Using basic Blackjack strategies does not mean that you will win every hand, not even most of them. It simply means that the play you make will give you the best odds on average, compared to any other play you could make. Let’s say you have 17 and the dealer shows a 6. Do you ask for a letter or do you stand? If you’ve played BJ, you know first that you should stand and that’s what basic strategy says to do. But oops! the dealer turns a 10 and asks for a 4, to get 20. If if you had asked for a card you would have had 21. Does that mean that standing was a bad move and that the card should have been asked?
No, it was correct to stand, even if he lost. This is because you cannot know exactly what cards were going to come out. We know that most of the time it is better to stand on 17 against a 6 than to hit a card, and that’s the way to play. You can’t play on hunches, because if you do you will lose more often.
In roulette there are 18 red spots and 18 black spots, but let’s say the casino offers a variation where there are 18 red spots and only 17 black spots, and the payouts don’t change. Which one should you play? Should I bet on black sometimes even though it is less likely to hit, because we know we won’t always get red? No, we should always bet on red. If red is more likely, it will be more likely each time, even if we don’t always win on a particular turn.
The basic strategy for blackjack works the same way. You make the correct mathematical choice on each hand. When you do, you don’t get the best odds on a particular hand, but you do get the best long-term odds.
Origins and Popularity
In 1962 Dr. Edward Thorp was using computers to determine the best way to play blackjack. He reported his findings in his book “Beat the Dealer,” in which the basic strategy table made its debut. Since then, the table has been extensively reprinted, and has been updated by other mathematicians for various conditions and rules. For example, the basic strategies for a single-deck game are different from the strategies for a six-deck game, although they are very similar. Basic strategy tables abound on the Internet and in numerous blackjack books, and in fact the gift shop of most real casinos sells a small card with basic strategies for only $ 1.50.
You would think that since the basic strategy provides the best odds and since it is publicly available, most players and dealers would be familiar with it. But that’s where you could go wrong. Of the few players I have seen who use the correct basic strategies, many of them also count cards. In other words, they really knew what they were doing.
Blackjack dealers are not much better. I will not withhold the tip just because the dealer does not know the basic strategy, but if they reprimand me due to their own ignorance, then I do not tip. Recently a dealer from a Las Vegas club scolded me for making the right play, hitting an Ace and a 7 against a 10 from the dealer. He referred to his own cards and announced “He had a 10” with a frown and a shake of his head. I wonder how many times he gave his advice scolding his clients. The irony is, of course, that he was the one who was wrong. I made the appropriate play.
Around the same time, at the Main Street station, a delivery woman said something that suggested to me that she did not know the proper way to play, so I asked: “Are you familiar with the basic strategies?” to which she replied: “You have to be more specific, that could mean anything.” In fact not. Basic strategy is the specific term that serious blackjack players have used for the Thorp table and its variants for over 40 years.
While it is discouraging that most players don’t use proper strategy, which is so easy to achieve, and that the dealers have no idea either, there is an easy path for you: just by learning basic strategy, you can become better. Blackjack player than most of the world’s bettors. And you’re improving your odds, too, and you’ll have more money in your pocket.