through 7, otherwise hit.
Soft totals: A soft total is any hand that has an Ace as one of the first two cards, the ace counts as 11 to start.
Soft 20 (A,9) always stands.Soft 19 (A,8) doubles against dealer 6, otherwise stand.Soft 18 (A,7) doubles against dealer 2 through 6, and hits against 9 through Ace, otherwise stand.Soft 17 (A,6) doubles against dealer 3 through 6, otherwise hit.Soft 16 (A,5) doubles against dealer 4 through 6, otherwise hit.Soft 15 (A,4) doubles against dealer 4 through 6, otherwise hit.Soft 14 (A,3) doubles against dealer 5 through 6, otherwise hit.Soft 13 (A,2) doubles against dealer 5 through 6, otherwise hit.
Hard totals: A hard total is any hand that does not start with an ace in it, or it has been dealt an ace that can only be counted as 1 instead of 11.
17 and up always stands.16 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.15 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.14 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.13 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.12 stands against dealer 4 through 6, otherwise hit.11 always doubles.10 doubles against dealer 2 through 9 otherwise hit.9 doubles against dealer 3 through 6 otherwise hit.8 always hits.
We get a lot of questions on our forum about basic strategy. Here are some of the common ones and their answers:
What is basic strategy based on? Didn’t the casinos write “the book”? How can we trust basic strategy?
Basic strategy was derived from a computer simulation. Somebody taught a computer how to play blackjack and then told it to play several hundred MILLION hands of blackjack and record what happened. Through the computer’s trial and error it figured out which decisions are best for the player, given every possible combination of starting player hands and dealer up card. The “best decisions” for the player, in this case, are the ones that lose the least amount of money to the casino over time. Basic strategy does not overcome the casino’s house edge until we add card counting to the mix. If you are super geeky and simply MUST have a better explanation, check out Mike Shakleford’s video where he builds basic strategy from scratch using excel and watch his other video where he determines the house edge the same way.Why are the strategy charts on this site different than the charts I saw on such-and-such website?
TL;DR – Our chart is based off of the more common “H17 game.” Memorize our chart, then learn card counting and the deviation chart for the game you will most commonly be playing.
Longer answer: The main reason is whether the Basic Strategy Chart is based off of a dealer Hitting a Soft 17, known as an “H17 game” or Standing on a Soft 17, known as an “S17 game.” Our advice is to learn this chart, then move on to learning card counting and the blackjack deviations associated with the game you will be playing (H17 vs S17).
There are also slight variations in strategy when you play a 6 deck game versus a single deck game. Rather than teach you 9 different basic strategy charts for each variant of blackjack you will ever see, we decided to run our simulation against the games people will most commonly see and teach blackjack one basic strategy that is sufficiently effective against all numbers of decks. We have a Keep it Simple Stupid, mentality when it comes to learning card counting. This means our charts might be slightly different than a site that’s chosen a different philosophy.
If you’re an anal-retentive type and want to learn hyper-specific strategies we recommend Professional Blackjack by Stanford Wong. We’ve run the numbers and learning the hyper-specific stuff basically just makes you feel smarter and doesn’t add any money to your wallet. With that said, whatever strategy you choose to learn, we recommend sticking with ONLY those materials. If you get distracted with content from multiple sources it has a higher probability of confusing you than enlightening you. We’ve taken over $4,000,000 from casinos and trained an army of card counters who have taken millions more, with the charts you see here. So rest assured, we’ve combed through the crap and know what’s important when it comes to crushing this game.How do I memorize all blackjack this?
Great question! You’ve come to the exact right place! We have some tips in our premium video course on how to approach the blackjack?charts and make them simpler. We also have a free mini course we can email you with some step by step instructions on how to take your training seriously. We also have blank strategy sheets you can download and fill in every day for practice to test yourself. Practice makes perfect so there’s nothing like our basic strategy drills to get it drilled into your brain!When I’m doing the basic strategy drills, I only miss one every couple hundred hands or so! Am I ready for the casino?
If you think missing one every now and then is “perfect” then sure you’re ready! [sarcasm] How many people listen to musicians that get every 100th note out of tune? Michael Jordan says you’ll never play better in a game than you did in practice. We want to be like Mike, so we teach that you are probably making 2 or 3 mistakes in the casino for every one mistake you make in the distractionless, pressure-free, comfort of your home. Perfect means perfect. Don’t compromise. If you keep messing up basic strategy, put it down for a while and come back to it. It won’t happen overnight, but if you stick with it, eventually you’ll know these blackjack charts better than you know the back of your hand.
Once you’ve memorized the basic strategy chart perfectly, you will also need to learn at what count indexes you need to deviate from the basic strategy chart. Deviations vary based on the rules of the game offered, and the rules of the region. For example, in some games, the dealer must stand on a Soft 17, that is, an Ace, plus any combination of cards equaling 6. This is called a “Stand 17” game. In other games, the dealer must hit on any Soft 17. This is called a “Hit 17” game. Also, in Europe and commonly in Canada, dealers do not have a hole card. This is called “European” or “European No-Hole” blackjack.
We provide these charts to people with a membership