“The Book” is a nickname given to the blackjack strategy guide which was first created in 1966 by Edward Thorp. Edward Thorp was a professor of mathematics and because he had an interest in blackjack, during his free time, he devised a basic strategy based on the mathematics of the game. So how did Thorp create this basic blackjack strategy guide?
Well, the first tool he used was an IBM 704 computer; which was really less of a computer and more of a calculator. The programming language Thorp ran was called “Fortran” and the mathematical equation he based his calculations off of was the Kelly criterion. In 1966, after a countless number of computer simulated hands, Thorp had finally tested and refined his strategy well enough to write his book “Beat the Dealer”.
But the blackjack strategy guide wasn’t created by Edward Thorp alone, although the foundation of “the book” was based largely on his work. Julian Braun was an IBM computer programmer whom, after reading Edward Thorp’s book (picture of “Beat the Dealer”), contacted him and asked for a copy of his original computer program. Braun took Thorp’s computer program and then by using his programming skills that he had acquired while working at IBM, he improved on Thorp’s strategy. Braun’s updated strategies were published in Thorp’s revised edition of his book. Then Braun published his own book in 1980 called “”How to Play Winning Blackjack” which focuses on the nitty-gritty of counting cards, mathematics, logic, and blackjack strategy. That last revision of the blackjack strategy guide was given the nickname “the Book” and it is what people have been referring to for many years.
When using the blackjack strategy guide, it’s important to remember that the finite nature of mathematical science dictates that a particular playing decision, based on the player’s cards and the dealer’s exposed card, will yield a predictable outcome after millions of hands of play. By using this strategy, that lowers the house edge to 0.5% in favor of the player.
There are a couple different types of strategy guides that vary according to the type of playing conditions you are exposed to. For example, how many decks are being used? And does the dealer hit or stay on a soft 17? That is why you’ll find a slightly altered strategy guide for each possible situation.
It is important for both Floormen and Dealers to learn the blackjack strategy guide because a large portion of advantage plays require some deviation from this strategy. And since game security is the casino worker’s number one job, then knowing that strategy will help them be able to protect their table better.
Anyone can find the basic strategy guide printed on a plastic card and sold at most casino gift shops. And yes, you are allowed to use this card while playing on the tables. The mathematics of this strategy guide accurately represents a 4 to 8 deck shoe where the Dealer stays on a soft 17. Remember that it is NOT recommended that the Player take “Insurance” or “Even Money”.
If the Player has a 17 thru 21 then they will always “Stay”.
If the Player has a 13 through 16 then they will “Stay” if the Dealer’s up card is a 2 thru 6, otherwise the Player will “Hit”.
If the Player has a 12 then they will “Stay” if the Dealer’s up card is a 4 thru 6, otherwise the Player will “Hit”.
If the Player has an 11 then they will only “Hit” if the Dealer’s up card is an Ace, otherwise the Player will always “Double Down”.
If the Player has a 10 then they will “Hit” if the Dealer’s up card is either a 10 or an Ace, otherwise the Player will “Double Down”.
If the Player has a 9 then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is a 3 thru 6, otherwise the Player will “Hit”.
If the Player has an 8 or less then they will always “Hit”.
If the Player has an Ace, 8 OR an Ace, 9 OR, of course, an Ace, 10 then the Player will always “Stay”.
If the Player has an Ace, 7 then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is a 3 thru 6; “Stay” if the Dealer has a 2, 7 or 8; and “Hit” if the Dealer has a 9, 10 or Ace.
If the Player has an Ace, 6 then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is a 3 thru 6, otherwise the Player will “Hit”.
If the Player has an Ace, 4 OR an Ace, 5 then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is a 4 thru 6, otherwise the Player will “Hit”.
If the Player has an Ace, 2 OR an Ace, 3 then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is a 5 or 6, otherwise the Player will “Hit”.
If the Player has a pair of Aces or Eights then they will always “Split”.
If the Player has a pair of Tens then they will always “Stay”.
If the Player has a pair of Nines then they will “Stay” if the Dealer’s up card is a 7, 10, or Ace, otherwise the Player will “Split”.
If the Player has a pair of Sevens then they will “Split” if the Dealer’s up card is a 2 thru 7, otherwise the Player will “Hit”.
If the Player has a pair of Sixes then they will “Split” if the Dealer’s up card is a 2 thru 6, otherwise the Player will “Hit”.
If the Player has a pair of Fives then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is a 2 thru 9, otherwise the Player will “Hit”.
If the Player has a pair of Fours then they will “Split” if the Dealer’s up card is a 5 or 6, otherwise the Player will “Hit”.
If the Player has a pair of Twos or Threes then they will “Split” if the Dealer’s up card is a 2 thru 7, otherwise the Player will “Hit”.
Now, the guide we just reviewed is the foundation of blackjack strategy and only minor changes are necessary depending on which variation of the game you play. For example: What minor changes would you make to the basic strategy if “Surrender” were available at your table?
If the Player chooses to surrender, then this is only advisable on a few select hands. The first would be if the Player had a hard 16, not counting a pair of eights, and the Dealer’s up card was a 9, 10, or Ace, then the Player would “Surrender”.
The second being, if the Player had a hard 15 against the Dealer’s 10.
You’re basically going to use the strategy guide that we just went over, but with a few adjustments.
If the Player has an Ace, 8 then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is a 6.
If the Player has an Ace, 7 then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is a 2.
If the Player has an 11 then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is an Ace.
If “Surrender” is available and you decide to use it, then follow these rules in addition to the “Surrender” rules from the basic strategy guide.
If the Player has a hard 15, a hard 17 or a pair of eights then “Surrender” if the Dealer’s up card is an Ace.
Time to go over the variations for a double deck where the Dealer stays on a soft 17. Using the basic strategy guide as a foundation, make the following altercations to accommodate for a double deck.
If the Player has an 11 then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is an Ace.
If the Player has a 9 then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is a 2.
If the Player has a pair of Sevens then they will “Split” if the Dealer’s up card is an 8.
If the Player has a pair of Sixes then they will “Split” if the Dealer’s up card is a 7.
What if you’re at a double deck table where the Dealer hits on a soft 17? Then you would stick to the same guidelines used for a double deck where the Dealer stays on a soft 17, but with these modifications.
If the Player has an Ace, 8 then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is a 6.
If the Player has an Ace, 7 then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is a 2.
If the Player has an Ace, 3 then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is a 4.
For single deck tables where the Dealer stays on a soft 17 follow these rules. Using the basic strategy guide as a foundation, make the following substitutions to adjust for a single deck.
If the Player has an 11 then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is an Ace.
If the Player has a 9 then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is a 2.
If the Player has an 8 then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is a 5 or 6.
If the Player has an Ace, 8 then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is a 6.
If the Player has an Ace, 7 then they will “Stay” if the Dealer’s up card is an Ace.
If the Player has an Ace, 6 then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is a 2.
If the Player has an Ace, 3 OR an Ace, 2 then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is a 4.
If the Player has a pair of Sevens then they will “Stay” if the Dealer’s up card is a 10.
If the Player has a pair of Fours then they will “Double Down” if the Dealer’s up card is either a 5 or 6.
If the Player has a pair of Threes then they will “Hit” if the Dealer’s up card is either a 2 or 3.
If the Player has a pair of Twos then they will “Hit” if the Dealer’s up card is also a 2.
What if I’m at a single deck where the Dealer hits on a soft 17? Then you would keep to the same guidelines as the single deck with the only exception being that if the Player has an Ace, 7 then they will “Hit” if the Dealer’s up card is an Ace. Keep in mind that once you have hit your hand and you cannot double down or split again, then that is when you start thinking of your hand as a hard total. If you want a printable version of any of these strategy guides we talked about today, then click here.