The ‘Basics’ of Blackjack Basic Strategy

Although we often talk about ‘basic strategy’ many newcomers to blackjack aren’t aware of what it is. When we speak of ‘basic strategy’ we’re not only talking in general terms about ‘strategy for blackjack beginners’ but we’re also talking about a specific set of actions. Understanding what basic strategy is and how to implement it is essential for any blackjack player from novice to expert.

When you hear the term ‘basic strategy’ used in reference to blackjack it usually means a specific set of criteria for playing each hand based on in depth mathematical analysis. The result will be a specific direction on how to play every hand as determined by the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s ‘up’ card. For example, if the player has a 5 of hearts and a 4 of diamonds (9) and the dealer has a 3 of clubs up (3) the correct play is to ‘stand’.

There are different basic strategies for every variation in blackjack rules. Once you understand the general theory behind basic strategy and become more familiar with it’s use you’ll know a lot of this intuitively. It’s important to memorize the correct move for any situation. This isn’t as difficult as it might sound. For example, the player should stand on hard 17 or higher no matter what upcard the dealer is showing. Likewise, a player should always hit on 5, 6, 7 or 8. The different variations–multiple decks, dealer hitting soft 17, etc.–will require learning only a few new rules for specific situations.

Usually, you’ll find basic strategy illustrated with a chart or graph. The ‘y axis’ will have a list of the player’s opening hands with the ‘x axis’ having the dealer’s upcards. At the intersection of each will be the correct play for that situation. Here are a few examples for the basic strategy of specific draws:

PLAYER: 13 DEALER: 3 = STAND
PLAYER: 9 DEALER: 8 = HIT
PLAYER: 10 DEALER: 6 = DOUBLE

You can find basic strategy on laminated cards sold in casino gift shops, in blackjack books and online.

Whenever we refer to ‘basic strategy’ in terms of blackjack this is what we’re talking about. In future articles, we’ll look at more advanced implementations of basic strategy as well as instructions for certain game variations.