Chapter 2: Basic Strategy

Blackjack Therapy by Clarke Cant

Chapter 2, basic strategy fast and easy, couponomy is your first step in advantage.

Basic strategy will give the plays that you will be making most of the time. This chapter will show you how to learn basic in less than 30 minutes after reading this chapter. It will do so by starting with conventional charts and then presenting study aides, based on the outlines in the charts, that you will be able to easily recall in casino play. Then there will be betting guidelines for playing the various coupons that casinos circulate. This will give you an initial edge that will also show you how your bankroll will typically go up and down as you play. Even when you are using more advanced methods your bankroll will still rise and fall in much the same way. First we start with a conventional chart of an approximate basic for all games; refinements for different numbers of decks and specific hands are omitted. Most of the gains that are given up are already part of the adjustments that will come with using a count system.

“h” is hit; “s” is stand; “$” is split; “g” is surrender “s” before a number is a hand that has an ace that counts as 11; “d” is double down.

Your hand dealer upcards

*   2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 X A

s18 s s s s s s s h h h

16  s s s s s h h h h h

15  s s s s s h h h h h

14  s s s s s h h h h h

13  s s s s s h h h h h

12  h h s s s h h h h h

Double downs

11  d d d d d d d d d h

10  d d d d d d d d h h

9   h h d d d

Soft Double Downs

A7  h d d d d

A6  h d d d d

A5  h h d d d

A4  h h d d d

A3  h h h d d

A2  h h h d d

Omitting 88, AA which are always split (in basic) and XX which is always stand (in basic), here are the pairs

99  $ $ $ $ $ s $ $ s s

77  $ $ $ $ $ $ …..see above for 14….

66  h $ $ $ $ …….see above for 12 …..

33  h h $ $ $ $ h h h h

22  h h $ $ $ $ h h h h


See the Basic Strategy chapter in the Encyclopedia of Blackjack for full color charts.

If you are confused about some of the terms used here or in other blackjack texts check out the Abbreviations and Acronym section.

Surrender comes in two flavors when the dealer has a ten card or an ace as the upcard. Early surrender lets you give up half your bet, rather than risking it all, before there is any checking for whether the dealer has a blackjack, or if the hole card is drawn after the players play their hands. Late surrender is still giving up half your bet, rather than playing out the hand, but is playable only when it is determined the dealer will not/does not have a blackjack. Doubling down after splitting a pair is often allowed on the first two cards after you split a pair (this text is not an elementary text but like the title indicates therapy for the playing problems you may have after reading other texts. If this information is a little new to you perhaps you should come back after reading, Blackbelt in Blackjack by Arnold SnyderBasic Blackjack by Stanford Wong, or Beat the Dealer by Edward Oakley Thorp.). They all give good explanations of simply playing and other tips about basic strategy. This material is mainly to speed up using basic.

Early Surrender: Late Surrender:

“your hand” dealer upcards your hand dealer upcards

* X A * 9 X A

17 s g 16 g g g but not 8,8

16 g g 15 g

15 g g

14 g g Doubling allowed after splitting add

13 g g these splits:

12 g g your hand dealer upcards

8 g * 2 3 4 5 6 7

7 g 66 $

6 g 44 $ $

5 g 33 $ $

22 $ $

Now please forgive me if the charts are slightly shifted in this version. The charts are done by hand to leave as little formatting in the textfile as possible so that this can be viewed and printed out etc., as per the opening statement. The key to this system for learning basic should still be clear however, though you may wish to work in your own computer to lineup the charts better. What is next is to look at the outlines for each section of the above charts, by only marking the changes, from what we do normally with a hand, rather than having h, s, d, etc.

“your” hand dealer upcards

* 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 X A

s18 # # #

16 # # # # #

15 # # # # # notice the skull with cap outline?

14 # # # # #

13 # # # # #

12 # # #

11 # # # # # # # # # notice the gun shape of the hard

10 # # # # # # # # double downs?

9 # # # # #

A7 # # # #

A6 # # # # notice the chart goes over one step for

A5 # # # every two down for the soft double

A4 # # # downs? This is our soft double

A3 # # “stairway.”

A2 # #

99 # # # # # . # # Pairing 9s you pair 2 through 9 except

77 # # # # # # you leave a gap for the 7 upcard.

66 # # # #

33 # # # # .

22 # # # # Pairing 6s through 2s is shaped like a box with the lid slid back.

For late surrender: 9 X A For early surrender: X A

16 # # # 17 #

a “T” shape 15 # 16 # #

15 # #

14 # #

13 # #

12 # #

8 #

7 #

6 #

5 #

and a shape they would call a King Author’s Tournament at the Excalibur: a pikeax.

The added pair splits would be:

your hand dealer upcards

2 3 4 5 6

66 #

44 # #

33 # #

22 # #

like a figure waving us to keep running in baseball or to follow him, over the hill in some battle.

There you have it. A simple shape system like this can help you visualize the basic strategy tables in the casinos. Once you recall the overall shapes you have memory clues to recall the full charts. I have taught several friends how to play basic strategy in less than ½ hour with this system. This system is now enough to go on to the first way you can get an edge in playing: couponomy.

T-hop posting on , showed me some points that I have incorporated into these recommendations. Details on how this chart was prepared will be given later in the chapter on optimal bankrolls. T-hop reminded me that the bankroll units were below the number of units where normal distributions are used:

The games are coded: C, for craps; R, for roulette; and BJ, for blackjack. The parenthesis gives the number of units you should have. As an example, betting bet 5, win 7 coupons, in craps, requires 8 units, or $40. Coupons that are multiples of others are omitted. Expectation is given as fractions of a dollar, just before the parenthesis:

Type of coupon:

  • Bet $1, Win $2 C .479 (3) R .421 (4) BJ .469 (4)
  • Bet $2, Win $3 C .465 (7) R .368 (8) BJ .463 (8)
  • Bet $3, Win $4 C .451 (10) R .316 (14) BJ .457 (12)
  • Bet $4, Win $5 C .437 (14) R .263 (22) BJ .451 (16)
  • Bet $5, Win $6 C .423 (17) R .210 (35) BJ .445 (20)
  • Bet $3, Win $5 C .944 (5) R .790 (6) BJ .932 (6)
  • Bet $5, Win $7 C .916 (8) R .684 (12) BJ .92 (10)

The bet$5, win $7 entry for roulette shows you that you are making just a little over 68 cents everytime you bet one of these coupons at say the Stardust or Riviera casinos in Las Vegas Nevada. That means that this coupon is the same as a check written to you for 68 cents, in the long run, every time you play one. As little as $4, as promissed in the first chapter, is enough to get you started (for craps even $3) with almost the same element of ruin as optimal betting will have once you begin counting and setting your bankroll for the best relationship between ruin and the growth of your bankroll. I won’t say that these tables are totally optimum in that the number of expected hands to double the lower unit bankrolls is often less than 30 bets, which is below the number of trials where statisticians use the standard normal curve to approximate things like possibility of ruin. The tests used instead are called “T” tests. You should still have elements of ruin of less than 16%. Your element of ruin can be lower by continuing to bet the lower denomination coupons, such as any, bet $1, win $2, coupons, by adding the coupons that require more money as your bankroll (even this sort of mini-bankroll) grows. It is suggested that most players, except the wealthy players mentioned above, should play as many coupons as possible, and keep track of their results for awhile, if nothing else just to establish, or reestablish, the “feel” of riding the ups and downs of blackjack play. Perhaps some of you should even consider establishing yourself outside of Nevada, to obtain out of state identification (or OOSID) to play such coupons. It is easy to get coupons that will add about $140+ to your winnings in Las Vegas, per week, at the time of writing. Reno Nevada coupons are sparce indeed, as Reno casinos try to make the downtown less friendly to the type of homeless who give being homeless a “bad name.”

Chapter 3, the Blackjack Formula revised and revisited.

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