Blackjack strategy charts are single-page primers for how to play twenty-one. Blackjack experts use computer simulations to find the probabilities and payouts for every scenario in their game, then they produce charts to show what the perfect move in every one of these situations is. Advanced players are likely to memorize these charts, while beginners and intermediate players are going to need to study blackjack strategy charts to improve their game.

One should not overlook the important of these blackjack strategy guides, because blackjack is a game where skill matters. Casino games like slots, keno, roulette, and baccarat have no real strategy component–you either get lucky or not. In blackjack, the house edge is lower than those games, but this low house edge is dependent on your ability to exploit the low edge. Many of the gamblers don’t know what they’re doing–or mess up the finer points of blackjack–which ends up increases the casino’s profits. To avoid that, you’ll need to use blackjack strategy charts to memorize what you should do.

What Are Blackjack Strategy Charts?

Blackjack strategy charts are color-coded guides to how you should play each hand. In the typical chart, your hand is printed vertically down the left hand side of the page. Some charts might state “holding 12”, “holding 13”, and “holding 14”, while others might break up your hand by card. This second option is preferable in most situations, since the makeup of your hand can affect strategy decisions. In this case, you’ll see designations like (A,A) and (10,10), along with every other hand combination.

Along the top of the chart, you’ll see the dealer’s hand. If you’re holding an (A,7), it matters a lot whether the dealer is holding an ace, a two, or a ten. In fact, your next decision is directly affected by the strength the dealer’s upcard is showing. For this reason, your cards and the dealer’s upcard are cross-referenced, so a huge grid shows what you should do in every situation.

Because the basic strategy chart has to show whether you should stand, hit, double, or split, several colors must be shown to convey your suggested moves in a quick fashion. Because of space requirements, terms are abbreviated. “S” usually means “stand”, while “SP” tends to mean “split”. “H” means “hit” and “DB” means “double”. I suggest finding a basic strategy table which uses primary colors (red, yellow, blue), because the tips pop off the page in an instant.

Different Types of Blackjack Strategy Charts

Of utmost importance when you pick up a blackjack strategy chart is to get the right chart for the game you’re playing. An endless variety of chart types exist, depending on the rules of your game. You’ll find charts for when the dealer hits on a soft 17 and when the dealer stands on a soft 17. You’ll find specific charts for when doubling is restricted, when splitting has limitations, when the peek rules are liberal, and when surrender is allowed. Each new rule variation changes the correct basic strategy. If you don’t verify the type of strategy chart you’re using is tailored for your game, you’re throwing away money on a certain number of hands, because you’re using the wrong tactics.

For this reason, I suggest new blackjack players should play classic blackjack when they’re first learning the game. Don’t pick a game with exotic rules or hard-to-find strategy charts. Once you begin to master the game and you know a little more about finding the information you need, branch out into different versions of twenty-one.

Speaking of which, players need specific strategy guides when playing games like pontoon, double exposure, perfect pairs, progressive blackjack, and Spanish 21. These games have their own specific rules, requiring adjustments to your basic approach. Also, the number of decks being used in a game also affects strategy. For instance, classic blackjack has different strategy charts for single-deck, double-deck, 4-deck, 5-deck, and 6-deck versions of the game. That’s at least five different strategy charts on a game with the same rules, but different card stacks.

Below are a few examples of how to read a blackjack strategy chart. The scenarios are taken at random, but represent the four main play options: stand, hit, split pairs, or double down.

How to Read a Blackjack Strategy Chart

Your Hand Dealer’s Hand Basic Strategy: What Do You Do?
17-20 2 thru Ace Stand
14-16 7 thru Ace Hit
Ace & 7 5 or 6 Double Down
Ace & Ace 2 thru Ace Split Your Cards

Blackjack Strategy Chart Tips

Many casinos offer game guides inside their location. Players are encouraged to pick up one of these tutorials before they sit down at a gaming table. In the case of blackjack, these guides often detail the rules, but might not provide a full strategy chart. Even then, players aren’t barred from bringing in certain game aids when they sit down at the blackjack table.

If you want to peek at a blackjack basic strategy chart every now and then, this is going to elicit fewer concerns than if you bring in an electronic device to help you keep a count of some sort (count cards). While casinos expect many players are going to fall short of optimal play and thus (for all practical purposes) increase the house edge, they don’t hold it against players who use basic strategy the way they do players who (effectively) count cards. Basic strategy lowers the house edge; it doesn’t eliminate it.

In an online blackjack setting, keep a blackjack strategy chart nearby. These can be printed off from countless online card playing sites, so you should never be at a loss for the chart. Even top blackjack players are occasionally going to want to consult the strategy tables as a kind of refresher course.

Blackjack Study Charts

If you think that preparing for blackjack sounds a little bit like doing homework, then you’re right. People who are good at rote memorization do quite well at blackjack. Playing optimally at blackjack can have a certain robotic quality, though good players also understand that playing a game with a house edge of 0.48% or somewhere around there is a lot more fun, because you have almost as good of a chance to win money as lose it. For gamblers who like a challenge with an outcome they can affect (i.e. a fair fight), blackjack is the game for them. Mastering blackjack requires the devoted study of blackjack strategy charts.