Basic Principles of Blackjack Strategy
All of blackjack strategy is really based on two fundamental principles of the game of blackjack. The first is that there are more 10-cards in a blackjack deck than any other card.
A standard 52-card deck of blackjack cards has four 2s, four 3s, four 4s, and so on, but it has sixteen 10s. This is because, under the blackjack rules
, all 10s, jacks, queens, and kings have a value of 10. The prevalence of 10s means that the dealer's hole card, or the next card to be drawn from the deck, is more likely to be a 10 than anything else. This is a fact that you can use to your advantage to win at blackjack.
The Blackjack Dealer Plays Like a Robot
The second basic principle driving all blackjack strategies is that you have free will, but the dealer does not. In other words, you play blackjack like a thinking human being, while the dealer plays like a robot.
When you play your blackjack hand, you are always free to choose to hit or to stand. In certain circumstances, you may also choose to split, to double down, or to surrender. You are the decider.
The blackjack dealer, on the other hand, makes no choices at all. The rules of blackjack tell him that with a hand of 16 or less, he must hit. With a hand of 17 or more, he must stand. Just like a robot, he invariably does exactly what the blackjack rules tell him to do, with no freedom of choice in the matter.
Blackjack Strategy in Action
Now let us examine how these two basic blackjack principles — the prevalence of 10s and the dealer's lack of free will — come into play in an actual game of blackjack.
Suppose you have a hand of 14, and the dealer is showing a 6. The best blackjack strategy is for you to stand. Why? Well, first of all, you know that there is a high probability that the dealer's hole card is a 10, giving him a total of 16. Now, if the dealer had free will, he would stand and his 16 would beat your 14. But since the dealer lacks free will, he must hit on a hand of 16, and there is a high probability that he will draw a 6 or higher and bust, thus making you the blackjack winner with your 14.
Now you can see how knowledge of the two basic principles translates into a winning blackjack strategy of standing when you have 14 and the dealer is showing a 6.
Blackjack Basic Strategy Charts
The blackjack basic strategy is a system, devised by brilliant mathematicians using high-powered computers, that advises on the optimal play in every possible situation in a blackjack game.
The blackjack basic strategy
is expressed in a series of charts or tables. Running down the side of the chart are your possible hands. Running across the top are the dealer's possible up card. In the square where they intersect, the blackjack basic strategy chart
tells you the optimal blackjack play. So, for example, if you look up 14 on the side of the blackjack basic strategy table, and 6 on the top, you will see that they intersect in a square that says "Stand."
Basic blackjack strategy tables can be found in many blackjack books and websites. It is a good idea to print one out and study it. Even better, if you play blackjack online
, you can keep it next to your computer and refer to it whenever you want to know the optimal way to play your blackjack hand. Playing blackjack without a basic blackjack strategy chart — either in your head or by your side — is like playing blackjack blind.
The basic blackjack strategy chart is the blackjack player's best friend, but it is important also to understand its limitations. Following the basic strategy does not mean you will win every hand. If it did, it would not be gambling. The point of the blackjack basic strategy is simply that, in any given situation, the prescribed play gives you a better chance of winning than any other play. But even when following the blackjack basic strategy, you will still lose your fair share of blackjack games.
Blackjack Card Counting Strategies
Blackjack card counting strategies — popularized by the MIT Blackjack Team and the movie "21" — are based on the fact that, as the blackjack cards are dealt out on each hand, the composition of the deck, and therefore the blackjack probabilities, are constantly changing. A deck that is rich in 10-cards is considered advantageous to the blackjack player, while a deck that is rich in low cards is disadvantageous. A skilled card counter will therefore raise or lower his blackjack bets accordingly.
Unfortunately, card counting is of no use if you play play blackjack in an online casino
. This is because the blackjack software shuffles the virtual blackjack cards after each hand, so the cards that were played out in the previous hand are irrelevant.
Nevertheless, even if you play online blackjack
, blackjack card-counting strategies and the giants of blackjack history
who mastered them make a fascinating subject to read and learn about.