I have covered blackjack basic strategy in a number of ways. I have written series on what to do with each soft hand, what to do with each pair, when to surrender and more. Now I am starting a new series for teaching basic strategy. I am doing this because I am bored and need something to write about.
Just kidding. Different people learn different ways and since blackjack basic strategy is so important to learn, I want to cover it from every angle. In this series, of which this is the first part, I will cover strategy from the point of view of the dealer’s up card. Based on what card the dealer shows when you are dealt your first cards, I will analyze what to do. Since we will go in order, the first in the series is a dealer 2.
If the dealer shows a 2, basic strategy takes into account the high probability of the dealer having a 12 (since there are more ten-value cards than any other value). Though a 12 is a stiff hand, it is the best of stiff hands (for the person with that hand). If the dealer has a 12, he has a 31% of busting on the next card upon taking a hit. In fact, statistics show that over 35% of the time, the dealer will bust when he has a 2 as the up card, even taking into account the times when the hole card is not a ten. All of that plays into your decision.
If the dealer shows a 2, you should stand if you have a 13-16. Obviously, you always stand with a hard 17-20. You stand with a hard 12-16 because you have a good chance (39%-62%) of busting if you take a hit, so it is best to stand pat and hope the dealer busts.
If you have a 10 or 11, you should double down because of the good chance of drawing a 10 with your next card, which would give you a 20 or 21. Even if you get a lesser card, though, you are likely to have a hand that beats the dealer’s 2.
If you have an 8 or 9, you hit because you have low cards and no chance of busting. If you have a 12, that is a stiff hand, but one with only a 31% chance of busting. It is better to try to improve your hand here, since only a 10 card will bust you.
If you have a soft 13-17, you should take a hit because you can’t bust. If you draw something that would cause you to bust, that simply makes your ace a 1 and gives you a hard hand. With a soft 18 or better, though, you already have a good enough hand that you are more likely to make it worse than better by taking a hit. For that reason, you would stand with a soft 18 or better.
When it comes to pairs, if the dealer shows a 2 you should always split a pair of sevens, eights, nines and aces. Each of those are solids hands to start with. If you have a pair of twos, threes or sixes, you only split if you are allowed to double afterwards. If not, you should take a hit. You should also hit a pair of fours, since one hand of 8 is better than a pair of potential stiff hands with fours. If you have a pair of fives, you should double down, since your next card has a good chance of giving you a 20. If you have a pair of tens, you already have a hand of 20, so you should always stand.