How to Learn Basic Strategy

Basic Strategy is the correct strategy for playing every hand in the game of blackjack. It lets you know when to hit, stand, split, double, and surrender. Blackjack gurus often hand their students a chart somewhat like this one from the Wizard of Odds, and tell them to memorize it:

bj_4d_h17
I paid $3000 for this damn class, and you’re just sending me home with this?!

Nice info, Mr. Guru, but how in the world do we memorize this?

Don’t worry, we can simplify it. The best way we to memorize basic strategy is by turning this chart into a series of rules. I present to you, the 21 rules of playing the game of 21:

Hard Hitting and Standing

Hard hands don’t have an ace in them.

1. If the dealer is showing a 7 or higher, keep hitting until you have 17 or higher.

2. If the dealer is showing a 4,5, or 6, stand on 12 or higher.

3. If the dealer is showing a 2 or 3, hit a 12, and stand on 13 or higher

Soft hitting and standing

Soft hands have an ace in them

4. If the dealer is showing an 9, 10, or ace, hit until you have soft 19 or higher

5. If the dealer is showing a 2-8, hit until you have soft eighteen or higher

Hard Double Downs

6. If you have a total of 11, always double down.

7. If you have a total of 10, double down except against an ace or ten.

8. If you have a total of 9, double against 3,4,5, or 6.

Soft Double Downs

9. If the dealer is showing a 2, double soft 18.

10. If the dealer is showing a 3, double soft 17 or 18

11. If the dealer is showing a 4, double with soft 18 or below, but not A2 or A3.

12. If the dealer is showing a 5, double with soft 18 or below

13. If the dealer is showing a 6, double with soft 19 or below.

Splits

14. Always split aces and eights.

15. Split 2s, 3s, and 7s against a dealer 2-7.

16. Split 6s against a dealer 2-6.

17. Split 4s against a dealer 5 or 6.

18. Split 9s against a dealer 2-6, 8, or 9. Don’t split against 7, 10, or ace. (This is the hardest rule you’ll have to remember).

Surrender

19. Surrender 16 against a dealer 9, 10, or ace.

20. Surrender 15 against a 10 or ace.

21. Surrender 17 against an ace.

Conclusion

You’re still gonna have to do some work. But, rather than trying to memorize every line on that monstrous chart above, you can memorize the 21 rules here, and make things a lot easier. In another post, we will discuss how to practice basic strategy.

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