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Aramon’s Guide to Blackjack Basic Strategy

Posted by THEPOGG on Nov 03, 2012

Its been said by many who play the game of blackjack that they play it because it offers some of the best odds in the house, thus making it a very popular game with gamblers. Most average people play the game of blackjack thinking they are armed with all the knowledge needed to make the game close to beatable. Couple that with a table of “good team players” and its watch out house!

Well….guess again. The odds of most BJ games are indeed only favored slightly in the house’s direction, but sad to say, if you are like most players, you are playing the game wrong. Or at the very least, far from optimal, turning your small disadvantage into a suckers carny game.

I can hear you now,”not me, I’ve been playing this game for years and have won x amount of money!” Here’s the truth. I’ve been playing this game professionally for 16 years and have worked with and taught dozens of players. Not to mention have witnessed 10’s of thousands of players in the casino. If you really are playing your hands correctly without any training or study, than you would be the first! Here’s a little test. The game is a 6 deck, stand 17, double anything, split any pair, aces split get 1 card, and it has the surrender option, most commonly, late surrender. The following are a few common hands that will arise in the shoe. Be honest in how you would play them and see how much you really know.

Player Dealer up card
1. A,7 3
2. 4,4 5
3. 8,7 10
4. 8,2 9
5. A,3 4
6. 2,2 7
7. 10,6 A
8. 6,6 3
9. 10,2 3
10. A,7 10

Now lets see how you did. The correct answers are:

  1. double
  2. split
  3. surrender
  4. double
  5. hit
  6. split
  7. surrender
  8. split
  9. hit
  10. hit

I would be willing to bet if you are like most, you got quite a few wrong, and maybe even all of them. Given the rules of the game I described the house would have about 1/3 of 1% of an advantage over you if you played the correct basic strategy. However, each wrongfully played hand has consequences, that will increase the the house edge over you and increase your expected loss. Playing imperfect basic strategy over time can raise the odds against you dramatically. Depending on how bad you play, it could turn a game of less than .5% disadvantage into a 2% or more disadvantage or more. These are mathematical facts. If you do not play perfect basic strategy, you just crushed your good game. Even if you do the wrong play but get a positive outcome, that does not make it right. If you play even semi regularly bad play will amount to bigger loss. The gambler only tends to remember the wins and gets fuzzy about the losses. Thats how casinos build these big decadant cathederals for just such a gambler. A taste of a win for most keeps em coming back for more.

The truth is, if the hand is played correctly the immediate outcome is not important. It effects no one else’s hands, and if the right play gives the wrong result on a hand, its of no real consequence as its your statistacal buildup that leads you to your optimal point. This will be discussed in a later article.

With all of this in mind below i’ve included a basic strategy chart. This is a generic chart for a game with more than 4 decks, later surrender, double after splits, stand on soft 17 game.

The bottom line is, to get BJ down to the best odds for the player (still a slight disadvantage) you need to trust the math and play the game with the 100% perfect basic strategy thats been laid out for the game you’re playing. Its important to note there are different basic strategy charts for the various differing BJ games. There are different basic strategy charts for playing single deck, as opposed to double deck, and multiple deck shoe games. As well the many different rules that the game may consist of. The best thing to do is to find out which game you’re playing and look up on the internet or in a reputable book or even some available training software what the correct basic strategy is. Some casinos offer Basic strategy cards that you can even use at the table while playing. I would check to make sure it is correct before using however, some of them are generic and can be slightly off for the game you are playing.

If you play the same game regularly its not a bad idea to memorize the basic strategy chart for your game. Its not that difficult as you may already know many of the blatant hands already. In training my players what we start off with is dealing out hands with a chart at the ready to check all plays are done correctly. Once things start becoming familiar, take away the chart and make the plays from memory. I would also make up blank charts and have them fill in all the plays in the chart. Once this can be done 100% everytime, it will be very hard not to know the right play of all hands everytime. This is an old school approach. Nowadays there is software out there that can help you train as well as training sites on the web. Although they are good, I have found its good never to eliminate physical interaction with the cards and your mind. It will keep you in tune with the practicallity of real play. Mastering basic strategy is a must to improve your game, as well as down the road if you would like to go even further and play BJ at an advantage. But one thing at a time.

The last and most important thing about playing perfect basic strategy is……..just do it! Now that you know basic strategy perfectly you will be the only one at the table who does, including the dealer most times. So as you now well know, sometimes making the right move looks wrong to the uninformed and many times they will let you know about it, loudly! Maybe in the past the loud complainer was even you. But no more. You now know that statistically speaking what you do with your hand has no effect on anyone but yourself. There is no magical flow of the cards, and the dealers usually have just learned the game from the thousands of bad players that sit in front of them everyday. Handle loudmouths and grumblers any way you feel comfortable. I wiil say this though, playing quickly and confidently without saying much seems to work fine. Blackjack as you are playing it is not a team game. You are not sharing money, wins or losses. Just remember, those chips you’re playing with are real money. You wouldn’t let someone talk you out of your paycheck, don’t allow them to make your game weaker in essence taking money out of your pocket. Just smile and bask in the knowing that the genius with the big mouth is clueless and quite possibly a big lifetime loser at BJ.

Learning proper basic strategy is just the start of fine tuning a very beatable game in BJ. It won’t give you the edge, but it will get you close enough that it doesn’t have to be a real expensive price for entertainment. It is however the first building block you will need to know if you ever wanted to add more to your game and actually get the edge over the house…….and no, you don’t have to be a genius for that.

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