You’ve probably heard players say that blackjack is a simple game to learn how to play, but it takes practice and a good strategy to learn to play well and know what move to make next that will eventually lead to a win.
If you are a novice player or you are unsure that your strategy for playing the game is right, here are a few simple steps you can take to improve your odds of winning.
First, you should start by looking at a blackjack basic strategy chart and figuring out what it means. Don’t worry - we’ll help you with that. Next, you should try memorising the moves from the chart as much as possible if you plan to play blackjack at a land-based casino. If your choice is an online casino, you can keep the charts open on another screen as a reminder.
Finally, you need to practice and gain experience to an extent when you won’t need a chart anymore, but you’ll have it all figured out and planned in your head. But first things first: let’s take a look at a basic blackjack strategy chart and explain the basic strategy in blackjack.
Blackjack Basic Strategy Chart
A blackjack strategy chart looks like this.
A strategy chart lists all the possible situations and card combinations at the beginning of a game. It also tells you what you should do or what move to make in each situation to maximise your chances of winning. Every game version has its own chart for all the scenarios you can encounter, so just make sure you are looking at the right one when playing your game.
You will notice that some charts have separate instructions for soft and hard hands. A soft hand is when there is an Ace in the combination because an Ace can count as 1 or 11 points, so the value of the hand is not fixed. On the other hand, hard hands don’t include an Ace and this card combination’s value is fixed.
What is Basic Strategy in Blackjack?
Blackjack is ultimately a game of strategy, and your intuition might not be the thing to rely on when playing the game. That’s why a blackjack strategy chart is there to help you make the best decision about your next move. The strategy that the chart displays is based on game rules, careful calculations and statistics, and it is there to help you increase your odds and lower the house edge.
Implementing a basic strategy doesn’t guarantee that you will always win, as it can’t predict other players’ cards, but it can help you minimise your losses by telling you when to surrender or when not to double down.
Based on your and the dealer's cards, the basic strategy will instruct you on when to hit or stand and help you decide if you should surrender or maybe double. Deciding whether or not to split a pair is a more complicated situation, and it will depend on the version of the game you are playing and on the dealer’s card.
To learn more about the basic strategy in blackjack, we recommend that you read our blackjack basic strategy guide and find your way to play in an attempt to beat the dealer.
How to use the Blackjack Basic Strategy Chart
Every blackjack chart will tell you what to do when you have your cards in front of you, as we have already said multiple times. It practically acts like a blackjack guide that helps you decide on your next move. Now, how to read a basic blackjack strategy card?
If you look at the chart above, you will notice that it says Dealer’s Up Card on top. That is where you locate the dealer’s card in the top row. The leftmost vertical column contains the total value of all the possible combinations of your cards. When you have identified these values, find a field in the chart where they intersect, and it will tell you what to do in the given situation according to the basic strategy blackjack chart.
Looking at the chart more closely, you will see the following symbols: H, S, D, and SP. Here’s a short explanation of what these symbols mean:
- H means Hit, and you say “hit” or click this “H” symbol when you need an extra card from the dealer.
- S means Stand, and when you see it in the chart, it means that you should keep the cards you have.
- D stands for Double or Double down. You can only double down once after the initial two cards, and it means that you are doubling your bet and taking one extra card. Note that if you Hit, you won’t have the Double option later, but you also won’t be able to Hit again after you Double down.
- SP stands for Split or Split Pairs, and it simply means that you should split the pair of the same value cards and use them to play one by one.
If you are among those who think that their chances increase even further when they add card counting to these charts, then you should learn more about how to count cards in blackjack and remember that card counting is only possible in land-based casinos.
Our 3 Main Basic Strategy Charts
Basic blackjack strategy charts exist for all the variations of the game, and they all illustrate what players should do if they play the single deck, double or 4-8 deck version. Let’s look at each of them more closely:
Single Deck Basic Blackjack Strategy Chart
As you can probably guess, this version of blackjack is played with a single deck, or 52 cards, making it easier for players to remember the cards that came out and the ones that are left. It could help you with making decisions about your game because, as we said earlier, blackjack shouldn’t be a game of intuition.
A single-deck version sometimes allows you to take more risk than you would in a game played with more decks, so in some instances player should double down instead of just hitting. If the game allows you to double down after splitting, that will give you even more options to play.
It is not a standard version of the game, as most games are played with 4-6 decks.
Double Deck Basic Blackjack Strategy Chart
Double-deck is another non-standard version of blackjack, played with two decks or 104 cards, and you should use the above chart when playing this version. Your strategy will depend on whether the dealer Stands on soft 17 and if doubling down is permitted. The chart also shows advice on what to do if doubling down after splitting is not allowed, so you’d know what to do in each situation.
For example, the chart shows that you should always stand on the pair of tens or what to do with some pairs if doubling down after splitting is not allowed.
4 - 8 Deck Basic Blackjack Strategy Chart
In these multi-deck games, it is particularly important whether the dealer Stands or Hits on a soft 17, as different charts should be used based on that. These charts are more sophisticated as more options are available when more cards are in the game. Sometimes Surrender, Split or Double options are not permitted, so the chart instructs you on what to do in those situations. These are some of the new symbols in multi-deck charts:
- DH - Double down if permitted, otherwise Hit
- RM - Surrender if it’s allowed, else Hit
- RS - Surrender if permitted, otherwise Stand
- PH - Split if doubling down is allowed after splitting, otherwise Hit
Your strategy will depend on the type of hand you hold. The chart indicates what move you should make depending on whether you hold a hard or a soft hand or pairs.
Tips For Playing Blackjack Basic Strategy
The best tip we can give you is to use these blackjack charts when playing the game. But there are some blackjack essential tips that are applicable to most games.
Tip #1 Always Split a Pair of Aces
Eleven is an excellent starting point in blackjack, even if you can only get one more card later on top of each of the Aces you have. You should do the same with a pair of eights, and for any other pair, check the chart for the type of blackjack you are playing.
Tip #2 Always Double Down When You Have an Ace
It’s a fact that you should only double down when you have a strong hand, as you won’t be able to Hit again. Experts recommend doubling down when you have a total of 11 in your hand, and the dealer is not displaying an Ace. They also suggest doubling down when you have a total of 10 if the dealer doesn’t have a 10 or an Ace.
Tip #3 Know When to Surrender
If the basic blackjack strategy chart is telling you to surrender your hand, and the surrender is permitted, you should do so, as the basic strategy only instructs you to surrender in certain situations. If surrender is not an option in the game you choose to play, then experts recommend that you Hit. Surrendering is sometimes a good move that will save you money in the longer run, as you lose half of your initial wager when surrendering.
Tip #4 Don’t Take Insurance in the Basic Strategy Play
One of the main rules of the basic blackjack strategy is that taking insurance is a bad option. It’s a common opinion that risking losing your initial bet is more profitable than defending it against a dealer who could hit the blackjack. That advice changes later when your game becomes more advanced, especially with players who count cards.
Tip #5 Pick the Right Chart and Strategy
None of the tips matters if you don’t choose the correct chart and strategy for the game you choose to play. Even if you pick the best-suited chart, it doesn’t guarantee you will win. You have to consider other players’ cards and strategies, and, of course, you’ll need luck on your side. Whatever version of the game you choose, note that the chart might need some strategy adjustments as you play.