# Blackjack - basic strategy question

I’m going to Vegas in a couple weeks, and I’m trying to memorize the basic strategy for Blackjack. I bought a book on the subject, but part of it seems to be contradictory. It reads:

Player’s hand, 8: Hit against everything
Player’s hand, 9: Double against 3 thru 6, Hit against all else
Player’s hand, 10: Double against 2 thru 9, Hit against 10, A

BUT, then the author says, “How many cards compose a given hand is essentially irrelevant except for splitting or doubling down purposes. For example, if you have a nine composed of two cards (e.g. 4, 5), you would double down against any dealer up card of three through six. If you had a nine composed of three cards (e.g. 4, 2, 3), you would hit until you had twelve or more. Thus, if the dealer is showing a six and you have three cards that total nine, you would hit… any hand which is eleven or under, no matter how many cards compose it, hit until you reach twelve or more and then follow basic strategy for that hand.”

So, what’s the deal? How can I reconcile the basic strategy chart with this additional, seemingly contradictory information?

The exact optimum strategy will depend upon the rules of the casino in which you play. These tend to be standardized in one city (e.g. Las Vegas) and no doubt someone with knowledge will soon post.

But the best general advice is “Play only for amusement.” No matter what you do, the odds will be in favor of the house.

In some places they only let you double down on the first draw (ie, your third card)

If if took you 3 cards to get to nine, you may not be allowed to double down at that point so you might as well take additional cards until you get to 12 (nothing to loose) .

At that point, follow your basic strategy to hit again (if dealer is showing A, 10, 9, 8, 7) or stay (if dealer is showing 6 or less)

I forgot to mention, this is the basic strategy for multiple deck games. Assume doubling is allowed after splitting, etc.

Obviously, I don’t expect to strike it rich. It would be nice to minimize the casino’s advantage, however. Knowing basic strategy can reduce the edge to around 0.25%-0.5%.

I heard that you can find a favorable table (min and max bets) that allows you to play an exact BJ strategy, never varying from it, that will give you a slight advantage over the house. I think BJ is the only game where that is the case?

There are a very few single-deck games with great rules that give the player a very slight advantage.

Vortex: The answer is because you can’t double down after you have three cards.

Basic strategy in blackjack is really not subject to debate. It’s been known since the 1960’s, and computer simulations have proven the correct strategy.

Here’s a little twist for you - you should always hit a 2-card 16 against a dealer’s ten, but you should stand on a 3-card 16. Why? Because the decision to hit on 16 against a ten is very, very close. The difference in expectation between hitting and standing in this case is only 3%. But if you have a 3-card 16, that means you have seen one extra low card, which reduces the probility of the dealer busting and increases the probability of your busting if you hit. So that one extra low card makes the difference between hitting and standing. In essence, it’s a basic card-counting strategy.

Most other decisions are not that close, and so the presence of the extra card in your hand won’t change the correct play.

It’s called counting – has often been mentioned on SDMB. The consensus is that it’s impractical – you have to bet very low until the count shows that things are in your favor, then bet big. This pattern is well known to casios, and while it’s legal to count it’s also legal for them to be rather nasty to you when they feel you are doing so.

The bottom line is that they like having an advantage and are loath to give you a share of it, even briefly.

I don’t think the consensus is that it’s impractical. The reality is that it’s very easy to make small amounts of money (say, \$10/hr) counting, and the casinos will typically let you do it.

Trying to make serious money, though, is very difficult, because the casinos focus their anti-counter activity on players who bet more than 30-50 a hand.