Blackjack is one of the most popular games in the casino, and can be one of the most profitable too if you play your hand correctly.
You are probably thinking, “ho-hum, another article on basic strategy. I know that stuff.” Let’s just see. Jot down how you would play these hands (unless otherwise stated, assume a standard 6-deck game, dealer stands on soft 17 and doubling down after pair splitting permitted).
1. You have 10-2 and the dealer shows a 3.
2. You have 6-5 and the dealer shows a 10.
3. You have Ace-7 and the dealer shows a 9.
4. You have 2-3-Ace and the dealer shows 4.
5. You have 9-9 and the dealer shows a 9.
6. You have 8-8 and the dealer shows a 10.
7. You have 10-6 and the dealer shows a 7.
8. You have an Ace-10 and the dealer has an ace. The dealer asks if you want even money.
9. You have 10-4 and the dealer shows an Ace but doesn’t have blackjack. The casino allows surrender.
10. You have Ace-8, and the dealer shows a 6. The rules specify that the dealer must hit soft 17.
The answers in order are hit, double, hit, hit, split, split, hit, no, hit, double. If you got same wrong, don’t fret, because the majority of blackjack players flunk this quiz which is why casinos continue to profit from a game that theoretically can be beaten.
The basic playing strategy has been around for a long time (since 1956) and it has been refined umpteen times by many blackjack mathematicians. You must believe and trust that this playing strategy is the mathematically correct way to play regardless of what your gut instincts tell you. Any deviation from basic strategy comes at a cost. Eliot Jacobson in his book, The Blackjack Zone, calculates that in your long gambling life of 50 years you will play 10,000 hands per year and at $10 per hand playing perfect basic strategy you can expect to lose $20,000. On the other hand if you play by intuition with a flawed strategy you are likely to lose $100,000 in your lifetime. This means using the basic strategy has a lifelong value of $80,000.
That’s a lot of Moola at risk for not spending a little time to learn the right way to play your hands. If you a little shaky on your basic strategy, here are some tips that can you help you master playing every hand correctly.
1. Take a look at Chapter 2 in my new book the Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide which is available for free to read at this site: https://www.888casino.com/blog/blackjack-strategy-guide/. Chapter 3 contains color-coded strategy charts covering every possible blackjack game you will ever encounter. Chapter 4 contains more tips on how to learn the basic strategy, including a quiz to test whether or not you really know it. (I guarantee if you follow the tips on how to learn the basic strategy in this chapter, you will be able to play basic strategy flawlessly in a casino).
2. Use your smart phone (or computer) to practice the basic strategy. I recommend Blackjack Mentor training software. The program’s “Drill Mode” allows random blackjack hands to be displayed, and you have to pick the correct play. The program remembers which ones you get right or wrong, and tends to pick the ones you are having the most problems with. You can also select specific hands to be tested on, and view your error statistics in Drill Mode. The “Memorize Mode” displays a blank strategy table and allows you to fill in the correct play one cell at a time. The software will alert you if you input an incorrect play and marks the error. The software has over 100 built-in tables ready to be used with a wide range of blackjack rules and number of decks. In no time, you will see your accuracy improved using this program. (Software is available at www.handheldblackjack.com.)
3. Practice basic strategy by using the Hit or Stand strategy trainer on www.hitorstand.net. This is a free online blackjack game and trainer that teaches you blackjack strategy while you play. You’ll actually see a dealer deal you your cards and you have to select the playing strategy for each hand. The software alerts you when you make a playing mistake and it keeps track of your playing accuracy. This is a neat program for anyone that wants to learn the basic strategy.
4. Bring a basic strategy card to the casino. To absolutely ensure that will always make the right decision when you play blackjack, bring along a basic strategy card and refer to it when you are not sure how to play a hand. The strategy cards are durable (plastic laminate), and they fit in pocket and purse. They are legal to use in the casino, only don’t lay the cards on the table. (For security reasons, casinos don’t want players to lay anything on the table other than a drink.) I recommend two readily available strategy cards. The blackjack strategy cards by Kenneth Smith are pocket size (set of six cards covers single- double- and multi-deck games). For those that have trouble reading small type in tables, I’d recommend a set (consisting of three cards) of the Ultimate Blackjack Strategy cards. The latter contains the traditional basic playing strategy and the composition-dependent basic strategy. For example, traditional basic strategy only considers the total of the cards in your hand (e.g. 16 against 10 you hit). With the composition-dependent strategy, if your 16 consists of three or more cards, such as 6-4-6, you would stand.
Author Bio: Henry Tamburin, Ph.D. is the author of the Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide (http://www.888casino.com/blog/casino-guides/blackjack/, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter (www.bjinsider.com), lead instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course, and host of smartgaming.com. For a free three-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter, go to www.bjinsider.com/freetrial. To receive his free Casino Gambling Catalog, call 1-888-353-3234 or visit www.smartgaming.com.