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How is blackjack different from other casino games?

Simply stated, each deck state produces a differing expected result. Some deck states are more favorable to the dealer, while some states are more favorable to the player. By contrast, in games such as craps and roulette the expected result or value is always a fixed amount and is always in favor of the house. Expected value means how much a bankroll is expected to change (plus or minus) as a percent of current wager. As a simple example if player's current bet is $10 and a hand's expected value is +100% then he expects his bankroll will increase by $10 as a result of the hand. If the hand's expected value is 0% then player's long run expectation would be that his bankroll will remain unchanged and if his expected value is -100% then player's expectation is a $10 loss. A successful blackjack player will be able to identify when the deck states are favorable to dealer and player. He will bet more when the state is favorable to player and less when favorable to dealer. In games such as craps and roulette, there is never a favorable state to bet more on (assuming complete randomness.)

Basic strategy

Before a blackjack player can worry whether or not the expected result for a deck state is in his favor, he must know how to properly play his cards. Without acceptable playing of his hands, he would be in jeopardy of turning his favorable deck states to a negative expected result and an overall positive expectation to negative. For example if player adopts a "mimic the dealer strategy" where he plays his cards exactly the same as how dealer is required to play then his expected value for a full single deck S17 game is a dismal -5.685%. Player's expected value using basic strategy varies more or less from 0.0% to -0.7% depending upon rules and number of decks, so as you can see a reasonable playing strategy is important. Basic strategy is defined as playing your present card combination as well as you can given only the knowledge of dealer's up card and the rules of the game.


As a demonstration of the above points, click the 'Programs' link from either above or below and click the 'Composition Dependent Combinatorial Analyzer' link. To run the program you will need javascript enabled in your browser. You may also need to change your browser's display settings to best display the program's output.

cdca is a program that computes expected results for any shoe composition using perfect playing strategy. However, for this demo we want to use basic strategy rather than perfect play. Basic strategy is the best way to play a full shoe whereas best strategy is the best way to play a shoe whether or not it is full. Follow these steps:

1) Select the radio button labeled 'Basic full shoe CD strategy' on the Compute mode line. This directs the program to compute using full shoe composition dependent strategy for playing decisions regardless of how many cards remain in the shoe.

2) Accept all other default settings. Default number of decks is 1.

3) Click the 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-, and 6- buttons once each to remove one each 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 from the deck.

4) Click the 'Compute' button.

5) The value in the 'Overall' box under Player Expected Values reads +2.321%. This means that in the long run player can expect to profit by 2.321% of his wager using basic strategy for this particular shoe composition.

6) Click the 'Reset to full shoe' button in the Shoe Composition section to reset to a full deck.

7) Click the T- button 4 times or simply input 12 in the 'T' textbox to remove 4 tens from the deck.

8) Click the A- button once to remove an ace from the deck.

9) Click the 'Compute' button.

10) The value in the 'Overall' box under Player Expected Values reads -3.066%. This means that in the long run player can expect to lose 3.066% of his wager using basic strategy for this particular shoe composition.

This demonstration has shown that 2 different shoe compositions have differing expectations to the player, one favorable and one unfavorable. Playing strategy was the same basic strategy for each composition. Assume for the moment that these are the only 2 shoe states played. If player simply makes a relatively large wager when expectation is positive and a minimal bet when expectation is negative then this will result in a positive overall expectation. If player bets the same amount on each shoe state then his overall expectation will be negative since numerically the negative state exceeds the positive. The point is that player can have a positive overall expectation in the game of blackjack provided he is able to identify favorable/unfavorable situations before making a bet.


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