Simple Blackjack Strategy

Learning blackjack strategy can seem overwhelming to beginners, because so much involves charts and probabilities and even arcane tactics such as trying to count cards.

In reality, there are a few simple rules for playing any kind of blackjack that will help you win a great deal of the time. You can also use this rather simplistic blackjack strategy at while you master more complicated approaches.

To start, always remember that the fundamental rule of playing blackjack is to “beat the dealer.” Most people mistakenly think that Rule No. 1 is to gain a hand that totals 21.

Accepting this misconception as the basis of blackjack is sure to result in far more losses than wins, because novice players will be more likely to take a hit and bust trying to make 21 than to stand with a total that will beat the dealer. So let’s repeat this essential strategey:

Rule No. 1: The goal of playing blackjack is to beat the dealer.

Once players grasp this concept, their entire playing strategy becomes transformed. Here’s how to put this new concept into practice:

Rule No. 2: Always assume that the dealer’s facedown card is a 10 and you’ll hardly ever bet wrong.

This strategy works consistently because cards worth 10 points are more common in blackjack than any other denomination. Cards 10-Jack-Queen-King all are worth 10 points each. That’s 16 cards out of a 52-card deck or a ratio of 3:1. By always assuming that the dealer’s down card is a 10, you can calculate more easily your chances of winning any given hand.

Rule No. 3: Learning this simple strategy will cover 80 percent of hands dealt in blackjack.

It’s amazing how many players throw away their money at blackjack tables because they won’t take the time to learn even the simplest rules of play. Here is a simple strategy chart that will cover strategy for 8 out of 10 hands dealt in blackjack:

If Dealer’s Up Card is… …then Hit until you have at least: If you have… …Double down* when dealer shows: Always Split if you have*
2-3 13 11 2-10 (not Ace) A-A
4-6 12 10 2-9 (not Ace or 10) 8-8
7-A 17 9 3-6 (not 7 or higher)

* Casino or table rules determine whether players are allowed to double down their bets or split pairs.

The chart above is based on Rules Nos. 1 and 2: Your goal is to Beat the Dealer, and always assume that the dealer’s down card is a 10. Using these rules it becomes clear why strategy says to hit until you have the minimum total listed. With this strategy, it’s quite possible that after you stand at the given total, the dealer may take a hit and bust, in which case, you win!

There are many more complex strategies for playing blackjack that are explored on other pages of this web site.  Blackjack strategy can become so complicated that some players even carry laminated cards of strategy tables, which many casinos permit. Don’t be shy if you choose to use such a guide. In fact, letting a dealer or pit boss see your strategy card will relieve any suspicions that you may be trying to cheat.

The simple strategy rules given here should be enough to cover most hands dealt in standard blackjack where the game pays 3:2 for achieving a “natural” 21, that is a Jack and an Ace of spades. One final piece of advice: Don’t fall for blackjack tables paying 6:5 for 21. Playing at 6:5 tables doesn’t increase your odds of winning; it only increases the house’s edge. Give yourself a reasonable chance and use basic strategy to win.

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