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How to Play Blackjack

Below is the best way to play each hand in blackjack, assuming you’re not counting cards. This strategy is precisely correct for six decks, dealer stands on soft 17, and double down after splitting is permitted. Though the exact strategy is affected slightly by different rules, the strategy below is approximately correct for rules other than those stated above. In class, you’ll be given precise strategy tables for all rules.

Player’s Hand

Dealer’s Upcard

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

ace

hard 17

hard 16

H

H

H

H

H

hard 15

H

H

H

H

H

hard 14

H

H

H

H

H

hard 13

H

H

H

H

H

hard 12

H

H

H

H

H

H

H

11

D

D

D

D

D

D

D

D

D

H

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

soft 19

soft 18

D

D

D

D

H

H

H

soft 17

H

D

D

D

D

H

H

H

H

H

soft 16

H

H

D

D

D

H

H

H

H

H

soft 15

H

H

D

D

D

H

H

H

H

H

soft 14

H

H

H

D

D

H

H

H

H

H

soft 13

H

H

H

D

D

H

H

H

H

H

ace-ace

P

P

P

P

P

P

P

P

P

P

10-10

9-9

P

P

P

P

P

P

P

8-8

P

P

P

P

P

P

P

P

P

P

7-7

P

P

P

P

P

P

H

H

H

H

6-6

P

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

P

P

H

H

H

H

H

3-3

P

P

P

P

P

P

H

H

H

H

2-2

P

P

P

P

P

P

H

H

H

H

Key:
H = hit
blank = stand
D = double down
P = pair split

Card Counting

Admittedly, it’s difficult to learn how to count cards from a website. If you already know the basics of card counting, however, below are strategy tables for some of the most common rules. These tables are for the Hi-Lo count, one of the most effective systems available.

  • 1 deck, dealer hits soft 17, no double after split
  • 1 deck, dealer stands on soft 17, double after split
  • 2 decks, dealer hits soft 17, double after split
  • 2 decks, dealers stands on soft 17, double after split
  • 6 decks, dealer hits soft 17, double after split
  • 6 decks, dealer stands on soft 17, double after split, late surrender

Streak Sidebet

Though uncommon outside of Colorado, the Streak sidebet is a common rule in Colorado casinos. This is a bet that you will win 2, 3, 4, or 5 consecutive hands. Pushes are ignored, and splits are evaluated by their net result (e.g. a win and a loss is treated as a push, a win and a push is treated as a win). If you’re not counting cards, you should never make the Streak bet.

If you are counting cards, below is the optimal strategy for the Streak sidebet, assuming the most common payout schedule (3:1, 8:1, 18:1, and 38:1 for 2, 3, 4, and 5 consecutive wins, respectively).

Without Late Surrender:
Bet 3, 4, and 5 Streaks if the HiLo count per deck is at least +2.
Bet 2 Streak if the HiLo count per deck is at least +5.

With Late Surrender:
Bet 4 Streak if the HiLo count per deck is at least +5.
Bet 3 and 5 Streaks if the HiLo count per deck is at least +6.
Bet 2 Streak if the HiLo count per deck is at least +14.