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This article was originally published in the Blackjack Insider, a Blackjack email newsletter edited and published by Henry Tamburin, author of "Blackjack: Take the Money and Run". The article was written by Dan Pronovost, President of DeepNet Technologies. Simplified Basic Strategy For some recreational blackjack players, spending many hours memorizing strategy tables or complex count systems is simply too much bother. Although many blackjack players know that there is such as thing as perfect basic strategy and card counting, very few people actually take the time to learn these methods. For these players, the challenge is to learn the easiest possible playing strategy that minimizes their disadvantage at the blackjack tables. This article provides a scalable set of simplified blackjack rules and shows the cost of using this system. Designing the rules In issue #30 of this newsletter, we explored the impact of using a single set of basic strategy tables for all blackjack games, regardless of rules. Surprisingly, it was determined that the impact on your earnings was fairly small, even when playing with the worst 'match up' of rules to casino conditions. With this knowledge, our goal is to come up with a single, simple set of blackjack rules that can be mastered in minutes, and plays well in all games. Rather than memorize complete tables, players can simply apply these easy rules as the hands are played. To further simplify the process of learning the plays, the set of rules is made scalable: players can start with the first rule, and add on new rules as they are comfortable. As each new rule is added, the casino's advantage is diminished. It is important that we analyze our rules to make sure that they minimize our losses while providing the most simplicity. To do this, we ran simulations in Blackjack Audit, a blackjack simulator from DeepNet Technologies, to compare the expectations for different games at each step in our rules. With a good rule set, the casino's edge over the player will lessen as we add rules, leaving us with a minor and acceptable increase in losses. Simplified blackjack strategy After running many simulations with different rules and comparing the resulting expectations, we came up with the following set of simple rules that deliver good results and performance. The rules are listed in order of importance, and players should memorize them in sequence. Note that references to 'soft hands' mean hands with an ace that can have two different values. For example, ace4 (5 or 15), or 7aceace (9 or 19. Note that you can usually only double after the first two cards.
The first rule is equivalent to the dealer's actions in a casino where they must also hit soft 17: hit until you reach 17 (hard or soft), but also hit soft 17. Beginners should practice this rule until it is instinctive! The remaining rules simply add easy play exceptions to the initial table. Rules 2 to 6 do not overlap: a hand has at most one exception. For any given play situation, start with the action recommended for the first rule, and modify it only if one of the other rules is triggered. Here are some examples:
Table 1: Example plays using the simplified strategy The results using simplified basic strategy The following tables show the results of applying the simplified strategy in comparison to the ideal basic strategy for different casino games. A minimum of 150 million hands of blackjack was run for each table entry. Flat $5 bets were used throughout. The hourly loss is computed by multiplying the average wager per round for each simulation, times 100 (an average number of hands per hour), times the expectation. If your average bet is not $5, simply scale this result proportionately. 75% and 67% shoe penetration was assumed in the eightdeck and singledeck game respectively. The actual strategy tables corresponding to each rule set is available online by clicking on the names in the left most columns of table 2 or table 3 below, or you can visit our web site: www.deepnettech.com/article3.html.
Table 2: Performance results for our simplified rules in eightdeck blackjack From table 2 above, we can see that using our sixrule simplified basic strategy increases our losses by less than 50% on average. You will lose a bit less than your average bet every hour to the casino. Although ideal basic strategy is preferred, beginners can apply our simplified sixrule system without much increased loss in multideck blackjack. From table 3 below, we can see the results of using our simplified basic strategy in single deck blackjack. Since singledeck blackjack is a more profitable game for players, our sixrule strategy has a greater percentage increase on losses. But the hourly loss is still less than ½ of your average bet.
Table 3: Performance results for our simplified rules in singledeck blackjack Conclusions Although using the correct basic strategy will minimize your losses, using our simplified sixrule system is acceptable for beginners, and is still better than virtually all existing casino games. For example, using our simple sixrule system will give players a greater than 99% return in every blackjack game (since the expectation is between 1% and zero in all cases), which is far better than roulette, craps, baccarat, and slot machines. Players should be cautioned though that using anything less than the first four rules results in a significant losing rate of 2% or more. For those who are curious, we did run a number of simulations on variations of these rules. For example, rule #6 was tried with splitting from dealer 3 to 6, and 2 to 6. Also, rule #5 was tested with doubling on dealer 5 and 6 only. In all cases, better overall performance was delivered with the simplified strategy as presented in this article. Beyond the simplified rules we have presented, we recommend players next memorize the complete basic strategy. The remaining differences are all individual exceptions that are difficult to categorize. Although it is challenging to memorize the proper strategy, you can reduce the casino's edge by 50% or more in most cases (0.53% to 0.35% for an eightdeck DAS/S17 game, for example). In our first article in issue #30 of the "Blackjack Insider", we recommended the eightdeck/DAS strategy as the single best table to memorize for all blackjack games. Table 4 below shows the strategy for our simplified six rule system, hilighting the differences from the eightdeck/DAS table and the correct plays shown in brackets. The letters represent the following actions: H=hit, S=stand, D=double, P=split.
Table 4: The simplified sixrule strategy with differences from D8/DAS Simplified Basic Strategy TablesThese are the exact basic strategy tables used in the simulations shown in our article "Simplified Basic Strategy", as published in issue #32 of the Blackjack Insider by Henry Tamburin. Grey background entries represent actions that are different from the preceeding table.
