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By Kenneth Smith

Ken Smith is considered by his peers to be one of the best tournament blackjack players. He is the author of the new e-book. How to Win More Blackjack Tournaments: Tips, Tricks, and Strategies to Supercharge Your Game. Ken hosts the popular website as well as the online tournament community at  He has appeared on TV in all four seasons of GSN's World Series of Blackjack, the Las Vegas Hilton Million Dollar Championship II finals, and in the Ultimate Blackjack Tour. You can subscribe to his free email newsletter at

Everyone knows that learning basic strategy is the first and most important part of learning to play winning casino blackjack. But what you may not understand is what a strange concept basic strategy really is. There's more to it than you may think. What most people think of as basic strategy is a table using your total hand and the dealer's upcard to show you how to play each specific hand in blackjack.

Today, we'll be specifically looking at the decision of hard 12 against a dealer 4. A look at a typical blackjack basic strategy chart will tell you to stand with this hand. For our example, let's assume you are playing a single deck game where the dealer stands on all 17s. You have bet $100 off the top of a fresh shuffle, and you are dealt a 12 against a dealer 4. This would seem to be the perfect situation for basic strategy. After all, we're playing this hand from a freshly shuffled single deck which is exactly how basic strategy is calculated. Therefore you might be shocked to know that more often than not, basic strategy will have you playing this hand incorrectly! How can basic strategy be so wrong? Well, read on to see...

Most basic strategy charts show a "total dependent" optimal strategy. For each player hand total, the chart will provide the appropriate strategy to use against each dealer upcard. When we refer to our basic strategy chart and look up a player hand of 12 and a dealer upcard of 4, the chart will advise that we stand in this case. However, our basic strategy charts makes no mention of what cards make up our hand total. In our example of a hand of twelve, there are several two-card hands that you could be holding. We'll exclude the hand of (6,6) since you should split this pair against a dealer 4. Having ruled out that one possibility, we are still left with four possible hands that make up our twelve. These are (T,2), (9,3), (8,4), and (7,5).

In single deck, not all of these hands of twelve are created equal...

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