Play blackjack with a simple basic strategy
The blackjack basic strategy is a simple set of rules that tells you, the player, the correct way to play your hands. Basic strategy reveals when to hit, stand, or double by taking into account only two factors: your cards and the dealer's upcard. Basic strategy allows you to win more and lose less.
The following terms are useful when learning basic blackjack strategy:
- HARD HANDS: all hands not containing an Ace.
- SOFT HANDS: all hands containing an Ace coupled with a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9.
- PAIRS: all hands that contain a pair of cards with the same value.
A simplified approach to basic blackjack strategy is as follows:
- If you have a 9 or lower, hit.
- If you have 10 or 11, double down if your total is more than the dealer's upcard; hit otherwise.
- If you have 12 through 16, hit when the dealer's upcard is 7 or higher; stand otherwise.
- If you have 17 or higher, stand.
- If you have 13 through 18, double down when the dealer's upcard is 5 or 6.
- If you have 17 or lower, hit.
- If you have 18, hit when dealer's upcard is 6 or less; stand when dealer's upcard is 7 or more.
- If you have 19 or higher, stand.
- Always split a pair of 8's or Aces.
- Never split 10's, 4's, or 5's.
- Split all other pairs when dealer's upcard is 6 or less.
Insurance is NOT recommended!
Splitting pairs: If your two cards are the same value, you can 'split' them into two separate hands. The catch is that you also have to make two bets (one for each of the hands you now hold). Each split pair can be split again, for a total of four hands. If you split on an ace, you can only take one hit, but for all other cards you can take as many hits as you want.
Doubling down: When your total is 10 or 11 (after being dealt your first two cards) you can choose to 'double down'. This is starting a second bet (up to the same amount as your original wager).
When doubling, you can only take one hit. (NB It is dangerous to split two fives - you are replacing a hand that is potentially excellent for drawing on or doubling down on, by what will probably be two poor hands.)
Insurance: If the dealer's face-up card is an ace, you can make a side bet. You can wager up to half your original bet that the facedown card is worth 10 or more (i.e. a picture card or a 10).
If you are correct, and the dealer has a Blackjack, the player wins the side bet (the insurance bet) but loses the original bet. Therefore the player feels no net loss or gain. If it's not a face card or a 10, you lose the side bet or 'insurance'.