Blackjack has, over time, been considered to be a purely mathematical card game. This idea has led to several strategies that players can use to maximize their chances of winning. And these strategies are printed over a chart that is called the blackjack strategy chart and it is a 101 for playing blackjack. The chart helps players to reduce the house edge and hence, it is important to know how to read a blackjack chart.
How Should You Read a Blackjack Strategy Chart?
Blackjack charts, or blackjack decision matrix, are essentially tables with multiple rows and columns. The chart indicates the best-possible decisions and moves that a player can make in a given situation after he is dealt the first two cards and the dealer's up-card is revealed.
It lists down the five main options players can choose from each time and these are hit, double down, split, surrender and stand.
In the basic blackjack strategy chart, there are two broader rows, indicating the player's hand on the left and the dealer's upcard on the right. When you read a blackjack chart, you find the player's hand as rows and the dealer's up cards as columns (these can be inverted in some matrices).
On a basic blackjack strategy chart, there is one heading row, the left side is for the player's hand and the right side is for the dealer's up card. Below it, there are about 26 sub rows with the subsequent digits (in case of the player's hand) and the actions (with respect to the dealer's up-card number) written on them.
There is one column under the player's hand section depicting all the numbers and the probable combinations. On the right side, under the dealer's up card section, there are 10 columns. The topmost one has digits 2 to 10 and ace and the below ones have the actions marked in their respective colors.
The actions in a blackjack strategy chart are:
- H - Hit
- S - Stand
- Dh - Double if possible, otherwise, hit
- Ds - Double if possible, otherwise stand
- P - Split the pair
- Ph - Split if allowed to split after double, otherwise hit
Apart from these, there are a couple of additional actions listed in some charts. These are only applicable in variants where the dealer is allowed to hit on soft 17. These optional actions are:
- Rs - surrender if possible, otherwise hit
- Rp - surrender if possible, otherwise split
The color-coding makes it easy for the players to read blackjack strategy charts. Generally, the background color of:
- Hit is green,
- Stand is red,
- Double Down is blue,
- Pair Split is yellow, and
- Surrender is orange.
Blackjack strategy charts can differ slightly with the primary actions and key information remaining the same. For instance, in some charts, a "+" denotes hit, "-"denotes stand, the split is marked by a "/" and Dh and Ds are represented by "2x" in some different color.
Why Are Blackjack Charts So Complicated?
Blackjack strategy charts seem to be complicated mainly because they hold a lot of information in a strictly mathematical way. While the charts do lay down the basic strategy, in a nutshell, it is difficult for any player to decipher all the information and implement the strategy into the ongoing game at the same time.
It takes years of practice for pro gamblers to master reading blackjack matrices and make them work in their favor at a casino or in online blackjack.
Are Blackjack Basic Strategy Charts Allowed In Casinos?
Yes, casinos do allow players to use the blackjack strategy cards. Players can carry them and set it on the table while they are playing so that they can memorize the charts better.
There are two main reasons why carrying a blackjack card is not a big deal for the casinos. First, the charts suggest an optimal strategy and this does not make much difference to the house edge and second, most players will find it difficult to keep following the basic strategy as depicted in the charts and simultaneously take the right decision at the right time.
Blackjack strategy charts are helpful, providing players with actionable insights. However, the charts and the strategies are hard to master and need to be practiced extensively to actually be able to minimize the house edge.
This article was published on December 5, 2020, and last updated on October 26, 2022.