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WIZARDíS SIMPLE BLACKJACK STRATEGY

by Michael "WIZARD OF ODDS" Shackleford

Michael Shackleford is the author of the book "Gambling 102," published by Huntington Press (Huntingtonpress.com), and he hosts the popular web site wizardofodds.com.

If there is one thing I have learned about blackjack players, it is that very few of them have the will to memorize the entire basic strategy. This not only applies to recreational players, but card counters as well! It seems that most players who want to go beyond flying by the seat of their pants get inspired by movies like "Rain Man" and "21," and jump straight to counting, right over the basic strategy. If you don't believe me, the next time you meet a self-described card counter, ask him how to play a pair of fours against a dealer 6. It is a trick question since it depends on whether the dealer can double after a split, and if that answer is no, then the number of decks as well impacts the strategy. Usually you don't get a follow-up question about the rules very often from these self-described card counters.

There can be no excuse for a card counter's not knowing the basic strategy. However, for recreational players, I can forgive them if they don't play blackjack on a regular basis. For them, I have created what I call my "Wizard's Simple Blackjack Strategy." The thrust of it is that rather than divide the table by 10 possible dealers up cards, it mostly only categorizes the dealersí card by low (2 to 6) or high (7 to A). I had to make exceptions for doubling 10 and 11 and surrendering on 16. That said, I think my strategy is very easy to memorize, and comes at a cost of only 0.14% above the house edge. Without further introduction, here it is (see chart below).

I realize that the Blackjack Insider Newsletter is not reaching the target audience for this simplified strategy, because you should all know proper basic strategy already. This is meant for recreational players. In terms of simplicity and power, I know of nothing better. For the benefit of teaching blackjack to friends and family, this will go a long way to making the job easier. Should the user of this strategy wish to gradually improve his game, the following table shows the basic strategy exceptions, in the order he should learn them, from most to least beneficial. The table is based on a six-deck game, where the dealer stands on soft 17 and double after split is allowed. Note that half of the error rate can be eliminated by memorizing the first four exceptions.

 

 

Player

Dealer

Probability

Wizard Strategy

Basic Strategy

Wizard EV

Basic EV

Cost

Hard 12

2

0.006281

S

H

-0.293394

-0.252960

0.000254

Soft 18

7

0.000881

H

S

0.171872

0.401861

0.000203

Hard 12

3

0.006396

S

H

-0.252112

-0.232448

0.000126

7,7

7

0.000404

H

P

-0.331784

-0.048567

0.000114

Hard 15

10

0.020205

H

R

-0.503453

-0.500000

0.000070

Soft 18

8

0.000919

H

S

0.041028

0.108057

0.000062

Soft 15

6

0.000919

H

D

0.118402

0.182917

0.000059

9,9

8

0.000440

S

P

0.099261

0.229929

0.000058

Hard 16

A

0.00318

H

R

-0.51537

-0.500000

0.000049

Soft 16

2

0.000919

D

H

-0.073426

-0.022828

0.000047

3,3

7

0.000440

H

P

-0.153797

-0.051101

0.000045

2,2

7

0.000440

H

P

-0.088828

0.008597

0.000043

Soft 14

6

0.000919

H

D

0.140226

0.186374

0.000042

9,9

9

0.000404

S

P

-0.185235

-0.081564

0.000042

Soft 15

5

0.000919

H

D

0.094352

0.133708

0.000036

Soft 13

6

0.000919

H

D

0.162671

0.187925

0.000023

Hard 16

9

0.004557

H

R

-0.504633

-0.500000

0.000021

Soft 14

5

0.000919

H

D

0.115726

0.138428

0.000021

Hard 9

2

0.002719

D

H

0.070004

0.077180

0.00002

4,4

6

0.000440

H

P

0.124399

0.168189

0.000019

4,4

5

0.000440

H

P

0.083624

0.111900

0.000012

Soft 17

2

0.000919

D

H

-0.003955

0.000693

0.000004

Soft 18

2

0.000919

D

S

0.12098

0.124001

0.000003

Soft 15

4

0.000881

H

D

0.059395

0.062389

0.000003

Soft 13

5

0.000919

H

D

0.137333

0.139852

0.000002

Total

 

0.057301

       

0.001377

 

What I hope to accomplish with this is to give recreational blackjack players of the world an easy stepping stone to improve their game -- and help them lose less money.

 

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