Gambling Tips: Basic Blackjack Strategy

Blackjack is one of the most popular casino cames in the world. This article outlines some basic strategies for you to improve your odds of winning.

Blackjack, or 21, is one of the most popular betting games at the casino. The premise is simple: the player is dealt two cards. The player's goal is to get as close to 21 as possible without going over ("bust"). The player may choose to receive another card ("hit,") or stick with the cards he has ("stand"). However, the game is complicated by the fact that the player is competing against the dealer. Even if the player has a poor hand, if the dealer has a worse hand, or busts, the player will still win the bet. Alternatively, the player may have an excellent hand, but if the dealer hits 21, the player is out of luck. The player must keep this in mind when he decides whether to hit or stand.

Fortunately, there are simple blackjack strategies that you can learn before you go to the casino which will greatly improve your odds of winning. If you keep these rules in mind while you are playing, you will not only perform better, but you will not infuriate those players sitting next to you at the table. Blackjack players are notorious for getting annoyed or even angry with new players who don't even know the basics.

The strategies for playing blackjack are time-tested and, like all strategies for games of chance, based on mathematics. Before getting into the specifics, let's set up the scenario. When the game opens, the dealer will deal you, the other players, and himself, two cards. Both your cards and the other players' cards will be face up; the dealer's cards will have one face up and one face down. For the purposes of this strategy, ignore the other players' cards. You will only be concerned with your cards and the dealer's.



Make sure you are familiar with the terms used before we get into the strategies based on different card possibilities. Besides "hit," and "stand," there is "double down" (when the player doubles their bet in exchange for one card, and one card only), "split" (when the player is dealt an initial pair and is allowed to split them into two hands by doubling their bet), "soft" (the total of a player's hand if an ace is present, since an ace can equal 1 or 11, "hard" (the total of a player's hand if no ace is present). There are sets of strategies based on whether your hand is soft, hard, or whether you have a pair.

First, we will talk about what to do if you have a "hard" hand. Remember this means your cards do not include an ace. For example, a 5 and a 3 equals a hard eight. The strategy is really quite simple, and involves the fact that at the casino, the dealer must always hit on sixteen and stand on seventeen. Since cards worth ten are the most prevalent card in the deck (10, J, Q, K), most strategies work off the underlying assumption that the dealer's hidden card is most likely worth ten. Here's an easy chart to see what you should do in any situation. The first column lists your hand, the second the card the dealer is showing, and the third lists what action you should take.

YOU DEALER ACTION

8 or less Any Hit

9 2,7,8,9,10,A Hit

9 3-6 Double

10 2-9 Double

10 10, A Hit

11 2-10 Double

12 2,3, 7-A Hit

12 4-6 Stand

13 2-6 Stand

13 7-A Hit

14 2-6 Stand

14 7-A Hit

15 2-6 Stand

15 7-A Hit

16 2-6 Stand

16 7-A Hit

17-20 Any Stand

Now, on to "soft" hands. These are slightly different because your ace can equal one or eleven, and leaves room for flexibility if your hand is not optimal.

YOU DEALER ACTION

A2 2-4, 7-A Hit

A2 5,6 Double

A3 2-4, 7-A Hit

A3 5,6 Double

A4 2,3,7-A Hit

A4 4-6 Double

A5 2,3,7-A Hit

A5 4-6 Double

A6 2,7-A Hit

A6 3-6 Double

A7 2,7,8 Stand

A7 3-6 Double

A7 9-A Hit

A8 Any Stand

A9 Any Stand

Finally we will address the hands in which you are dealt two of the same card. In these situations, if the chart calls for a split, play the rest of the two hands as you would based on the above charts.

YOU DEALER ACTION

2-2 2-7 Split

2-2 8-A Hit

3-3 2-7 Split

3-3 8-A Hit

4-4 5,6 Split

4-4 2-4, 7-A Hit

5-5 2-9 Double

5-5 10,A Hit

6-6 2-6 Split

6-6 7-A Hit

7-7 2-7 Split

7-7 8-A Hit

8-8 Any Split

9-9 2-6,8,9 Split

9-9 7,10-A Stand

10-10 Any Stand

A-A Any Split

The above charts are the only things you need to know to get started in blackjack. By following their guidelines, you will considerably reduce the odds of the house your money. It might seem like a lot of information to memorize, but it will sure be worth it when you're sitting at the table with a big pile of chips and a smile on your face.

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