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Play Blackjack

Basic Blackjack Strategy

The first thing all players need to learn about blackjack is the basic strategy. This is basically the best way to play all possible scenarios that you will face. We list the basic strategy for four of more decks when the dealer stands on soft 17. This is the most common from of blackjack you will see, and these moves can be effective under any rules.

To use the basic strategy look up your hand along the left vertical edge and the dealer’s up card along the top. In both cases an A stands for ace. Rule variations can have an effect on some borderline situations. The most flexible rules are the number of decks, whether the dealer hits or stands on a soft 17, and whether doubling is allowed after splitting.


Key to table:

H = Hit
S = Stand
D = Double if allowed, otherwise hit
Ds = Double if allowed, otherwise stand
P = Split
H/P = Split if allowed to double after a split, otherwise hit
H/R = Surrender if allowed, otherwise hit


Never take insurance, even if you have blackjack. If you count cards, then you might be able to get away with it if the deck is loaded with tens, but if you do not count cards, the ALLWAYS decline it. The following table shows the house edge on the insurance bet depending on the number of decks used.


House Edge on Insurance
of Decks
1 5.882%
2 6.796%
4 7.246%
6 7.395%
8 7.470%


Sometimes with a 6 or 8 deck you will have the option to surrender. To be specific the you (the player) may forfeit half of your bet to be excused from playing out your hand. Usually, the only time you may surrender is when the dealer checks for blackjack. The following table is a basic guide for when to surrender (Y=yes, N=no).


Basic Surrender Strategy
Dealer’s Card
9 10 A
15 N Y N
16 Y Y Y


Helpful Tips

Seek out blackjack tables with the most favorable rules.

Not all blackjack games are created equal. There’s a wide range of rule variations, some good for the player, and some designed to do nothing but pad the house advantage.

Among the rules that are good for the player: Dealer stands on all 17s; player may double-down on any first two cards; player may double down after splitting pairs; player may re split Aces; player may surrender (after his first two cards, the player may surrender half his bet in exchange for not having to play out the hand.)

Among the rules that are bad for the player: Dealer hits soft 17, double-downs are restricted to 9, 10, or 11; player may not double after splitting pairs; player may not re split pairs; player may not re-split Aces.

Do you see a pattern here? Player options rules that give the player the most room to make decisions-are good, provided the player knows how to use them. Rules that restrict player decisions are bad.

The number of decks also enters the picture. If all other rules are equal, fewer decks are better. The house edge is lowest with a single deck, makes its biggest jump in switching from one deck to two, and increases by lesser amounts with each deck added to the shoe.

You should take advantage of our Blackjack chart to the right of the page. By following these moves, you’ll eliminate many common mistakes and greatly improve you odds of winning. You can bookmark this site (press "Ctrl" + "D" at the same time) or just print out the page to keep it for reference. Good Luck!

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