Exceptions to Basic Blackjack Strategy

If you're playing blackjack according to basic strategy you probably started out or still make use of a basic strategy chart which guides you in the best way to play each hand. In doing so you are able to lower the house edge considerably, which makes these useful little cards, a blackjack players best friend.

While they are exceptionally useful in helping you to maximise your profits, they are not the "win cards" that some may think, because they don't necessarily mean that you will beat the game completely the house always has an edge, they just help to keep that edge to a minimum of around 0.5%.

When you consider this edge in terms of a real world example of playing 200 hands of blackjack, the odds are well illustrated by stating that you will be a single wager behind. It takes a great deal more than basic strategy to beat the casino which is why advantage play blackjack strategies and systems like card counting exist. Yet these are often outside the average player's realm of expertise and skill.

While blackjack strategy on these cards is the best basic way to play, it doesn't necessarily mean that there are not exceptions. In fact, a number of very close decisions on certain plays listed in the card fall into grey areas and are dependent on certain variables. The colour coding within the strategy chart simply goes with the most common variable, but there are two exceptions that you should be aware of when playing a multi-deck blackjack game.

Soft 17: Most basic strategy charts assume that you are playing a blackjack game where the rules dictate that the dealer must stand on soft 17. If this is correct then the strategy chart will instruct you to hit when holding 11 against the dealers Ace and to stand with Ace or Eight when facing a six.

If however the game you are playing allows the dealer to hit on soft 17 then you should double down with both of the above-mentioned hands - which most strategy players will not advise on when holding a soft 19. Yet the reasoning behind doubling those hands when the dealer hits on soft 17 is due to the fact that if a dealer turns over a 6 with his/her Ace or vice-versa, approximately one out of every 5 hands will bust with a soft 17 hand.

These are just a few of the exceptions to basic blackjack strategy that depend more on other variables than just a straight forward play dictated by the card. There are also more detailed exceptions, such as plays based on hand composition. As the name implies, the correct play often depends on the exact cards that you are holding to make up the value of a specific hand.

For example, if you are holding a Ten and Six and the dealer has a ten, the blackjack chart correctly states that you should hit. If however you are holding an Eight and Five against the dealer's ten, hit and are dealt a three for a total hand value of 16, this type of hand will go beyond basic strategy cards. With this total your five is out of play and instead of hitting you should stand when facing a ten.

In fact, whenever your hand value is comprised of either a four or five you should always stand if the dealer holds a ten. This is referred to as the rule of 45 and should be adhered to whenever applicable.

Another hand composition play that only applies in blackjack games with six or fewer decks where the dealer stands on soft 17. In these instances a blackjack strategy card will advise standing with a 12 hand value against the dealer's four. While most players using a strategy chart wouldn't dream of hitting here whether you should or shouldn't is actually a close call. While the chart advises the play that is most commonly correct, if your 12 value is comprised of a Seven and Five, Eight and Four, Nine and Three or is a multi-card twelve then you should stand.

If however your 12 value is comprised of a Ten and Two, you should hit because your ten and two are not freely available to hurt either your own or the dealer if you opt to hit.

So while basic blackjack strategy is essential to playing a game that maximises your winning potential and should always be the basis of your game play, there are some exceptions and certain situations that exceed the scope of it. Learning these can definitely help you to improve your game.