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Blackjack Basic Strategy and Advanced Betting Methods

Blackjack Basic Strategy and Advanced Betting Methods

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Published by IslandHighlander
A short guide providing basic playing and betting strategies.
A short guide providing basic playing and betting strategies.

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Published by: IslandHighlander on Oct 22, 2012
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Blackjack Strategy Guide

Blackjack Basic Strategy and Advanced Betting Methods
Blackjack is one of the most widely played card games to ever grace the gaming felt, with millions of Blackjack hands contested at Blackjack tables around the world each day. The game of twenty- one is a strategic endeavor that allows an advanced player room for aggressive betting maneuvers and subtle strategy plays to gain an advantage over the dealer’s inherent statistical edge. Players attempt to achieve a count that is both twenty-one or less and higher than the dealers count at the end of the round, using a number of available tactics to maneuver themselves into the most favorable position as possible. The guide assumes that you're already familiar with the rules of the game and are playing against a 4-6 deck shoe where the Dealer Hits a Soft 17 and soft doubling is allowed. Here's a quick review of the options available to the player, all of which are nonreversible once selected:

Hit - Tells the dealer that you would like another card dealt to your hand. You may use this option as many times as you choose unless your last requested action caused your hand count to exceed 21. At that point your hand is busted, your bet is forfeited to the dealer and no further action is permitted until a new hand begins. Stand - Instructs the dealer that you do not want any more cards dealt to your hand. Once you Stand, you may no longer build your hand in any way. You may Stand on your first two cards or on any other count that does not exceed 21. Standing declares your hand is ready to face the hand of the dealer to determine a winner. Split - If you’re starting hand consists of a pair (two cards of the exact same value, including two Ten value cards) you may Split them at your option. After announcing your intention to Split the hand, you must first place a wager equivalent to your original bet into the betting circle. The dealer will then proceed to separate the two cards of the original hand into two independent hands and deal one card to each of them. The player then plays each hand out individually (in sequence) until they Double, Stand or Bust during the same turn. Double - Certain hands have the option of being Doubled. After announcing your intention to Double, you must first place a wager equivalent to your original bet into the betting circle. The dealer then deals out only one additional card to your original hand. No further action is permitted after you receive this one additional card. Your hand is then ready to face the hand of the dealer and determine a winner. Surrender - Players may have the option to Surrender certain hands. When you announce your intention to Surrender the hand, half of your original bet is forfeited immediately while the other half is returned to you without further play. This action ends your hand, which does not proceed to a showdown.

of a Hard hand (explained below) by adding their cards together. The Dealer upcard is the basis from which all Blackjack basic strategy is derived. If counting the Ace as 11 would cause a hand to exceed a 21c an Ace must be counted as 1 instead. colorful designs) also being counted as 10's. a hand of A4 would result in a 15c (11+4) since counting the Ace as 11 wouldn't cause the total to exceed a 21c. in order of strength.Using the Blackjack Basic Strategy Charts In the following sections. The leftmost column in each chart shows either the players Hand Count (for the Hard hands) or specific hands (for Soft or Paired hands). The reason each chart uses the 6-5-4-3-2-7-8-9-T-A (left-to-right) sequence is that these numbers represent the weakest dealer upcards on the left up to the strongest on the right. the 6up is the weakest upcard for the Dealer. a hand of 86 would make a Fourteen count (14c) since 8+6=14. and this rule holds true for hands that contain multiple Aces. consult the accompanying text in each section for a thorough explanation of how to handle this situation and consider finding a more favorable game that will allow these optimal playing decisions! Now let's get started learning the correct Blackjack basic strategy. . Of course. each of the five playing options from above (Hit. Queens and Jacks (known as Paint cards due to their elaborate. with Kings. Note that the suits of the cards do not affect the count of a Blackjack hand and can be entirely disregarded. For example. eventually ending with the Ace (A). the card the Dealer has dealt face-up to their own hand. The only exception to arriving at a count by this method concerns hands that contain Aces. In Blackjack. The top row of each chart shows a listing of numbers starting with 6 and working its way progressively to the right. We'll start with the most encountered type of hand. Cards 2 through 10 are counted at face value. Split. These headlining numbers represent the Dealers upcard. continuing on to the A-up on the far right. but a hand of AA4 would only result in a 16c (11+1+4). or total. A player determines the count. Double and Surrender) are indicated by their own specifically colored entry in each of the strategy charts. In the Blackjack Basic Strategy Guide to follow. and conversely the strongest dealer upcard for the player. while a hand of K4 would also result in a 14c since the King is valued at ten and 10+4=14. Stand. Be sure to take your time and work through each section until you understand every play based on the corresponding dealer upcard before you move on to the next. If this is the case. you'll be presented with a number of basic strategy charts that will allow you to cross-reference each recommended play based on the players hand count versus the Dealer upcard. For example. also a very weak upcard for the dealer. For example. A summary of each colorcoded indicator is shown to the right. Next is the 5up. The second Ace counts as only one to avoid putting the count over 21. the Hard Counts. occasionally there are a few rule-based restrictions to some of the recommended plays depending on where you're playing the game of Blackjack. The options of Double and Surrender are sometimes restricted or not allowed under certain rules conditions even though they are the recommended optimal play on our chart. an Ace may count as either 11 or 1 depending on whether or not counting it as an eleven would cause the player to go over 21 and bust. The total arrived at when adding the cards together is known as the Hand Count and is indicated by a tiny 'c' in the notation. some Dealer upcards decrease the player’s advantage. The dealer upcards are shown as the card value with 'up' (such as 7up) in the text explanations that accompany the basic strategy charts in our guide. since certain dealer upcards will actually give the player using Blackjack basic strategy a mathematical advantage over the Dealer. While a player is always allowed to Hit or Stand on any count (unless their last play caused them to bust) and they may always Split a starting hand that consists of a Pair. Paired hands are covered in a separate section apart from the standard Hard hands. The A-up is the single strongest Dealer upcard and therefore the worst upcard for the player.

Nine counts are doubled against only the four weakest Dealer upcards (6-5-4-3) but Ten counts are doubled against almost all of them. The primary choice for Hard hand counts of 11c or below is whether you'll Double or Hit the hand. 10c and 11c. so playing them correctly is essential for solid play.Blackjack Basic Strategy: Hard Hand Counts The first group of starting hands we'll examine are known as the Hard Hands. Hand counts of eight or less are always Hit due to the fact that mathematically they are not profitable to Double against any dealer upcard (and hitting them will never result in a bust). With the Hard counts of 12c or higher. This is partially because of the new threat of potentially busting the hand with a hit. only hitting versus the powerful Dealer T-up or A-up. where doubling takes on more importance and frequency. Both of these counts are surrendered versus Dealer T-up and A-up. An 11c is the most Doubled hand of all. such as T5 or 76. Hard Hands are un-paired and contain no Aces. the chart indicates that a more conservative approach (Standing) is now necessary against several of the weaker Dealer upcards. known as Soft hands. regardless of the dealer upcard. Hard hand counts are discussed separately from starting hands that contain a single Ace. These two counts will bust a high percentage of the time so the best option is to take back half your bet and live to fight another day. If you are unable to Surrender these hands due to rules restrictions (or you've already Hit the hand previously) you should Hit them instead. While using the chart returns maximum value for each of these counts. aggressively pushing in another bet against all dealer upcards. The counts of 17c or higher are always Standing hands. and also paired hands. Both of these types of hands will be examined shortly after the Hard hand counts. if you find yourself short on chips and unable to afford the additional wager necessary to Double (or you've already Hit the hand previously) just Hit any 11c or less and then proceed as normal. Hard hands make up the majority of the starting hands you'll receive from the dealer. and a 16c is even surrendered versus a 9up as well. but also that the various counts will have statistically better chances of winning a showdown by Standing against the applicable dealer upcard as compared to Hitting them. The more flexible counts are the 9c. It is also useful to note that now Surrender is a recommended option for the 15c and 16c versus the strongest Dealer upcards. .

For the next group of soft hands. and they may also stay soft (able to use the Ace as an 11) even with additional cards added to the hand. Concerning the soft hands that stay soft after the third card is taken. a player must revert to the Hard Hand strategy guide to play the 14c since the hand is no longer soft. The soft 18 (A7) is the most aggressively doubled of this group. When you've hit any of these soft hands and arrived at a Hard hand count. Most Blackjack rules state that three-card hands are NOT allowed to be Surrendered under any circumstances. Now. Your hand count is now a soft 15c (11+2+2). which are starting hands that have a single Ace in them. there will be times where either your bankroll or the rules of the game prevent you from making a correct doubling play. You may also note the hand entries A2/A3 and A4/A5. The A2 is played the exact same way as the A3. the Ace is only counted as 1 now since counting it as 11 would cause a bust. Soft hands have the additional element that Hitting may actually cause them to become a Hard Hand. However. since your hand is now effectively A2+2) to make your play as the hand does not yet qualify as Hard. So even if your soft hand becomes a Hard 16c versus a Dealer T-up. which list two hands on the same line. such as A3 or A6. As we've previously discussed. but not indestructible. receiving a 7 as your third card. where it most profitable to actually double it! Lastly. Your previously soft hand count of 17c has now become a hard count of 14c (1+6+7). so you'll now use the soft hand strategy for your soft 15c (the A4 line. with only one rub. we'll once again add the tactic of standing into the mix. In previous sections. We'll examine these situations shortly after we take a look at the first subsection of Soft hands. it's time to switch back to the appropriate strategy line from the previous Hard Count strategy section to determine the correct play. you'll have to simply Stand as the rules preclude you from doubling anything other than two-card hands. considering their already high count totals. These types of hands are called soft because they will never bust when taking just one card to them (the initial hit). The soft 17c or less hands actually have the same options available to them as the hard 11c or less: Double or Hit. chances of holding up at the showdown. So if you have an A7 versus 2up but your hand is a three-card hand. If the correct strategy was to double. A player also stands with it against a 7up or 8up and even Hits it against the strongest three dealer upcards. Soft hand counts are arrived at by adding the Ace as an 11 with the second card of the hand. The soft 19 (A8) is kept against just about any dealer upcard except the 6up. . This aspect of strategy applies to all soft hands that subsequently transform into Hard hands. consider the following scenario: You are dealt A2 versus a Dealer 4up and Hit the hand based on the basic strategy chart. Of course. and based on the strategy chart you proceeded to hit the hand. we've always recommended that the hand be Hit whenever this situation arises. As before. and the A4 is handled like the A5. For example. the default play is to Stand when you can't double them. However. let's say you were dealt A6 versus a dealer 8up. adding another bet against the five weakest dealer upcards. even though an A4 indicates that it should be Doubled versus the Dealer 4up most blackjack rules state that threecard hands are NOT allowed to be Doubled under any circumstances. you'll have to default to Hitting the hand as the preferred option.Blackjack Basic Strategy: Soft Hand Counts The second group focuses on Soft Hands. if you can't afford to double the hand as suggested (or are not allowed to based on the rules) just Hit instead and proceed as usual. receiving another 2 as your third card. for these soft hands. the A9 is always held regardless of the dealer upcard with excellent. you'll have to default to Hitting the hand as the preferred option for this group of soft hands. This is because the strategy for both of these hands is identical. A7 or higher. the soft 13c (A2) through soft 17c (A6).

Conversely. For the bigger pairs. we see the options are much clearer. Most of these paired hands will either be Split or Hit. we'd be surrendering against a few more dealer upcards). Just the specific case of being dealt 88 versus A-up requires Surrender. But when facing the strongest dealer upcard of them all. they will be split against all of the upcards excepting a dealer A-up. If you are unable to Split any of these pairs the default move would be to treat them as Hard hand and play accordingly. The only exception to the basic play of Pairs in Blackjack occurs when we are dealt a pair of eights. hands containing two ten value cards like KT or QJ are also considered pairs. Surrendering the pair of eights is actually the mathematically best play. It is never recommended to split a pair of fives.Blackjack Basic Strategy: Paired Hands The last group is the Paired Hands. In fact. In fact. As the chart shows. the only reason you'd ever do so is that you are down to your last chip. However. A pair of 99's is Split against all but three dealer upcards. the 7up-Tup-Aup. if you reference the correct strategy for a 10c in the previous chart you'll find that it is identical to the strategy for 55. Pairs have the additional option of being Split into two separate hands. with only one exception: a pair of fives. the beautiful starting hand of AA will always be Split. With this group of hands the options are fairly cutand-dry. Remember that since the Paint cards all count as 10's. . Notice that we're not treating the 88 as a hard hand in this strategy line (otherwise. There is no other reason not to follow the chart. which requires one additional bet from the player for the new hand. since you won't have to worry about three-card hands with pairs and any other play is clearly sub-optimal. where a player was dealt two cards of identical value. they are split fairly aggressively against several dealer upcards. instead the chart suggests you actually play the hand as if it were simply a hard count of 10c. Against any of the other dealer upcards we'll favourably Split the eights and proceed as usual. the second biggest pair TT (any two tencount cards) is always a Standing hand. such as 44 or 55. For any of the other pairs.

So if you happen to lose count for any reason. Of course. An added benefit is that our Blackjack guide does not depend on Card Counting to alter our Blackjack playing strategy. 8 or 9 value cards do not affect the Running Count and can be disregarded for counting purposes. The 7. every time you see a 2. 3. however.com Blackjack guide we use card counting to determine the amount of our initial bet. which is the current indicator of the value of the deck in comparison to player’s advantage. Queen or King) or Ace dealt into any players hand. you mentally add +1 to the count in your head for each of these cards. even though the process of card counting is sometimes presented as a difficult talent to achieve. The larger (or smaller) the running count. Whenever the running count is positive. it will quickly become second nature once you get the hang of it. you can always default to one chip betting and be just fine! However. it is actually not that hard at all. or 6 valued card come out of the deck in any players’ hand.Blackjack Card Counting: The Running Count One of the more advanced Blackjack concepts is Card Counting. Then. 5. In fact. you can usually approximate where you were to a close enough degree that you’re betting will not be altered to a point where you'd need to start over. 4. As you'll soon discover. for those of you that would like to look at a more advanced method of betting your hand. . Jack. you subtract (-1) from the count in your head. the player is at a disadvantage. just the betting aspect of the game. the next step is to use Card Counting to effectively structure your bet sizes. including the dealers. we'll use the method detailed in the chart to the right to adjust the Running Count. the more pronounced the advantage (disadvantage) is for the player. In the ChessandPoker. To count the cards. When negative. it is said that the player has an advantage. This ongoing total in your head is called the "running count" (RC). Here are some example card groups and the resulting Running Count for counting each clump of cards (negative values shown in parentheses). You start out with a count of zero in your head. Determining the always-changing Running Count is fairly simple. Whenever you see a Ten value card (any Ten.

if you'd like an extra edge and enjoy sliding your chips into the betting circle when you're favored then let's have a look at our progression chart! It's useful to note that whenever you lose at the appropriate count in both the Third and Fourth levels. . our advanced methods effectively position the player to take advantage of premium situations in a much safer. is partially designed to protect your bankroll while at the same time giving the impression to the dealer that you're simply playing your rushes (betting more when you're winning) and then regaining your common sense when you lose a few hands. gradual way than is the case with standard counting systems. Remember. instead of drastically changing them on a hand-by-hand basis. you'll actually drop back two levels instead of just one.Advanced Blackjack Wagering: Betting Ramps ChessandPoker. it's entirely acceptable to simply bet the minimum on each hand. This aspect of the strategy. It has the added benefit of disguising your counting endeavors by adjusting your bet sizes in a way that seems natural to the dealer. based on the counting system we just discussed.com has developed our own Blackjack betting system. This method is designed to gradually increase a players bets when they hold an advantage over the dealer based on a favorable deck. and cut them back when they are at a disadvantage. often known as a betting ramp. However. Keep in mind that while no betting system can offer the player using it any guaranteed edge. while slightly inaccurate.

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