What Is Blackjack Basic Strategy?

Basic strategy in blackjack is a mathematical formula that is devised to make sure that when you act, your action has the highest possible chance of winning. This means making the right decision when you stand, hit, double down, or split. In short, anyone that wants to play blackjack seriously should always use basic strategy.

In this guide, we are going to briefly cover how blackjack players implement this strategy with intention of helping you take on board how important it is to include this set of rules into your blackjack game so you can improve as a player.

After reading this, you should be able to:

  • Minimize your losses when you play blackjack
  • Not give away any a single percent of the house edge
  • Understand variation and probability in blackjack
  • Why you should not use blackjack bonus bets

Blackjack’s basic strategy has been used for years, and it is the only way to make sure that you are playing blackjack according to the house edge. In other words, if you are not using basic strategy, then you are increasing the house edge against you.

The House Edge and Basic Strategy

Most blackjack games only have a house edge of 0.5%. However, this is only possible if without playing a strict basic strategy formula according to the blackjack variation being played. Most players that understand blackjack give up at least another 1.5% house edge, and those that do not know how to play blackjack at all give up far more.

Minimizing Losses, Probability, and Variation

The idea of this strategy is to minimize your losses. This is because blackjack is set up in the long run so you will eventually lose. The return to player (RTP) is 99.5%, so every $100 you bet theoretically you should lose $0.50. This is according to probability at least.

What is interesting is that many pro blackjack players will use variations in probability and basic strategy to increase and decrease their stakes.

Overall you are set to lose 0.5% of the time. That does not mean you lose this percentage in cash. That is unless you never change the amount you bet, then overall probability does dictate that you should lose 0.5% of your money in the long run. Yet, most blackjack players like to vary the amounts they stake.

Increasing and Decreasing Your Bets

If you are player that continuously increases and decreases your per bet stakes according to upswings and downswings. It takes an intelligent and seasoned blackjack player to understand variation and how it is affecting their session.

There is also an element of luck involved of course, but let’s say you are a blackjack player that has been losing for a few days. Due to the fact that you have recognized, you are on a downswing; you have been betting your minimum stake amount. Soon the losing streak ends, and you start to increase your win ratio.

At this point, it is worth increasing your bet amount to test the water and see if the winning streak continues. Obviously, this is also where a bit of luck comes into the equation; both bad and good luck. If the winning streak continues after raising the stakes, then great, but if suddenly you raise the stakes and go back to your losing ways, then luck is not on your side.

Blackjack players do not really mind if this happens as long as they are happy that they continued to play basic strategy, which means they are playing the most mathematically efficient way possible while riding their luck with timely increments or reductions in their stakes.

Basic Strategy Players Never Play Side Bets

If you do come across a player that plays basic strategy, then you will notice he/she will rarely if ever play any of the bonus bets. All bonus bets are heavily weighted in favour of the house. For example, if you played on a 4-deck blackjack table with a lucky sevens side bet, the house edge on this bet is 51.25%. Serious blackjack players will do anything not to give the house any further advantage than the typical 0.5% it already has.

Examples of Basic Strategy In Action

There are many different charts available that sho what you should do in a certain situation when playing blackjack. However, there is only 1 chart to follow each style of blackjack that you play. That said, some people have made alternative versions for some variations, which they have their reasons for doing this.

Firstly, a basic strategy table has several sections you need to memorize:

  • Dealer Upcard
  • Hard Totals
  • Dealer Upcard
  • Soft Totals

Within these tables are H (Hit), S (Stand), D (Double Down if allowed, otherwise hit), Ds (Double if allowed, otherwise stand), N (Don’t split the pair), Y (Split the Pair), Y/N (Split only if ‘DAS’ is offered.

Now immediately you can see that the rules of some blackjack tables do not allow double downs, hence (Double Down if allowed, otherwise hit) has the ‘otherwise’ option.

Slight Variations In The Rules Can Change The Basic Strategy Formula

You also need to remember that there are games with single decks, games with multiple decks, variations in which the dealer hits on only on soft 17s and stands on hard 17s, and so on. Slight changes in different games mean that the basic strategy may also change slightly. You will always need to make sure you have the correct chart for the particular game you are playing.

Do You Need to Memorize These Basic Strategy Charts?

Fortunately for blackjack players, there is the internet. Now you couldn’t exactly turn up to a land-based brick and mortar casino with a basic strategy sheet right in front of you. Some people do, but for the most part, if you play live, you need to memorize the charts. On the other hand, if you play blackjack online, then you have the luxury of being able to print out the chart and have it right in front of you.