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As the world’s most popular card game, blackjack enjoys an iconic status amongst casino goers worldwide. Much of this is to do with the simplicity of the game which, unlike its close rival poker, has few rules and is very approachable for newcomers. Blackjack is also well-liked by both casual players and more seasoned veterans alike because it is more winnable than other casino games, with a house edge of as little as 0.8% compared to a high of 25% on others.
Much like all card and casino games out there, blackjack is ultimately a game of chance and you have no control over what cards you will get dealt. With that said, you can choose certain strategies which act as ways of reducing the house and dealer edge over players. As such, even the most skilful or well-thought-out strategy may only work to increase your odds very slightly. With that in mind, it is always good to have realistic expectations about what level of success or otherwise you expect from any given strategy.
Basic strategy was originally developed by famed mathematician Edward Thorp who first developed and pioneered the concept of basic strategy in his now famous book, “Beat the Dealer”. This text was a revolution for the game of blackjack, and Thorp was able to prove that the house edge could be overcome by mathematically based card counting. This meant players could overcome what many considered to be an insurmountable competitive edge in favour of the house by keeping track of the cards in-play. Players would compare their hand to the dealer’s face-up card, which would provide them with an indication of when to take a hit, stand, double or split. Thorp’s method did not provide players with a sure-fire strategy to win a hand, rather, it gave players the tools to tell at any point in the game when the odds were in their favour. Players can use this information in their betting strategies to minimise losses and maximise potential gains, and can be condensed into a table that is easy to use once you understand the principles behind it and the mechanics of the strategy itself.
The main benefit of Thorp’s basic strategy is that it turns what appears to be a game of pure chance into, essentially, a mathematical exercise with the strategy telling you the most optimal way to play any hand that you are dealt. This allows you to formulate a numbers-based strategy in circumstances where the only information you have to go off is the value of the dealer’s face-up card and the value of your own hand. If applied correctly, over time the basic strategy will allow you to maximize your odds of winning and minimize your potential losses.
When implementing basic strategy in a blackjack game, players should ask themselves certain questions in the following sequence:
Should I surrender? If your game type allows you to surrender, players have the option to surrender upon being dealt the first two cards, but before they take a hit. If you can’t surrender, ask yourself the next question;
Should I split? This is only an option if the cards you’ve been dealt are a pair or two cards worth ten. If you can’t split, you should ask yourself;
Should I double? If your basic strategy calls for you to double this a good thing and odds wise it indicates a chance of likely success. If you can double based on this, you should; if you can’t double, consider the following;
Should I hit or stand? The last consideration for a player as it relates to basic strategy is whether to take another card from the dealer (i.e. ‘take a hit’). If none of the above options are available, you should take a hit or choose to stand at the total.
The basic strategy pioneered by Edward Thorp has proven to be an enduring favourite amongst blackjack players worldwide and has changed the perception of the game as being one of pure chance to one of skill. Players looking to take their game to the next level are encouraged to try out the above and take their game to the next level. To do so, why not try out the basic strategy in one of Bitcasino’s many online blackjack games today!
Words: Sean McNulty
Images: Shutterstock and Bitcasino