Basic Blackjack Strategy

What exactly is a Basic Strategy? It is simply the optimal way for a player to play his hand given a dealer’s upcard and given a particular set of Casino rules. It does not incorporate any information or knowledge about previous hands or cards dealt. (That will come later when we introduce Card Counting).

Let me explain the basics a bit further. The game of Blackjack is in reality a very scientific and mathematical game. There is always a right and wrong move when presented with a particular player’s hand and dealer upcard. There is no decision to be made.

You will often see players at the Blackjack table sit and ponder what decision they will make when given a particular hand. They look at their cards and consider their options and carefully weigh what could happen and then, sometimes in a painful, agonizing fashion, decide on a course of action. These players do not know Basic Strategy. There is no decision to be made if you want to maximize your odds of winning. There is always a right choice and a wrong choice. A basic Strategy is a set of rules that gives you the right decision each and every time. Once you have learned Basic Strategy, you won’t be making any decisions. You will always make the move that Basic Strategy tells you to make.

The beginnings of Basic Strategy stem back to the early 1950s when Roger Baldwin wrote a paper for the Journal of American Statistical Association entitled “The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack”. It set the tone that Blackjack Strategy is mathematical in nature and the Casino’s advantage can be reduced to a minimum via optimal and mechanical strategies. Later, in 1962, Professor Edward O. Thorpe authored his New York Times bestseller, “Beat the Dealer” which built upon Baldwin’s approach and is the first work to combine card counting into the Blackjack mix of tools. This work was later refined by other authors using computer and statistical simulation to arrive at what is today’s Basic Strategy.

One very important note about “Beat the Dealer” should be made here. When it was released, it created somewhat of a panic among the Vegas casinos. They literally became terrified that the average player was now going to be able to consistently win money off of them. In response, they changed many of their rules to make it more difficult for players to win. After much protest by gamblers and much loss of revenue to the casino, they reverted back to the traditional blackjack rules.

Instead of losing money, they experienced a rise in profits as the book created much interest in the game of Blackjack, yet most individuals were not able to properly implement the strategies mentioned in Beat the Dealer. The reason I am pointing this out is that it demonstrates one thing very well. Those of you who can implement a systematic Blackjack plan using different strategies, complete with card counting will be feared by the Casinos. You will consistently realize a profit at the Blackjack table.