# Blackjack Basic Strategy Charts

## How to read a Blackjack strategy chart

When playing Blackjack, there is a specific order of operations that you must go through to decide what your best play is. At each step of the process, use the relevant strategy chart to determine the correct play.

- Is the dealer offering insurance? (hint: never take it)
- Do I have a pair? If so, do I split it?
- Is my hand a "soft total"? (i.e. Ace + other card)
- Can I surrender? If so, should I?
- If you answered no to all the above questions, you have a "hard total"

If you need some help with the terminology in the charts, be sure to check out our blackjack glossary.

## Is this the only blackjack strategy?

The strategy charts above are primarily based on a game called "Hard 17", or "H17", which means that a dealer must always hit on a soft 17. If the dealer *does not* hit on a soft 17, there are some strategy deviations that come into play. That said, most casinos will hit a soft 17 and therefore, these charts are suitable for most players.

Even in a "S17" game (i.e. dealer does not hit a S17), the *majority* of these strategy charts will apply (only 6 scenarios change), so it is a great place to start learning. If you are looking for more advanced gameplay strategies, including card counting and basic strategy deviations, here is an excellent introductory article to advanced Blackjack.

## The History of Basic Strategy

Blackjack basic strategy has a long history dating back to four U.S. Army Engineers dubbed the Four Horsemen. These men studied the game of Blackjack and developed the first iteration of "Basic Strategy" all the way back in the 1950s. Since that time, many notable figures including Ed Thorp, a legendary mathematician and investor, have studied the game with the aid of computers and have refined "Basic Strategy" to a succinct set of tables displayed on this page.

The idea behind basic strategy is that given a set of player advantages (2:1 payouts on player blackjack, doubling, splitting, and surrenders), if you play it *perfectly*, you'll reduce the "house edge" to less than 1%. This makes Blackjack one of, if not the *least* risky game in a casino.

## How much does Basic Strategy increase your odds?

When we say the house advantage, this describes the inherent advantage that the dealer, or the "house" has against you as the player from the moment you sit down at the table. To understand this better, let's look at a basic analogy.

Imagine that you and a friend are rolling a dice. Every condition is the exact same except for one—**you always go first**. The rules of the game are simple. If you roll a 5 or 6, you "bust" (and lose). Otherwise, whoever has the higher number wins.

Your roll | Your friend's roll | Winner |
---|---|---|

4 | 4 | Tie |

2 | 4 | Your friend |

4 | 1 | You (finally!) |

6 | 6 | Your friend |

Wait a second... Something isn't right with this game. The first 3 rounds make sense, but that last round really has you thinking...

If you and your friend rolled the same exact number (6), yet your friend still *won*, isn't the game rigged?

This is how Blackjack works. If you go over 21 with your hand, **you lose**. It doesn't matter if the dealer goes over too, because whoever "busts" first is the loser. And in Blackjack, it just so happens that the **player always goes first**, and the rules are quite similar to our made up game above!

Since the odds of *both* the dealer and the player going over 21 is relatively low, this unfair advantage only **gives the house a 6% edge**.

So how does a player bring that 6% edge down to less than 1%?

Luckily, a player *potentially* (depends on the house rules) has up to four advantages:

- A player is paid 3:2 (or some other ratio > 1) for a blackjack, while the house is paid 1:1 ("even money")
- A player can surrender while the dealer cannot
- A player can split a hand while the dealer cannot
- A player can double a hand while the dealer cannot

Each of these advantages *decreases* the starting house edge of 6% down to < 1% depending on payouts, rules, and deck size.

### Favorable rules for players

Calculating the house edge with all the possible permutations of rules is cumbersome. Below are a few rules-of-thumb for remembering how different game scenarios affect your odds of winning big.

- The higher the payout on a blackjack, the better (2:1 is best but rare, 3:2 is good, and anything above is unfavorable to the player)
- The smaller the shoe, the better
- The more "superpowers" you have, the better (e.g. the ability to double down, re-split Aces, late surrender, etc.)
- Dealer stands on a soft 17 (rare, but favorable)

## Where do I learn more about Basic Strategy?

We have an entire beginner's guide to Blackjack and Basic Strategy, which goes into more detail around many of these topics.