Blackjack basic strategy cards

Basic Strategy: The First Step toward Winning at Blackjack

(a quick-learn version to learn on the plane on your way to Las Vegas)

The first step in learning how to play winning blackjack, whether your plan is to make card counting a hobby, or to become a full-time professional blackjack shuffle-tracker or hole card player, is to learn blackjack basic strategy.

If you make your decisions by playing your hunches, you will lose in the long run. There is only one correct play decision in blackjack for any given hand, and that decision is based strictly on mathematics.

Whether or not you should hit or stand, double down or split a pair, depends on what the laws of probability show to be your long-term overall win and loss results for each of these possibilities. Mathematicians, using high speed computers, have analyzed every possible blackjack hand you might hold vs. every possible dealer up card.

Definition of "Basic Strategy": Blackjack basic strategy is the mathematically optimum way to play your blackjack hands if you are not counting cards. Depending on the rules and the number of decks in use, blackjack basic strategy will usually cut the house edge to no more than about percent over the player. This makes blackjack the least disadvantageous game in the casino, even if you are not a card counter or another type of blackjack pro.

To explain why the various blackjack basic strategy decisions are best would require extensive mathematical proof. Unless you understand the math, and have a computer to work it out, youll have to accept basic strategy on faith.

There is an underlying logic to basic strategy, however, which can be understood by anyone who understands the rules of blackjack.

Why Blackjack Basic Strategy Works

In a 52-card deck there are 16 ten-valued cards: four tens, four jacks, four queens, and four kings. (For purposes of simplification, when I refer to a card as a "ten" or "X, " it is understood to mean any 10, Jack, Queen or King.)

Every other denomination has only four cards, one of each suit. You are four times more likely to pull a ten out of the deck than, say, a deuce. Because of this, when the blackjack dealers upcard is "high" 7, 8, 9, X, or Ahe has a greater likelihood of finishing with a strong total than when his upcard is "low" - 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6.

Thus, if the dealers upcard is a 7, 8, 9, X, or A, and you are holding a "stiff"-any blackjack hand totaling 12 through 16-you want to hit. That's because, when the dealers hand indicates strength, you do not want to stand with a weak hand. Even though, when you hit a stiff, you are more likely to bust than to make a pat hand, you must give your hand a better chance of beating the dealers by taking a hit.

Weak player hands tend to lose more often than they win, and there is nothing you can do about that. But you will lose more money in the long run if you stand on these weak hands when the dealer shows strength.

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