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Understanding Blakjack: Rules and Basic Strategy

Niall Mckibbin

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The basic Blackjack strategy is a set of rules developed by mathematicians and statisticians with different computer simulations in order to reduce the house's advantage to a minimum.

The Blackjack strategy is based on two things: the probability to receive a certain card and the fact that the dealer must follow strictly specified rules.

The probability of receiving the card number 5 is 4 out of 52 (7.7%). The probability of receiving, for example, card number 7 is also 4 out of 52 (7.7%). So, the probability of receiving any particular card is always 4 out of 52 (7.7%), because there are four cards of the same value in every 52-card deck. Of course, this does not apply for tens, jacks, queens and kings, because they are all worth ten, so the probability of receiving 10 in Blackjack is 16 out of 52 (30.8%).

The dealer can't play as any other player and he has to follow strict rules. He must stop taking hits when his cards total 17, he doesn't have the possibility to split or double and he isn't paid the standard 3:2 as an ordinary player.

The Rules Affecting the Basic Blackjack Strategy

Casinos can vary certain rules and that might force some changes in the basic Blackjack strategy. Here are some of those rules with an explanation what might be the best choice for a player (just looking at the rules, one can determine to what extent is it worth playing in a certain casino):

  1. How many decks is used in a casino (the fewer number of decks used is better for a player).
  2. The dealer is stopping at “soft" 17 (initial ace and six) or takes another card (it is better for a player if the dealer is stopping).
  3. Is it allowed to surrender a bet or not (for a player, it is better to be allowed to surrender and it is better to give up earlier than later).
  4. Can any of the cards be doubled down (it is better if double on any two cards is allowed).
  5. How many times is allowed to split a hand (more times is better, of course).
  6. Is it allowed do double after splitting (the player is in an advantage if allowed).

To win at Blackjack in a casino one will need luck, but also a great amount of skill is required. However, the players must accept the fact that using a certain (perfect) strategy won't give them an advantage, but it will reduce the advantage of the house. The player can be in advantage only by using a technique known as card counting.

Here are a few major rules of the basic strategy which can be applied to all Blackjack rules:

  1. Stop when you have “hard" 17 or more.
  2. Never take insurance or “even money" (1:1).
  3. Always double down if you have 10 or 11 (if the sum of your cards is bigger than the dealer's visible card).
  4. Stop at 12 or more if the dealer's hand is 6 or less.
  5. Always stop if you have “soft" 19 or “soft" 20.

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