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A super simple strategy for blackjack


Saturday, March 26, 2016

A super simple strategy for blackjack


March 25, 2015

I was playing some low stakes recreational blackjack the other day, while chatting to a couple of other players and watching how they played the game. They had almost no idea how to play and were well aware of the fact, so I ended up advising them on correct strategy, advice which, most unusually for gamblers who almost invariably think they know best and cannot be told anything, was well received and appreciated.

This got me thinking about devising a "super simple" strategy that would eliminate a lot of errors and keep the casino advantage relatively low whilst being easy to learn. I have accordingly come up with the following seven-point plan:


1) Hard totals

i) If dealer has 6 or lower, do not hit any hand you can bust with the draw of one card.

ii) If dealer has 7 or higher, hit (or double) up to and including 16.


2) Soft totals

i) Whatever the dealer card, hit up to and including A-6 and stand on A-7 or higher. (see * below)


3) Doubles

i) Whatever the dealer card, double 10 and 11 (see ** below).

ii) If dealer has 6 or lower, double 9.


4) Splits

i) Whatever the dealer card, split 88 and AA (see ** below).

ii) Treat all other pairs as hard totals and hit, double or stand according to rules 1 and 3.


* The "6" and "7" in A-6 / A-7 includes smaller cards adding up to 6 and 7. With A-2, you would hit. If you receive a 4 you now have in effect A-6 (2+4=6), so hit again. If you receive a 5 on the A-2, you have A-7 in effect (2+5=7), so stand.

** If the game is European no hole card, where the dealer doesn't take or check his second card until all player hands are complete, do not double or split against dealer 10 or ace.


This seven-rule strategy contains approximately fifty errors compared to optimal play. The actual number varies slightly depending on whether the game is US hole card, European no hole card, S17, H17 or DAS. The total cost of the errors is a little under 0.3%, again depending on the exact rules of the game.

The most expensive error overall is not hitting 12 against 2, which costs 0.03%.

The most expensive error when comparing the optimal play of the actual hand with the simple strategy play is 77 against 6, where standing is fully 22% worse than splitting. However, as this hand is so much rarer than 12 against 2, the overall cost is lower.

Assuming a generic optimal strategy disadvantage of 0.5%, the house edge for my simple strategy increases to approximately 0.8%. This is clearly worse than perfect play, but the strategy is extremely simple and it eliminates the vast majority of the average gambler's most egregious errors of hitting, standing and doubling incorrectly.



2 Previous Comments


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