Understanding blackjack charts

In this article we take a look at blackjack charts. Blackjack is a unique casino game. Part of its popularity is down to the fact that the game is about skill and strategy, rather than being 100% reliant on luck. The game is viewed as a mathematical one that is all about numbers and probability and because of this, numerous strategies have been developed over the years. These exist to lower the house edge and to help players win.

The strategy that you should be following is called basic strategy. The problem is that it’s perhaps not all that basic. It takes time to learn and master but this is certainly worthwhile and we highly recommend that you do this. All that you need to do is refer to a blackjack basic strategy chart.

While it may take some time to commit the entire strategy to memory, there’s no reason why you can’t use a chart to boost your winning ways. However, if you’re new to blackjack charts a look at one of these may leave you feeling a little baffled. Just what do all of the letters and colors mean? How can these possibly help you with your game? That’s what we’re about to explore now.

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Blackjack charts

So, how do you read a basic blackjack charts?

The first time that you look at a blackjack basic strategy chart, you can be forgiven for wondering just what’s going on! In fact, you can be forgiven for thinking this the next few times that you take a look at one. The good news is that it’s not quite as complicated as it first appears and it just takes a little getting used to.

In essence, these charts are just tables that consist of numerous rows and columns. By following these correctly, you are guided to the right move that you should make in any given situation. The five main options are included and these are:

  • Hit
  • Stand
  • Split
  • Double Down
  • Surrender

When you look at the chart, you’ll find that there are also two broader rows.  These indicate the player’s hand on the left and, on the right, the dealer’s upcard. Generally, as you read a chart, the player’s hand is in rows and the dealer’s up cards are shown as columns.

The elements of a basic strategy chart

Let’s have a closer look at how the rows and columns work, as well as looking at the other elements that go into making a basic strategy chart:


A basic blackjack strategy chart comes with one heading row. The left-hand side is there to show the player’s hand while the right is for the dealer’s upcard. When you look below this row, this is when things start to get a little confusing. That’s because there are then 26 sub-rows. In the case of the player, these contain the subsequent digits and the actions that should be taken depending on what the dealer’s upcard is.


If you look under the player’s hand section, you’ll find that there is one column. This column depicts all of the numbers and the probable combinations. To the right, under the dealer’s upcard section, there are a further 10 columns. The highest one of these contains the digits two to 10 and ace. The columns below this have actions marked out and these appear in set colours. 


A blackjack basic strategy chart contains the following actions that are represented by the corresponding letters:

  • H = Hit
  • S = Stand
  • Dh =  Double if possible, if not then hit
  • Ds = Double if possible, if not then stand
  • P = Split the pair
  • Ph = Split if allowed to after double. If not, hit.

These are the main actions that you’ll come across on a char. However, if you’re playing a variant that allows the dealer to hit on soft 17, you may also see two additional actions:

  • Rs = Surrender if allowed. If not, hit
  • Rp = surrender if possible. If not, split


While the layout of a basic strategy chart may appear a little confusing, what helps to simplify things is the color coding. In general, this is what each color relates to:

  • Green = Hit
  • Red = Stand
  • Blue = Double Down
  • Yellow = Pair Split
  • Orange = Surrender

There may be some variation with charts. Some will include a ‘+’ to mean hit and a ‘–‘ to mean stand. Just remember the basics and don’t allow these additions to throw you.

Why are basic blackjack charts made to look so complicated?

Yes, a basic strategy blackjack chart does look complicated. The reason for this is that it contains an abundance of information and this is all presented in a mathematical one. While the charts contain all of the information that a player needs to know, it can be difficult to apply this in a live situation during a game purely because there is so much to know.

The truth is that pro blackjack players dedicate years to mastering basic strategy and reading charts. The rewards are certainly worthwhile as it sees the house edge coming down and the players winning on a more frequent basis.

Can you use a blackjack charts while playing?

The good news is that casinos will allow you to use a basic strategy chart while you’re playing. Many players carry the information on a small card that they then place on the table while they’re in a game.

You may be surprised that casinos let you use a chart, but there are reasons for this. Firstly, the charts are about optimal strategy and the impact on the house edge is minimal. Secondly, casinos know that playing a game and following a chart at the same time is extremely difficult: mistakes are more than just a little likely.

Final thoughts on blackjack charts

If you want to be more successful in your blackjack game, you need to commit to learning basic strategy. Yes, the charts that show this may well be intimidating to start with, but in time they begin to make sense. Put in the time and effort and you may be surprised by the rewards. 

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