Blackjack Basic Strategy: How to play Blackjack

The game of blackjack is a game that has a history all the way back to the late 1500’s.  Most likely invented in Spain, the original game was called Ventiuna, which translated into English means Twenty One.  The object of the game was, as it still is now, to get closest to twenty one without going over.

Most live dealer casinos and land based casinos will offer blackjack with rules that have a house advantage of less than 1%.  Some even around 0.5%.  Because of this very low house advantage, Blackjack is the most popular table game in the world.


Advantage Play

Due to the low house advantage there are advanced strategies that will allow a player to have an advantage over the house at certain times during the game.  Called “Advantage Play”, these strategies are frowned on by most casinos and in land based casinos, can lead to a player being asked to leave the premises or banned from playing at a property.  There have been cases of winnings being confiscated at online casinos for people using these strategies.

Basic Strategy

Blackjack Basic Strategy is a term used to describe the mathematically perfect way to play Blackjack to have the player’s results match those that would be expected over the long run, based on the house advantage of that specific game.  Optimal Play is another term that is sometimes used to describe this mathematically perfect strategy.  Basic Strategy is complex and has over 250 different decision points to memorize.

As the chart below shows the difficulty in memorizing and implementing Basic Strategy is very difficult.  Because of the this, Blackjack Basic Strategy is not something that can be accomplished by the average player.
Please have a look at the Blackjack Strategy Chart.
Blackjack Strategy

How to figure out a simple strategy for Live Dealer Blackjack?

There are many, many other strategies that have been published and are used to simplify how to play the game as close as possible to Optimal Strategy.  Some strategies are easier to learn than others and some are better mathematically than others.  A more usable strategy for the average person would be something with 10 or 12 basic rules to decide the correct action.  Below is a Simple Strategy with 12 rules to play by.  By using this simple strategy, a player will have only about a 0.2% increase in house advantage over play with perfect Basic Strategy.

1.    Always hit with a total of 11 or less.
2.    Never hit with a total of hard 17 or more.
3.    Always double with a total of 10 or 11 if the Dealer is showing a card with a lower value.
4.    Always stay on hard 12-16 if the dealer is showing a 6 or less.
5.    Always hit on hard 12-16 if the dealer is showing a 7 or more.
6.    Always hit on soft 15 or lower.
7.    Always stand on soft 19 or higher.
8.    Always hit soft 16-18 when the Dealer is showing a 7 or higher and double if 6 or lower.
9.    Always split Aces and Eights.
10.    Never Split fours, fives or tens.
11.    Only split other pairs if the Dealer is showing a 6 or less.
12.    NEVER take insurance or even money when the Dealer is showing as Ace.

Avoid These Strategies

No matter what you hear or what someone tells you at the table, never use the following strategies.  Each one ads multiple percentage points to the house advantage.

  • Copy the Dealer – This strategy says to play exactly as the Dealer does following the house rules, basically always hitting until you get a hard 17 or more.  This strategy ignores doubling and splitting among other things and results in a 5.48% increase in the house advantage.
  • Never Hit a Bust Card – This strategy says that if the player has a 12, 13, 14, 15 or 16, always stay so that the player will never bust.  This strategy of never hitting bust cards, even when the Dealer is showing a 17 or more results in a 3,91% increase in the house advantage.
  • Always Assume a 10 – This strategy says that the player should always assume there is a 10 under the Dealers up card and hit until the player’s total is higher than the assumed total of the Dealer’s up card plus a 10.  This would mean hitting on a 17 when the Dealer is showing an 8.  This strategy ads a whopping 10.03% to the house advantage.

Other Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do not criticize other players for their play.  Over the course of a shoe or sessions, other peoples decisions do not affect the play of players at the table.
  • Do not partake in alcohol consumption if you are attempting to play Basic Strategy.  Alcohol consumption should be limited to players just playing for fun and not interested in Optimal Play.
  • Do not believe that any betting system will increase your chances to win or that you will win more in the long run by using a system than by not using one.  Betting systems do not work.
  • Do tip the Dealer on occasion if you are at a casino where Dealer’s accept tips.  Dealer’s at these casinos generally make less than minimum wage.  Even a couple of dollars an hour is a fair amount to tip.  A little more if you are winning.
  • Do quit when you are ahead.  Set a attainable win goal and stick to it.  The casinos have time and money on their side.  If you hit your win goal, you’ve beaten the odds.  The longer you play, the more likely you are to lose your money.
  • Do have fun.  Blackjack is a game.  Have fun playing it.  Play with friends, talk to the other players at the table, chat with the Dealer.  Unless you are a professional gambler, playing Blackjack should be a fun experience.  Make it an enjoyable time and good luck!

Mr Green

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