A Blackjack Basic Strategy Primer.What is Blackjack Basic Strategy? Basic Strategy is a way to play blackjack without card counting that statistically minimizes the house’s edge. It consists of using a set of tables where you can lookup your two cards and the dealer’s upcard to get the correct play.
Some plays may not seem to make sense, such as hitting a 16 against a dealer’s 7 or doubling a soft 19 (A8) against a dealer’s 6. But rest assured, someone with his or her Doctorate in Statistics has done the math. If the chart says to double, you should double.
Q: So if it’s such an exact science, why are there slight variations among published strategies?
A: Because casinos typically vary their rules so they can finely tune their advantage. Here are the major rules differences listed in descending order of effect, with the change in house advantage in parenthesis:
1) # of decks used: from 1 to 8 (0.52%)
2) when you can double-down: on a 10 or 11 only (D10), on 9 through 11 (D9) or on any two-card total (DA2) (0.23%)
3) whether the dealer hits (H17) a soft 17 or stands (S17) (0.20%)
4) if you can double-down after splitting (DAS) (0.12%)
5) can you Surrender? (0.05%)
The major sets of rules are as follows, listed in descending order of house advantage (in parenthesis):
- Atlantic City: 6 decks, DA2, S17, DAS, Surrender (0.334%)
- Las Vegas Strip: 2 decks, DA2, S17, DAS, No Surrender (0.194%)
- Las Vegas Downtown: 1 deck, DA2, H17, No DAS, No Surrender (0.19%)
- Microgaming: 1 deck, D9, S17, No DAS, No Surrender (0.13%)
The last entry, Microgaming, is the software provider for many online casinos. They can afford a lower edge because there’s no dealer to pay or drinks to comp.
So if you’re looking to minimize the house edge playing blackjack, using Basic Strategy, either alone or in tandem with card counting, is the way to go. To find out the proper strategy for your casino’s variation, go to www.BlackjackInfo.com. And to find out exactly what the house’s edge is, go to www.WizardOfOdds.com.