Except for slot machines, blackjack is probably the casino game that people feel the most comfortable playing. The rules are relatively simple, and it has been around forever, so casino patrons are very familiar and comfortable with it. With proper play, the casino’s house advantage is less than 1%, and depending on the specific rules, it can be as low as around 0.5%.
What does the book say?
Playing correctly requires following specific rules for each hand composition. These rules are commonly known in the casino as “The Book.” Throughout the casino day, perplexed players will stare at their hand and ask “What does the book say?”
The correct play is based on the makeup and point total of the player’s hand as compared to the dealer’s face-up card. The strategy was developed in the 1950s using basic calculators. Over the years it has been mathematically proven time and time again to be the best way to limit players losses against the casino in the LONG TERM. To be clear, perfect blackjack basic strategy will not give the player an advantage over the house, it will, however, make it as close to an even game as you can find in the casino.
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Rarely does TheInveterateGambler sit down at a blackjack table where there are no mistakes made by players professing knowledge of blackjack basic strategy. Surprisingly, even dealers that pitch cards all day, often give the wrong advice, when a player asks for help.
TheInveterateGambler believes that every player should try to give themselves the best chance of winning by playing a flawless basic strategy. If you follow the instructions below you will become an expert player and be able to play every hand PERFECTLY. It will become automatic, and the correct move will come without even thinking about it. Remember “MOSTLY” knowing basic strategy as many people say, is NOT knowing basic strategy.
Four Steps to MASTER Basic Strategy for Blackjack
- Color-coded cards with basic strategy can be found in casino gift shops and on the internet. Learning basic strategy from these cards is a daunting task. The human brain does not learn in this manner. It is much easier to learn from a Plain English Explanation (PEE) of the basic strategy rules. The PEE for the most common blackjack games rules can be found below. It should be READ and studied over and over; repetition makes memory.
- Make an AUDIO RECORDING of you reading the basic strategy PEE. Repeat the PEE into the recorder, several times. Then listen to it as often as possible. Later when playing and faced with a perplexing hand, you will hear your own voice in your head providing the correct play. NOTE: Some fledging students skip this step; however, that is a big mistake. Repeating the PEE in your voice and then listening to it over and over is an exceptional learning tool.
- Make FLASHCARDS for each PEE scenario.
Front: Player 2 2 or 33
Rear: Split vs Dealer 2-7
Front: Player A4 or A5
Rear: Double Down vs Dealer 4 5 6 otherwise Hit
After completing step #1 and #2, the flashcards are the next step to success. Carry the flashcards around with you. Review them as often as possible, pull them out when waiting for a doctor appointment, while on a break from work, standing in line, or traveling on public transportation.
- PRACTICE at the kitchen table, on the internet or using a mobile app. Practice should include a quiz in which you handwrite the entire PEE basic strategy from memory. You must get it 100% correct before venturing into the blackjack pit.
BLACKJACK BASIC STRATEGY – “Plain English Explanation” (PEE)
Remember, this PEE “Plain English Explanation” is tailored to the rules players most frequently encounter (Multi-deck, hit soft 17, no surrender).
BASICS (Note: No Ace in Players hand)
- 8 or Less ALWAYS HIT
- 12-16 vs a dealer upcard 2-6 always STAND (except a player Total of 12 or 13 against dealer 2 then ALWAYS HIT)
- 12-16 against a dealer upcard 7 8 9 10 Ace ALWAYS HIT
DOUBLE DOWN (HARD TOTALS)
- 9 vs dealer upcard of 3 4 5 6 DOUBLE DOWN (Otherwise HIT)
- 10 vs dealer upcard of 2-9 DOUBLE DOWN (HIT vs a 10 or an Ace)
- 11 vs all dealer upcard ALWAYS DOUBLE DOWN
DOUBLE DOWN (SOFT HANDS)
- A2 A3 DD (double down) vs dealer 5 6 otherwise hit
- A4 A5 DD vs dealer 4 5 6 otherwise hit
- A6 DD vs dealer 3 4 5 6 otherwise hit
- A7 DD vs dealer 2 3 4 5 6 STAND vs 7 or 8 otherwise Hit
- A8 DD vs dealer 6
- 22 or 33 split against a dealer 2 to 7
- 44 split against a dealer 5 or 6
- 55 NEVER split this is a TEN!! Treat it as a 10
- 66 split against a dealer 2 to 6
- 77 split against a dealer 2 to 7
- 88 ALWAYS split
- 99 split 2-9 except STAND AGAINST DEALER 7
Bonus TravelZork Tip: A excellent PRACTICE TOOL is the MGM myVEGAS blackjack app. It costs you nothing. You can practice for free while at the same time earning points for free casino play, comp rooms, meals and credits at MGM properties throughout the country.