Blackjack Strategy Charts: Learn How to Play Perfect Blackjack

Intermediate
0% 14 min

Mastering the blackjack strategy chart is what differentiates amateurs from pros. Now that you’re no longer a beginner, you’re ready to learn how to play perfect blackjack.

Pro tip

If you haven’t read our How To Play Blackjack Guide, I highly suggest you read it first.  It is written specifically with the beginning player in mind.  

It is the first part of the Blackjack Academy series we’re putting together which will teach you how to become a highly skilled blackjack player and get an understanding of this fun and easy game.  

Now, the next step to becoming a great player is to learn the importance of blackjack strategy, and the first step of that is learning Basic Strategy. 

In this guide, I’m going to walk you through all the details.

So, without further ado, let's dive right in!

What is the Blackjack Basic Strategy, and Why is it Important?

blackjack strategy chart

Basic Strategy is the correct play based on your hand value and the dealer’s up card. 

Keep in mind 

The table I’m including here isn’t my opinion. In fact, it isn’t anyone’s ‘opinion’, it is a mathematical fact based upon billions of hands run on many computer simulations. 

There is only one correct Basic Strategy play for a given set of rules, so you need to make sure that you’re looking at the correct card for the rules of the game you’re playing.

Two of the most important rules you must know are the number of decks in use and whether the dealer hits or stands on a Soft 17.

Check out our free blackjack strategy chart below:

Hard Totals
Dealer Upcard
  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
17 S S S S S S S S S SrS
16 S S S S S H H SrH SrH SrH
15 S S S S S H H H SrH SrH
14 S S S S S H H H H H
13 S S S S S H H H H H
12 H H S S S H H H H H
11 D D D D D D D D D D
10 D D D D D D D D H H
9 H D D D D H H H H H
8 H H H H H H H H H H
KEY H = Hit
S = Stand
D = Double if allowed, otherwise Hit
SrH = Surrender if allowed, otherwise Hit
SrS = Surrender if allowed, otherwise Stand
Soft Totals
Dealer Upcard
  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
A,9 S S S S S S S S S S
A,8 S S S S Ds S S S S S
A,7 Ds Ds Ds Ds Ds S S H H H
A,6 H D D D D H H H H H
A,5 H H D D D H H H H H
A,4 H H D D D H H H H H
A,3 H H H D D H H H H H
A,2 H H H D D H H H H H
KEY H = Hit
S = Stand
D = Double if allowed, otherwise hit
Ds = Double if allowed, otherwise stand
Pair Splitting
Dealer Upcard
  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
A,A P P P P P P P P P P
T,T S S S S S S S S S S
9,9 P P P P P S P P S S
8,8 P P P P P P P P P SrP
7,7 P P P P P P H H H H
6,6 PH P P P P H H H H H
5,5 D D D D D D D D H H
4,4 H H H PH PH H H H H H
3,3 PH PH P P P P H H H H
2,2 PH PH P P P P H H H H
KEY H = Hit
S = Stand
D = Double if allowed, otherwise Hit
P = Split
PH = Split if double after Split is Allowed, otherwise Hit
SrP = Surrender if allowed, otherwise Split

Download the Blackjack Strategy Chart

Note: This blackjack strategy chart is for a 6-deck shoe game, and the dealer hits any Soft 17.

How to Read the Blackjack Chart

As you can see, the chart is divided into three sections, with a key to the actions to be taken at the bottom.

Here’s what you should consider:

  • The key shows you whether to Hit, Stand, Double Down, Split or Surrender;
  • In all three sections, the top row represents the dealer’s up card; 
  • In all three sections, the left-hand column represents your hand;
  • The top section represents when you have a Hard total hand;
  • The middle section represents when you have a Soft total hand;
  • The bottom section represents when you have a pair and a potential Split decision to make.

What You Should Know Before Using the Blackjack Strategy Card

As I said earlier, the 2 most important points are:

  1. How many decks are in use; 
  2. Does the dealer hit or stand on a Soft 17?

But you also need to consider the following rules, too:

  1. Can you split up to three times to make four hands?
  2. Are you allowed to double down on any first two cards?
  3. Can you double down after a split?
  4. Can you surrender your hand (your first two cards)?

The Blackjack Strategy Chart Order of Operations

order of operations in blackjack

There are certain things you need to check once you’ve seen your hand and the dealer up card.  And here’s the order that you check your options.

1. Should I Surrender this hand?

Do I have a 15, 16 or 17 and the dealer has a 9, 10, or Ace? 

Check the blackjack strategy card for the correct play.

2. Do I have a hand that could be Split, and does the dealer have a hand I should split against?

Do I have a pair of Aces or 8s, or a pair that should be split against the dealer’s up card? 

Check the blackjack strategy card for the correct play. 

3. Can I Double Down, and should I double down against this dealer’s up card?

Lots of hands to check here, for example if you have a 9, should you double down against the dealer’s 9?

There are many options here, and it’s important that you get it right.

Check the blackjack strategy card for details.

4. Should I take a Hit, or simply Stand?

I have a 16, and the dealer has an 8 up card.  What’s the best play now?

Check the blackjack strategy card.  

Every play is listed and by following this blackjack chart, you will always be making the right decision. 

The Blackjack Strategy Chart Explained in 8 Short Sentences

  1. For a given set of rules there is only one correct Basic Strategy.  
  2. Our Basic Strategy chart represents the best play when the game is for a 6-deck shoe and the dealer hits on Soft 17.
  3. This blackjack strategy card has been developed by many highly-skilled PhD mathematicians and brainiac types over the years.  It is not their opinion.
  4. Billions of hands have been simulated to arrive at these numbers. 
  5. The column of numbers down the left-hand side of the chart represents your hand.
  6. The left-hand column (LHC) in the uppermost section is if your hand is a Hard total
  7. The LHC in the middle section is if your hand contains an Ace (i.e. a Soft hand).
  8. The LHC in the bottom section represents your hand if it is a pair and might be split.  

How to Read the Blackjack Strategy Chart in 2 Simple Steps

Here is a quick step-by-step example of how you can read the blackjack strategy chart efficiently:

Step 1 
Find your hand down the left-hand side, and then the dealer’s up card.

Step 2 
Find the appropriate action for your hand.  

reading the blackjack strategy chart

For example 

Let’s say you have a 5 and a Queen, or a Hard 15 total.  The dealer’s up card is an 8.

  • Find the box that corresponds to both those numbers, your hand down the side column, and the dealer’s up card along the top.
  • You will see that the correct play is to Hit. 

How to Memorize the Blackjack Strategy

When I first started learning how to play perfect blackjack in the mid-1980s, I was a young Shift Manager at the Lady Luck Casino in downtown Las Vegas.  

I realized pretty quickly that although I knew craps and roulette inside out, I didn’t know enough about blackjack.  

So I decided to learn.  

And the first thing I needed to know and to immediately recognize was playing perfect Basic Strategy.  

Because without perfect Basic Strategy as a starting point, you won’t play very well and would never represent much of a long-term threat to the casino.

My Story of Mastering Blackjack Strategy

I knew I needed a book by an expert and I knew there were several really good books out there. 

Several have different types of card counting systems, but they all have one thing in common, and that is to help you reduce the house advantage against you.

Pro tip

My advice is go to the bookstore and take a look through a few of them and choose the one that’s the easiest for you to read and understand. 

That’s what I did, and that’s how I bought a great book called ‘Playing Blackjack as a Business’ by Lawrence Revere.  

It included lots of in-depth information and a Basic Strategy Chart and it was the easiest for me to understand.

And I read it, cover to cover. 

And read it again. And again. And again.

Then I made myself some flashcards with my hand and the dealer’s hand on one side, and the correct play on the other side.  

At first, it seemed like there were too many cards, but the obvious plays were quickly learned, and then I culled the stack of flashcards down to the most important ‘borderline’ plays.

I used to run through those cards five or six times a day, every day, for weeks.  

Until I knew them inside out.  

No thoughts required, just an immediate answer.

Expert's Advice: The Best Blackjack Strategy

expert's advice

The Basic Strategy Chart tells you the perfect play for every possible hand, with a neutral deck.

You need to learn the Chart so you know the perfect play every time, without fail. 

There are deviations that you will make based upon the ‘deck composition’, which means how many high cards or low cards are out.  

This is getting into the territory of card counting, and that’s a big subject that deserves its own article, which I will cover in a separate article for the Blackjack Academy.

Let me just say this, though: Card counting is not illegal. 

The casinos would probably like to make it illegal, but because it would be impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone is counting cards, it’s never going to be made illegal.

Having said that, it can be very clear to a knowledgeable person after an hour (or less) of watching someone play whether they are counting cards or not. 

Some players are good at disguising their play; some are quite bad at it, and some don’t even try to disguise it.   

Is Single Deck Blackjack the best game to play?

single deck blackjack

Here’s a little secret I need to share with you.  You may have heard that the fewer decks that are being played with, the better it is for the player.  

Well, that’s true.

Be aware: The more decks in the shoe, the worse it is for the player 

No surprise then that the casinos like to use a shoe with six decks as their standard blackjack shoe game. 

There are other reasons they do it, but they like the multiple decks because of the advantage it gives them. 

Lots of old-school guys are going to tell you that a single-deck blackjack game is the one with the best chance of winning, and that you should only ever play single deck.

With that in mind, you may have heard the expression:

 “A little learning is a dangerous thing”.  It’s often (wrongly) attributed to Albert Einstein, by folks who believe all the internet memes they see.

But it was actually written in the early 1700s by an English poet and satirist called Alexander Pope.  (Those darned Brits, they’re everywhere!). 

Here’s why Mr. Pope was right: 

Single deck isn’t the ‘cherry on top of the sundae’ game anymore.  With blackjack payout odds of 3 to 2, single deck was indeed a great game to play.  

The casino guys knew that all along but once the books started coming out, they realized that the players were getting more knowledgeable.

In recent years, they decided to change the blackjack payout to 6 to 5.  

So a $20 bet, instead of getting paid $30 at 3 to 2, would only get paid $24 at 6 to 5.

Doesn’t seem like such a big deal, does it?  

It’s only a few bucks, after all, and you’re still getting an extra $4 for a blackjack.  

But that little change to the rules changed the hold percentage in the casino’s favor by 1.39%.  

And in a game that typically has a house advantage (HA) of about 0.5%, they just increased their win by 200% or so.

Pro tip

Another thing Alexander Pope said was ‘Fools rush in where angels fear to tread’.  

So make sure you never (as in NEVER!) play any blackjack with a 6 to 5 blackjack payout.  You cannot win on that game.

I was in a casino in Northern California recently, and they had their double deck games (yes, all of them on the retail floor) set up with a 6 to 5 blackjack payout.  

The games were all busy.  Lots of fools rushing in there!

Always find out how many decks are in use at any blackjack game you play.  It’s important to know. 

Remember

Most online casinos use either four or six decks. Four is a marginally better game for you but six is definitely still okay.

3 Tips and Tricks for Mastering Blackjack Strategy

To be a master blackjack player, you must know Basic Strategy perfectly. 

When the casino has a starting advantage against you, you must use perfect blackjack strategy to bring their advantage down.

Tip 1 Get your hands on some blackjack strategy charts

Make yourself some flashcards and learn the exact play for every situation. No mistakes, no dilly-dallying, no excuses.

Tip 2 Practice makes perfect

Blackjack is a simple game, but mastering the strategy takes some time and dedication.

You can always train your skills for free with one of the demo blackjack games available on our site.

Tip 3 Once you know all the correct plays, start playing with small amounts of real money

Playing for real money is far more challenging than playing when there’s nothing at stake. 

And a lot more fun when you win! 

As you get more comfortable and confident in your knowledge, then you can start increasing your bets. 

Recommendation

Planning to start playing blackjack online? You can boost your balance using one of the blackjack bonus codes on Chipy.

Final thoughts

Spending the time to learn Basic Strategy is well worth it.  

You will find you are a more confident player and feel a lot more comfortable knowing you’re always making the right decision once you do.

It’s been fun and entertaining to dig down into the nitty-gritty of expert blackjack play, and there’s a lot more to come.  

Hopefully you’re finding some useful information here, and I’m helping you improve your blackjack skills.
 

Blackjack Strategy Charts FAQs

Are blackjack strategy cards allowed in the casino?

Yes, casinos are comfortable with you having a blackjack strategy card on the table and referring to it as you play.  

Some even sell them in their gift shops. 

Try not to slow the game down, and check with the dealer if it’s okay, but I will be amazed if anyone tells you ‘No’.

What do I say to people who say I’m not playing the game right, that I took the dealer’s bust card?

There are a lot of people who think they know a lot about playing the game but in fact really don’t.  

Be polite, be friendly and explain to them that one player’s actions have zero effect upon the other players’ hands.

I’ve been told that I should never take Insurance.  Is that true?

Strictly speaking, that’s true.  

However, there are times when you may want to consider taking it because it makes sense in your situation to do it.  

One such time is when you have a big bet out there and get a blackjack and the dealer shows an Ace as their up card.  

Do you want to risk getting a push and not getting paid on your big bet?

Maybe not.

Also, if you’re counting cards there are times when the shoe is loaded up with tens so it may make sense for you to take Insurance.

But strictly speaking, you should never take Insurance as it is not a great bet.

Who developed the ‘Basic Strategy’ and how do I know they’re right?

In the mid-1950s, there were some projections run by guys who were the smartest guys in any room they happened to be standing in.  

Then in the 1960s, Dr. Ed Thorpe, a mathematics professor at MIT wrote a book called ‘Beat The Dealer’ and that really blew the roof off.  

On the one hand, it exposed that blackjack could be beaten by a knowledgeable player, but it also helped make blackjack the dominant casino game as the players started to understand the finer nuances of the game and that they could win by understanding the math. 

Since then, there have been many really bright guys who have run their own numbers, and they have all come to the same conclusion – that blackjack can be beaten if you know what you’re doing.  

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Peter Nairn
Peter Nairn Casino Operations Specialist
Peter Nairn has been in casino operations management since 1994. He has 35 years of casino experience and has held senior executive positions in both Native American and traditional casino markets.
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