10 Shortcuts for Learning Blackjack Basic Strategy

Do you want to give yourself the best possible chance of winning at blackjack?

Then you need to use blackjack basic strategy each time you enter the casino. This method covers all possible hand totals for the player, as well as any up card shown by the dealer. By matching the two numbers to a chart that's been created through thousands of hours of computer simulation, you can make the move that loses the least money to the house (or wins the most money for the player) in the long term.

You'll still lose on occasion with blackjack basic strategy.

But your rate of success will be better than you could ever do on your own.

In fact, most casinos assume players are using basic strategy when they post their house edge for blackjack games, which is why the numbers are anywhere from 1% to an outstanding 0.5%.

The biggest drawback to the strategy is that it requires a lot of memorization to learn. Most blackjack basic strategy charts are prepared in grid form, and they often use abbreviations that can play havoc with the brains of some would-be memorizers.

Here are 10 shortcuts for learning blackjack basic strategy. It still comes down to whether or not you're willing to memorize the proper moves.

But following this advice should make the entire process less painful:

Memorize the Text Version

One of the hardest things about learning basic blackjack strategy is that the chart is filled with abbreviations. If that makes things problematic, then you should try learning the text-based version of the strategy.

I've included one for your convenience. This strategy assumes that 4 to 8 decks are being used, surrender is allowed, and the dealer stands on a soft 17.

Begin at the top of the list and follow the first rule that applies to your situation:



Double Down

Hit or Stand

Bring Your Chart

If you don't care what other people think, you always have the option of skipping the memorization process and just bringing your strategy chart with you. As long as you don't hold up play, casinos won't have a problem with it.


Whether you're learning blackjack basic strategy or a foreign language, flashcards can be a major help in the memorization process. Carry them with you at all times, and pull them out for study whenever you have a spare moment.

Combine into Groups

There are 270 possibilities on the basic strategy chart.

You can reduce these to 26 by combining them into groups.

Here's an example:

Instead of memorizing that you should double on an 11 against a 2, 3, 4, 5, etc., you only need to know that you should double 11 against anything besides an ace.

Use a Basic Strategy Trainer

These free computer programs can be found at multiple sites across the Internet. They present you with various blackjack hands and challenge you to determine the best course of action. They even tell you if your move was right or wrong.

Learn the Hard Hands

The hard hands come up most often, as they have no aces (or aces that can't be changed in value).

Want to save time?

Just learn the basic strategy for hard hands first.

Learn One Chart instead of Two

Some players attempt to learn the basic strategies for all permutations of blackjack.

But you can save time by sticking with a single version.

If you use a chart based on what the dealer does on a soft 17, for example, this can often be substituted for a chart that deals with a hard 17 situation. Just compare the charts and make certain they are relatively close in their basic approach.

Surrender, Split, Double, Hit

For each hand, repeat this four-line rhyme in your head. Always repeat it in the same order and follow the first rule that's applicable. You'll still need to know the essence of basic strategy, but this memory device can make a big difference in a pinch.

Follow the Lucky 13

Gambling guru Frank Scoblete came up with this abbreviated system that's meant to act as a substitute for those who haven't got around to leaning basic strategy. It might not be quite as successful in the long run, but it's a lot faster to learn.

Learn Simple Strategy from the Wizard of Odds

If all else fails, there's always the option of turning to the simple blackjack strategy created by renowned online gambling icon, The Wizard of Odds. He came up with this system after realizing that most players are never going to take the time to learn basic strategy. While he'll be the first to admit that it's flawed, the imperfections should only cost you about one hand for every 12 hours of play.

Here's the strategy in its entirety:

In addition, you should always adhere to the following:


Learning blackjack basic strategy is a pain in the rear end.

But it pays off when you start to play. Any time you can reduce the house edge to as low as 0.5%, you'd be a fool to pass on the opportunity.

Trying to follow all of the shortcuts listed above would be overkill, so I scan the list and find a few that seem most promising to you. Everyone processes and learns information differently.

Once you've started to get the hang of basic strategy, you should notice a tangible improvement in your win/loss ratio. That should provide a great amount of inspiration to keep improving, especially when your bankroll starts to outgrow the size of your wallet.