For a given set of rules and playing conditions it can be proven that there can be only one correct way to play a hand assuming, of course, that the following conditions are met:
- The player has knowledge of the dealer’s up-card.
- The player has knowledge of his own hand.
- The player has no additional knowledge of the situation.
- The remaining cards in the deck or shoe are randomly distributed.
A player should always play his hand based on the applicable basic strategy unless he is card counting or has additional knowledge of the situation. Card counters often refer to basic strategy as the playing strategy for a neutral deck. As the count rises and falls the optimum playing strategy will also change.
The first scientific and mathematically sound attempts to devise a basic strategy were published by Roger Baldwin, et al in 1953. In 1962, Edward Thorp published his findings of an optimal blackjack strategy using a high-speed digital computer. Julian Braun continued this work and published what most players know today as the correct basic strategy of the game. Further refinements for single and double deck were made by Peter Griffin who published what is considered, by most professional players today, as the exact basic strategy of the game. Although the majority of the playing strategies shown have been known for many years you may find differences of opinion on some of the finer points of play. Don’t labor over these fine points! Instead, you might even consider misplaying some of them to camouflage your play as a card counter.
Unless otherwise noted, all the charts on the following pages agree with Peter Griffin’s findings as published in his book The Theory of Blackjack. If you find a discrepancy, consider his book as correct and notify the editor of this book. These charts are organized by rule and rule variation. Players are advised to check the particular casino or casino area rules to determine which chart and possibly which portions of the charts are applicable.
Although casino rules can change overnight, players have often been advised to compare rules with those of the Las Vegas Strip casinos. On the Strip you were often able to find games where you can double down on any two cards and in which the dealer stands of soft 17. In Downtown Las Vegas most casinos would have their dealers hit soft 17. In Reno, dealers generally hit soft 17 and you are usually allowed to double only on 10 or 11. Many of the larger casinos also allow doubling after splitting and some even offer late surrender. On many of the cruise ships you are allowed to double down only on 9, 10, or 11 but are allowed to double after splitting. Be sure you understand all the rules and options available to you before you step inside a casino. In recent years, many casinos are now offering 6:5 blackjack rules. This is a terrible rule for the player as it adds about 1.39% more to the casino edge against you.
For those casinos that offered the Over/Under 13 option the basic strategy for this game is to not play either of the options at any time unless you are using a card counting system optimized for the Over/Under bet. The basic strategy for Multiple-Action blackjack is the same as regular blackjack. The basic strategy for the insurance decision is to never take insurance unless you are counting cards.
HOW TO READ THE CHARTS IN THIS BOOK
- Dealer’s up-card is shown along the top of the chart.
- Player’s hand is shown vertically on the left side of the chart.
- Always hit hands less than 9 unless otherwise indicated.
- Always stand on A,9 or higher. Always treat 5,5 as a 10.
- If soft doubling is not allowed stand on A,7 Vs 2 – 8.
- Blackjack Basic Strategy Engine
- Ultimate Guide to Blackjack by Henry Tamburin
- Total Dependent vs Composition Dependent