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Hitting and Standing Strategy

We’ll divide this strategy into hard and soft totals. Remember, a hard hand is any one that doesn’t contain an ace, or where an ace is counted as a 1 and not an 11.

For or considerations, all hard hands will begin with a total of 12. Hands below that total can be hit without worrying about busting.

Whether to hit or stand on any hand depends on two factors: the player’s total and the dealer’s upcard.

The following table will show the correct hitting and standing basic strategy:

Chart 1
Hitting and Standing - Hard Totals
 
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
A
11 or less
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
12
H
H
S
S
S
H
H
H
H
H
13
S
S
S
S
S
H
H
H
H
H
14
S
S
S
S
S
H
H
H
H
H
15
S
S
S
S
S
H
H
H
H
H
16
S
S
S
S
S
H
H
H
H
H
17-21
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
H = Hit   S = Stand

Whenever the dealer shows a 7 or higher upcard (8, 9, 10 or Ace), we assume that he already has a total of 17 and must stand with that total. Of course, that’s not always the case, but it happens frequently enough for us to try and improve our total if it’s below 17.

That’s why we hit all hands from 12 through 16 when the dealer shows a 7, 8, 9, 10 or Ace.

When the dealer shows a bust or stiff card, a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6, we stand on all totals, except a hard 12 against a dealer’s 2 or 3.

The reason we hit a 12 against a dealer’s 2 or 3 upcard is that there are relatively fewer cards to bust our (and the dealer’s) hand in that situation. Other than a 12 against the 2 or 3, we stand on all other totals when the dealer shows a stiff card. Our strategy in this regard is to force the dealer to hit his stiff hand and bust it, while we still have a valid hand.

It may be hard to memorize the table, but if you play out and practice some hands at home looking at the hitting and standing table, it will become easier to understand. And if you see the reasoning behind it, it’s easier still.

Of course, we never hit a hard 17 or higher total, no matter what the dealer shows. The odds are very strong that we’ll bust, and if our total is 19 or higher we’re favored to win by standing.

What we don’t want to do hit stiff totals from 12 to 16 when the dealer shows a 4, 5 or 6. These are the worst cards the dealer can have (and the best for us to see as upcards) because he’s most likely to bust his hand with those upcards.
And it would be foolish of us to bust first, when the dealer has such a good chance of busting and losing.

Hitting and Standing with Soft Totals

A soft total is any hand that contains and ace, which is counted as 11 points. Thus, an Ace-6 is a soft 17. There will be two tables here – the first is to be used in all jurisdictions other than Northern Nevada, for only hard 10s and 11s can be doubled down there.

* The following charts and discussions present the best play for single and multiple deck blackjack games. In single deck games, play strategy as shown in chart. In multiple deck games, an asterisk (*) in the strategy chart indicates you should hit – do not double or split as in single deck lay.

Chart 2
Hitting, Standing or Doubling Down with Soft Totals
 
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
A
A2-A3
H
H
D*
D
D
H
H
H
H
H
A4-A5
H
H
D
D
D
H
H
H
H
H
A6
D*
D
D
D
D
H
H
H
H
H
A7
S
D
D
D
D
S
S
H
H
H
A8
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
A9
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
H = Hit   S = Stand  D = Double


All soft totals of 17 or below should be ht or doubled down. When the dealer shows a 4, 5 or 6, these soft totals will be doubled down. (Note that in a multiple deck game, A2 and A3 will be hit against the dealers 4).

The Ace-6, the soft 17, will never be stood upon. It will either be hit, or doubled down. When you see a player standing with a soft 17, you’ll know he’s very weak and a loser.

The soft 19 and 20 are very strong and you should be content on standing with these totals. But the soft 18 is a tricky one. It is hit against the dealer’s 9 and 10 upcard, and doubled down when the dealer holds the 3 through the 6. Practice these hands, and it will come naturally to you after a while.

The next table is for use in Northern Nevada or any other jurisdiction where soft doubling down is not permitted.

Chart 3
Hitting and Standing with Soft Totals
 
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
A
A2-A6
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
H
A7
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
H
H
S
A8-A9
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
H = Hit   S = Stand


As we see from the above table, we always hit the soft 17, and hit the soft 18 against the dealer’s 9 or 10. These are important rules to remember, as well as standing on soft 19 and 20.

Doubling Down Strategies

The next table shows down strategies, which correctly followed, give the player a tremendous edge over the casino. This chart covers only hard doubling down totals, since the soft ones have already been covered in the previous section.

In Northern Nevada, where only a hard 10 or 11 can be doubled down, use the lines showing the 10 and 11.

Chart 4
Doubling Down with Hard Totals
 
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
A
8(5-3, 4-4)
D*
D*
9
D*
D
D
D
D
10
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
11
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D*
D = Double Down  S = Do Not Double Down


From this table we see that we never double down with a hard 8. Be sure to double down when you hold an 11. Many player’s are afraid to double down against the dealer’s 10, but if you get a 10-value card on the 11, you have 21 and can’t lose.

If a player in Atlantic City, or in a casino where the dealer doesn’t look at his hole card until all the players have acted upon their hands, the same double down rules apply. If the dealer finds he has a blackjack, the extra double down wager will be returned. The same holds true when splitting pairs. Only the original bet is lost.

Splitting Pairs

As we know, a player has the option of splitting any paired cards from his original hand, such as 3-3, 8-8, and so forth. And all 10-value cards are considered pairs, such as jack-king or 10-queen. The following chart shows correct splitting strategies. Split only those pairs shown on the chart.

Chart 5
Splitting Pairs
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
A
22
Spl.*
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
33
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
66
Spl.*
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
77
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
88
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
99
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
AA
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.
Spl.

Spl. = Split  Blank = Do Not Split

Do not split 44, 55, 10s
Always split 88, AA

Be sure to split 8s and Aces. A pair of 8s add up to 16, the worst stiff total a player can have, while 8s separately will form the base for a much stronger hand.

And aces should be split, because each ace adds up to 11, and a 10-value card drawn to that 11 is a powerful 21.

On the other hand, never split 4s and 5s. Two 4s add up to 8, while an individual 4 can end up as a stiff hand and a bad one at that. The 5s together add up to 10, and in most situations will be a doubled down hand. An individual 5 will usually lead to a stiff or a busted hand.

Don’t split 10s. These add up to 20, usually a winning hand. Splitting 10s is a bad move, and only the weakest players make it.

Some players will split any pair, no matter what the dealer’s upcard, thinking this is correct. But it isn’t, and will end up costing the player money. Stick to our pair splits and you’ll come out a winner. They all make sense.

For example: we don’t split 7s against an 8 because if the player gets two 10 cards, one on each 7, he’ll still have only 17 and the dealer might already have an 18. And we don’t split 9s against a dealer’s 7 because two 9s add up to 18, and the dealer might only have a 17. And we split 9s against the 8 because the 18 might only be a push, whereas a 10-value card on a 9 makes it a winner.

Resplitting Pairs

If an original pair should be split, then subsequent cards of the same rank should also be split. For example: suppose the dealer shows a 6 as his upcard, and you have a pair of 8s. You split the 8s, and get a 5 on the first 8 for a 13. Now you must stand on that hand because the Hitting and Standing Strategies call for no further cards to be drawn.

On the second 8, you’re dealt another 8. This should be split and another bet put out. The rule is: resplit pairs where the first split is correct. Not all casinos allow resplitting. For example, aces generally are not allowed to be resplit. All other pairs can be resplit in practically all casinos exempt in Atlantic City.

Insurance

Whenever the dealer shows an ace as his upcard, he’ll ask if any player wants insurance. As explained before, the insurance bet is a bet that the dealer has a 10-value card in the hole and thus has a blackjack.

In most cases, it’s a bad bet. Don’t take insurance unless you’re familiar with an advanced card counting system.

Surrender

This is allowed in some casinos, where a player may forfeit half his bet and decide not to play his or her original hand against the dealer.

When you have a chance to surrender, stick to the following rules: surrender 15s and 16s against the dealers 10, and a 16 against the dealer’s ace. (Do not surrender 8-8 –split it.)
In a multiple deck game, but not a single deck one, also surrender 16 (but not 8-8) against the dealers 9. Otherwise don’t surrender.

Doubling After Splitting Allowed

Some casinos permit the player to double down after splitting. Thus, if two 8s were split, and a 3 was drawn to the first 8, this hand could be doubled by the player. Thus, we’ll split more aggressively when this rule is in effect. When this option is allowed, play your pairs as follows:

Players Hand
Dealer's Upcard
22, 33, 77
split vs.
2-7
44
split vs.
5-6
66
split vs.
2-6

 

Strategy Card for Single Deck Blackjack

 

Dealers Up Card  

Y

o

u

r

 

H

a

n

d

 

  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
7 or less H H H H H H H H H H
8 H H H D D H H H H H
9 D D D D D H H H H H
10 D D D D D D D D H H
11 D D D D D D D D D D
12 H H S S S H H H H H
13,14, 15 S S S S S H H H H H
16 S S S S S H H H H/SU H/SU
17+ S S S S S S S S S S
A9 S S S S S S S S S S
A8 S S S S D S S S S S
A7 S D D D D S S H H S
A6 D D D D D H H H H H
A5, A4 H H D D D H H H H H
A3, A2 H H D D D H H H H H
A-A SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP
10-10 S S S S S S S S S S
9-9 SP SP SP SP SP S SP SP S S
8-8 SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP
7-7 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H S/SU H
6-6 SP SP SP SP SP H H H H H
5-5 D D D D D D D D H H
4-4 H H H D D H H H H H
3-3 H H SP SP SP SP H H H H
2-2 H SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
    <  <  <  Dealers Up Card  >  >  >

  H = Hit       S = Stand       D = Double Down       SP = SPlit

 H/SU = SUrrender if able to, otherwise Hit

 S/SU = SUrrender if able to, otherwise Stand

Strategy Card for Multi Deck Blackjack

 

Dealers Up Card

Y

o

u

r

 

H

a

n

d

 

  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
8 or less H H H H H H H H H H
9 H D D D D H H H H H
10 D D D D D D D D H H
11 D D D D D D D D D H
12 H H S S S H H H H H
13 S S S S S H H H H H
14 S S S S S H H H H H
15 S S S S S H H H H/SU H
16 S S S S S H H H/SU H/SU H/SU
17+ S S S S S S S S S S
A8-10 S S S S S S S S S S
A7 S D D D D S S H H H
A6 H D D D D H H H H H
A5 H H D D D H H H H H
A4 H H D D D H H H H H
A3 H H H D D H H H H H
A2 H H H D D H H H H H
A-A,8-8 SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP SP
10-10 S S S S S S S S S S
9-9 SP SP SP SP SP S SP SP S S
7-7 SP SP SP SP SP SP H H H H
6-6 H SP SP SP SP H H H H H
5-5 D D D D D D D D H H
4-4 H H H H H H H H H H
3-3,2-2 H H SP SP SP SP H H H H
  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
<  <  <  Dealers Up Card  >  >  >

  H = Hit       S = Stand       D = Double Down       SP = SPlit

 H/SU = SUrrender if able to, otherwise Hit

Multiple Deck Variations

The strategies for single and multiple deck blackjack differ only slightly, but we’ve presented them here so you can play winning blackjack in all situations.

Except for the following changes, single and multiple deck play is identical. In a multiple deck game:

Hit the following hands - do not double:
Player's Action
Dealer's Upcard
Hit 8
vs.
5 or 6
Hit 9
vs.
2
Hit 11
vs.
Ace
Hit A2 and A3
vs.
4
Hit A6
vs.
2

Hit the following hands - do not split:
Player's Action
Dealer's Upcard
Hit 22
vs.
3
Hit 66
vs.
2

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