What Underpins a Winning Strategy

If you ever wondered just how card counters make money like with the movie “21” for example with Kevin Spacey then the strategy that underpins card counting is called “basic strategy”. As an ex-full time blackjack player then I can tell you now that card counting without basic strategy is very unlikely to work. This is because your playing decisions would be all over the place. So what exactly is basic strategy and how does it work?

Well firstly it is nothing more than the comprehensive computerised results from millions upon millions of blackjack hands. These massive simulations are very accurate as substituting playing cards for numbers reveals the same result. So it then becomes very easy to find how a certain two card total fares against the dealer face card. Tests prove that if you have 14 against a dealer 7 that you must take a card. It is a bad situation either way as all eights, nines and ten value cards bust you and that represents no fewer than 28 cards out of every 52 card deck.

Even if you pull a deuce or a three then this still leaves you in a position where you need to pull again to maximise your return. Actually the word “maximise” is wrong when looking at basic strategy because many of the actions are defensive in nature and involve hitting and splitting in order to lose less money. This is a difficult concept for many to understand but can be seen with the hand 8-8 vs a dealer 10. If left as 16 then the hand has less profit potential than if they were split and the hand became two separate eights.

The combined EV of the two separate hands is better even though you have placed more money on the table. It is very difficult to see the long term effect of this without computer simulation but this is why basic strategy exists. The best strategies while not getting you an edge will reduce the house edge depending on rules from anywhere from -0.5% to 0%.

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