What Basic Strategy is and What it Isn’t

Every now and then the time comes when I need to clarify some things about basic strategy. It amazes me that as easy as this strategy is, it is constantly misunderstood or misrepresented. And then it all has to be all untangled again.

Let’s start with what basic strategy is so that if you don’t take all of this away from reading this, you will at least have this much. Basic strategy is the best strategy tool available to blackjack players. It has the ability to lower the house edge from around 2-5% to 0.5%. Once that house edge is down to 0.5%, blackjack then has the lowest house edge. That alone makes basic strategy worth the time to use.

It is the easiest strategy tool to use. It’s most common form is that of a chart. The left side has all of the possible player hands, while the top has every dealer up card. Take the line with your hand on it and see where it intersects the line of the dealer’s up card that is showing. The play that is at the intersection is the best statistical play for that situation.

Basic strategy is free and legal to use in all casinos. This means that those who play blackjack online can use it just like those in a brick and mortar casino can. There is no cost to use this chart—you can find them on the Internet easy enough. And, yes, you can bring the chart to the table with you to play with.

Now, what basic strategy is not.

It is not a guaranteed win for every single hand. So while you will not win every single hand that you’re dealt, you will win more hands if you follow the chart.

Casinos would like for you to believe that basic strategy will allow you to win every hand. But think about it: if it were a guaranteed win, would it b legal to use in casinos? No. It would not. But it is legal to use.

The reason that casino want you to think that basic strategy is a guaranteed beat-the-house type strategy is that they’re hoping that you’ll try it, lose a couple hands, and then quit using the chart because you’re disgusted that you didn’t win every hand. If you quit playing with it, you’ll play by guessing and intuition and you’ll lose more. So you quit using it and they get more money.

So to sum it up, basic strategy is NOT going to win every hand for you, nor will it beat the game for you. But it WILL lower the house edge to 0.5% if you play every hand according to it; and it will cause you to win more hands than if you played without. It is the easiest blackjack strategy available for you to use, and you can take the chart with you to the casino, or play with it in an online casino.

In short, basic strategy should be your favorite blackjack strategy and you would love it.