Most new players have two primary goals for their first session of blackjack: win money and avoid looking like a rookie at the table. But to become a successful blackjack player, you need to master the principles of basic strategy.
And relying on Lady Luck or a rabbit’s foot isn’t a basic strategy that works in blackjack.
Let’s simplify and condense basic strategy down to six bite-sized blocks – tactics that help you reduce the house edge to approximately 1 percent. If you want even better odds, then I suggest you skip this simplified version and learn regular basic strategy.
Basic strategy for hard hands
A hard hand doesn’t have an ace or, if it does, the ace counts as 1 rather than 11. Use the following strategies for hard hands:
- On 17 or more, always stand.
- On 12 through 16, hit if the dealer shows a 7 through an ace as his upcard, otherwise stand. If the dealer’s card is lower, stand.
- On 11 or less, always hit. (However, if your total is 10 or 11 on your first two cards, the double down options take precedence over hitting.)
Basic strategy for soft hands
A soft hand is a hand in which an ace counts as 11 rather than 1. Remember these two basic strategies for soft hands:
- On 18 or more, always stand.
- On 17 or less, always hit.
Basic strategy for double downs
Doubling down permits you to double your original bet but restricts you to receiving just one more card. The following are the best times to use this strategy:
- On 11, double if the dealer’s upcard is a 2 through 10; otherwise hit.
- On 10, double if the dealer’s upcard is a 2 through 9, otherwise hit.
A starting total of 10 or 11 is the best time to double down because you have approximately a 30 percent chance of receiving a 10 or a face card.
Basic strategy for pair splits
When you hold two cards of equal value, you can split your cards and make two separate hands from the pair by matching your original bet. You play the hands out one at a time.
Keep the following strategies in mind for pair splits:
Always split aces and 8s. Aces are great to split because of the chance to make 21; you split 8s more for defensive reasons (16 is a poor starting hand).
Never split 5s or 10s. Never split 5s and 10s because their totals (10 and 20, respectively) are great starting hands.
Basic strategy for stiff hands
Stiff hands are any hard totals between 12 and 16. Stiff hands are obviously your worst nightmare because any 10 busts your hand. Follow these strategies for stiff hands:
- Stand when the dealer is weakest (upcard of 2 through 6).
- Hit whenever the dealer is strong (upcard of 7 through ace).
Basic strategy for pat hands
Pat hands are any hard hands of 17 to 21. Because of their high starting total, pat hands deliver most of your winnings. Whenever you have a hard hand of 17 or more, stand.