Read this Before you Download any Charts!
Basic Strategy is the first thing you need to know before you can start beating blackjack with card counting. Perfect Basic Strategy is what cuts the casinos’ edge to a mere 0.5%, making it possible for you to gain an edge by counting cards. Ben and Colin will walk you through Basic Blackjack Strategy with these videos from our premium video course but first, here are a couple ground rules for these charts:
- Basic strategy is not enough! We get emails from people all the time talking about how they downloaded our chart, took it to a casino, and won some money. That’s great news for them, but it could have easily gone the other way. Basic strategy cannot overcome the house edge even if you get lucky with it from time to time. Think of it like a space shuttle. Basic strategy is just the rocket booster. It gets the shuttle high enough in the atmosphere for the shuttle to do the rest of the work. The rocket booster never makes it to space. You’ll need counting, deviations, true count conversions and betting strategy to actually beat the game of blackjack but that’s for later.
- Start with one chart! I’ll give you a hint. The chart you should start with is directly above this text. Many people get to this page and get super excited looking at every chart we have listed here. This is where you have to trust us that you will confuse yourself if you don’t learn these charts in order. Download the one you see above (basic strategy) and then…
- Memorize it perfectly! This is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to beating blackjack. Vegas was built on guys who looked at the wallet-size basic strategy a couple times after they bought it in the gift shop on their last vacation. It takes intentional practice to commit this stuff to memory. If it was easy, we wouldn’t have a website dedicated to helping you learn it.
- The chart you start with is not the chart you end with! Once you learn this chart you will have to learn additional rules and deviations that relate to the specific rules of the games you will be playing. The better you learn basic strategy the easier it will be to transition to the other rules-specific charts linked on this page.
- Perfect means perfect! In a game where you can only hope to gain a 1% edge over the house, a 99% game isn’t good enough. You need to know these charts backwards and forwards, doing a handstand, in a hurricane, giving your drink order to a waitress, while listening to Count Von Count serenade you on Sesame Street.
Basic Strategy has an order of Operations:
- Can I/should I Surrender? If you’re playing at a casino that offers surrender (also known as late surrender or LS), you will only have the option to surrender on the first two cards you’re dealt. You won’t be able to surrender if you’ve already taken a hit card. This is why surrender is the first thing you have to think about when playing your hand. If the answer is NO you can’t or NO you shouldn't surrender, you then ask yourself….
- Can I/Should I Split? The second most important decision is whether or not to split. This will only be an option when your first two cards are a pair or if you have two ten-valued cards (like a jack and a king). If the answer is NO you can’t or you shouldn't split, you ask yourself….
- Can I/Should I Double? When basic strategy calls for doubling, it’s a really good thing! It means you’re likely to win the hand! Some casinos restrict doubling on certain hands so it may not always be possible, but you want to make sure you’ve ruled it out before you move on. If the answer is NO you can’t or you shouldn't double, you ask yourself…
- Should I hit or should I stand? The last thing you should think about when it comes to basic strategy is whether or not to take another card. If the other options above are not appropriate for your hand then you would choose to hit or stand.
Here is all of Basic Strategy in 30 Simple Phrases:
In case you’re not a visual learner these simple phrases might help you commit these rules to memory. The goal with remembering phrases is to be able to look at your hand total and immediately recite the rule in your head, without having to see what the dealer has. That way when you’re at the table and you look up to see what the dealer has, you already know how it relates to your hand and you can make your decision in a split second. Memorizing these phrases will make you much faster and have fewer mistakes.
- 16 surrenders against dealer 9 through Ace, otherwise don’t surrender (revert to hard totals).
- 15 surrenders against dealer 10, otherwise don’t surrender (revert to hard totals).
- Always split aces.
- Never split tens.
- A pair of 9’s splits against dealer 2 through 9, except for 7, otherwise stand.
- Always split 8’s
- A pair of 7’s splits against dealer 2 through 7, otherwise hit.
- A pair of 6’s splits against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
- A pair of 5’s doubles against dealer 2 through 9 otherwise hit.
- A pair of 4’s splits against dealer 5 and 6 , otherwise hit.
- A pair of 3’s splits against dealer 2 through 7, otherwise hit.
- A pair of 2’s splits against dealer 2 through 7, otherwise hit.
Soft totals: A soft total is any hand that has an Ace as one of the first two cards, the ace counts as 11 to start.)
- Soft 20 (A,9) always stands
- Soft 19 (A,8) doubles against dealer 6, otherwise stand.
- Soft 18 (A,7) doubles against dealer 2 through 6, and hits against 9 through Ace, otherwise stand.
- Soft 17 (A,6) doubles against dealer 3 through 6, otherwise hit.
- Soft 16 (A,5) doubles against dealer 4 through 6, otherwise hit.
- Soft 15 (A,4) doubles against dealer 4 through 6, otherwise hit.
- Soft 14 (A,3) doubles against dealer 5 through 6, otherwise hit.
- Soft 13 (A,2) doubles against dealer 5 through 6, otherwise hit.
Hard totals: A hard total is any hand that does not start with an ace in it, or it has been dealt an ace that can only be counted as 1 instead of 11.
- 17 and up always stands.
- 16 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
- 15 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
- 14 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
- 13 stands against dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit.
- 12 stands against dealer 4 through 6, otherwise hit.
- 11 always doubles.
- 10 doubles against dealer 2 through 9 otherwise hit.
- 9 doubles against dealer 3 through 6 otherwise hit.
- 8 always hits.
FAQ about Blackjack Charts:
We get a lot of questions on our forum about basic strategy. Here are some of the common ones and their answers:
- What is basic strategy based on? Didn’t the casinos write “the book”? How can we trust basic strategy? Basic strategy was derived from a computer simulation. Somebody taught a computer how to play blackjack and then told it to play several hundred MILLION hands of blackjack and record what happened. Through the computer’s trial and error it figured out which decisions are best for the player, given every possible combination of starting player hands and dealer up card. The “best decisions” for the player, in this case, are the ones that lose the least amount of money to the casino over time. Basic strategy does not overcome the casino’s house edge until we add card counting to the mix. If you are super geeky and simply MUST have a better explanation, check out Mike Shakleford’s video where he builds basic strategy from scratch using excel and watch his other video where he determines the house edge the same way.
- Why are the charts on this site different than the charts I saw on such-and-such website? There can be many reasons for this. First off, each website you visit may have configured their simulation slightly differently. For instance, maybe one person chooses to round their true count down and another chooses to round their true count up. There are also slight variations in strategy when you play a 6 deck game versus a single deck game. Rather than teach you 9 different charts for each variant of blackjack you will ever see, we decided to run our simulation against the games people will most commonly see and teach one basic strategy that is sufficiently effective against all numbers of decks. We have a Keep it Simple Stupid, mentality when it comes to learning card counting. This means our charts might be slightly different than a site that’s chosen a different philosophy. If you’re an anal-retentive type and want to learn hyper-specific strategies we recommend Professional Blackjack by Standford Wong. We’ve run the numbers and learning the hyper-specific stuff basically just makes you feel smarter and doesn’t add any money to your wallet. With that said, whatever strategy you choose to learn, we recommend sticking with ONLY those materials. If you get distracted with content from multiple sources it has a higher probability of confusing you than enlightening you. We’ve taken over $4,000,000 from casinos and trained an army of card counters who have taken millions more, with the charts you see here. So rest assured, we’ve combed through the crap and know what’s important when it comes to crushing this game.
- How do I memorize all this? Great question! You’ve come to the exact right place! We have some tips in our premium video course on how to approach the charts and make them simpler. We also have a free mini course we can email you with some step by step instructions on how to take your training seriously. We also have blank strategy sheets you can download and fill in every day for practice to test yourself. Practice makes perfect so there’s nothing like our basic strategy drills to get it drilled into your brain!
- When I’m doing the basic strategy drills, I only miss one every couple hundred hands or so! Am I ready for the casino? If you think missing one every now and then is “perfect” then sure you’re ready! [sarcasm] How many people listen to musicians that get every 100th note out of tune? Michael Jordan says you’ll never play better in a game than you did in practice. We want to be like Mike, so we teach that you are probably making 2 or 3 mistakes in the casino for every one mistake you make in the distractionless, pressure-free, comfort of your home. Perfect means perfect. Don’t compromise. If you keep messing up basic strategy, put it down for a while and come back to it. It won’t happen overnight, but if you stick with it, eventually you’ll know basic strategy better than you know the back of your hand.