Blackjack Strategy Charts: How To Understand Them?
Written by Julie
Published date · July 15, 2019 | Last Updated · June 15, 2023 | Read Time: 6 mins
Blackjack has been reduced down to pure math as people were able to deduct the best possible way to maximize the chances of winning. In doing so, they created various strategies and charts that became the 101 for playing blackjack. Therefore, if you want to apply the basic blackjack strategy, you will need a useful blackjack chart.
These charts will help you reduce the house edge down to 0.5% in some cases, and pave the way to create a personal betting strategy. Therefore, let’s examine what these charts are and how to apply them. Read on!
What are Blackjack Charts?
In simplest terms, blackjack charts are guidelines for players to know what to do in every possible situation that could occur when playing this game. People who have been into blackjack for a long time deducted a set of actions which will lower the house edge to the minimum if you stick to the chart.
How to Read a Blackjack Strategy Chart?
Whether you are going to choose hit or stand depends on the chart you use. However, these are not the only two options in blackjack, so the majority of charts are also filled with other actions. Let’s take a quick overview of their abbreviations and meaning.
- H – Hit
- S – Stand
- Dh – Double if possible, otherwise hit
- Ds – Double if possible, otherwise, stand
- P – Split
- Ph – Split if you are allowed to split after double, otherwise hit
There are a couple of additional options which are available in charts in the event where the dealer is allowed to hit on soft 17.
- Rs – Surrender if possible, otherwise hit
- Rp – Surrender if possible, otherwise split
When you read blackjack charts, the player score is usually depicted to the left in columns, while the dealer’s cards are in rows.
Note: Some blackjack charts use “+” for hit and “-” for stand. Furthermore, you could stumble upon charts that depict split with a “/,” and Dh and Ds are sometimes represented by “2x” in different colours.
Various charts come in multiple denominations for actions, so make sure to study each chart before you start learning them.
How to Choose the Best Chart?
Most charts differ depending on the type of blackjack you play and the number of decks you use. At the moment, the most popular charts are the ones applying to 4-deck to 8-deck kinds of blackjack, which also happen to be the most played variants.
Textual Basic Strategy Charts
Let’s take a quick recap of some of the basic rules that we should stick to at blackjack tables, as suggested by blackjack strategy charts.
Once again, the following rules apply only to 4-deck to 8-deck blackjack and if the dealer stands on soft 17 (the option “surrender” is enabled).
When to Surrender?
Players should surrender whenever they have hard 16 (a pair of 8s is not taken into account in this case), and the dealer has 9, 10, or A. Additionally, players should also surrender if they hit hard 15 and the dealer has 10.
When to Split?
First of all, if you have aces or 8s, you should always go with a split. On the other hand, you should never split 5s and 10s.
If the dealer has 4-7 (or 2 and 3 if DAS is enabled), you should only split if you have 2s or 3s. If you have 4s, you should only split if DAS is allowed, and the dealer has a 5 or 6.
Splitting 6s is only recommended if the dealer shows 3-6 (or 2 if DAS is enabled), and splitting 7s should only be done if the dealer has 2-7.
Finally, 9s are split only if the dealer has 2-6 or 8-9.
Having explained split basics in the introduction part, you also need to know when to use the option to split. You shouldn’t split all the time. The perfect time to split depends on the dealers up card.
- When you have ACES: ACES are rare in blackjack, but with so many pair of 10-value cards in the deck, it’s easier to get 21 when you have an ACE. Splitting ACES is one of the best cards you can play in blackjack. You should also re-split your ACES.
- When you have 8’s: having two 8’s would make a total of 16, however, it is more likely that the dealer can also have a 16 too. Standing on a pair of 8’s against a dealers 16 would be a push. So, it’s best you re-split your 8’s to give you a better chance of winning.
When to split against dealer’s up card
- When you have 2-2, 3-3, 7-7 against a dealer’s upcard 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
- When you have 6-6 against a dealer’s upcard 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
- When you have 9-9 against a dealer upcard 2, 3, 5, 5, 6, 8, 9
When to Double?
If the dealer hits 3-6, you should double a hard 9. Furthermore, doubling a hard 10 is always an option unless the dealer has a 10 or A. Doubling a hard 11 is also the way to go except if the dealer gets an ace.
If the dealer has 5-6, you should play the “double” option on a soft 13 or 14. Moreover, you should double soft 15 or 16 if the dealer’s cards are 4-6, and double soft 17 or 18 if the dealer has 3-6.
Hard 9 against a dealer’s low cards
In a case when you have a total hand of 9, double down when the dealer has a card between 2 and 6. Use the blackjack double down on any of the dealer’s card below seven except ACE. This rule only applies to when you have a hard 9, meaning you don’t have an ACE at hand. So, you can have a combination like 4-5, 3-6, or 2-7, but if you have an ACE-9 that’s a soft 9, and you shouldn’t use the. Blackjack double down on a soft-9.
Soft 16 to 18 against a dealer’s low card
In a case where you have an ACE and either a 5, 6 or 7 cards, then you have a soft hand that total between 16 to 18. If a dealer shows a low-card of 2 to 6, this would be an ideal time for you to double down on your wager. Generally, doubling on a soft hand like this gives you an upper hand to double your bet.
Hard 10 to 11 against a dealer’s low card
When you have a hard 10 or 11 card against any dealer’s low-card, you should double down. Meaning that when you have two cards that total 10 or 11 without an ACE, it’s a hard 10 or 11. It could be any of the combination 2-8, 2-9, 3-7, 3-8, 4-6, 4-7, 5-6, and so on. As long as the dealer has a lower cand than you, you should always double down.
When to Hit or Stand?
One of the main rules of these charts is always to hit hard 11 or less. However, you should stand if you have a hard 12 against 4-6 of the dealer. In any other case, you should hit. Moreover, if you have a hard 13-16, you should stand against the dealers 2-6 and hit otherwise.
If you have a hard 17 or more, you should always stand. On the other hand, always make sure to hit on soft 17 or less.
If you get a soft 18, you should opt to stand, except when the dealer has 9, 10 or A – in that case, you should go with a hit.
Finally, if you have soft 19 or more, you should always stand.
Side Bets – Yes or No?
It is fundamental to take into account that under no circumstances should you make any side bets if you plan to follow blackjack strategy charts. These bets only add to the house edge and can result in you losing more money, which is a thing you are explicitly avoiding by sticking to the charts.
All of the rules listed above should work well for the majority of variants. However, make sure to check out specific blackjack strategy charts for particular types of games as they can help you further improve your skills.