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Blackjack Rules &
was first legalised in Nevada in 1869. It was abolished in 1910 and then
legalised once more in 1931 largely as a result of the Hoover Dam
project. Since then, blackjack has been the most popular casino table
game not only in the United States but in most other parts of the world.
The game first appeared in
French casinos in the 1700's and found its way to North America in the
1800's. In France it was known as "vingt-et-un" meaning twenty and one.
It later became referred to as "blackjack" because of a rule that was
employed in early versions of the game. If a player received a Jack of
Spades (which was a black jack) and an Ace of Spades as his first two
cards, he was paid 10 to 1 on his bet. This rule was eventually
discarded but the descriptive term "blackjack" remained.
Though the game was popular
for many years, it wasn't until the early 50's that a math expert named
Robert Baldwin along with a mathematician friend named Cantey began to
research and define the mathematics and probabilities of the game as
applied to various scenarios. In the mid 1950's Baldwin had a paper
published in the Journal of the American Statistical Association
entitled "The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack".
But Baldwin had to work with
a low tech calculator and slide rule so his strategy, though helpful and
certainly better than nothing, was not nearly perfect. A few years later
Edward O. Thorpe came onto the scene and the game hasn't been the same
Thorpe was a mathematician
who worked at the Atomic Research Center in Los Alamos, New Mexico. He
had access to a huge computer and in his spare time and off hours began
to program it for blackjack research. As a result he developed several
methods of beating the game long term by use of card counting. In 1962
he published a book called "Beat The Dealer" which has since become the
equivalent of the blackjack player's Bible.
Beat The Dealer was an
immediate huge success that at one point rested atop the New York Times
best seller list. The second edition of the book contained the perfect
strategy for playing single deck blackjack which was developed by an IBM
employee, Julian Braun.
Braun spent countless hours
programming an IBM mainframe and running simulations until finally he
had produced the Basic Strategy that blackjack players still use today.
Some minor changes have been made to better accommodate multiple deck
blackjack since the original strategy was for single deck (that's all
there was then). But the main body of the work has not been improved
After Thorpe's book was
published, he gained notoriety, perhaps more than he bargained for. He
made appearances on TV shows such as "What's My Line?" and "To Tell The
Truth". He proved that blackjack could be beaten long term. This
prompted countless enthusiastic readers to flock to Las Vegas seeking
their fortunes at the blackjack tables. Meanwhile the casinos panicked.
Casino management was so
distraught that they actually shut down all the blackjack tables in Las
Vegas for several days while they put their heads together and decided
what to do. The result was a change in the rules that put the odds so
decidedly in the casino's favor that no one would play the game any
more. This tremendous drop in revenues forced the casinos to rethink
their strategy and return to the old rules (with a few minor changes).
Once again, players resumed their love affair with blackjack and as it
turned out the casinos really had little reason for panic. Very few
players could master Thorpe's complicated 10 count system and thanks to
Thorpe's popular book, interest in blackjack was at an all time high
with thousands of players being drawn to the tables to try their luck.
Profits from the game soared.
As far as changes in the
game that the casinos got away with, there were several. One was the
insertion of a plastic cut card into the deck about one third to one
fourth of the way from the end. When the cut card was reached, the deck
would be shuffled whereas previously cards were dealt all the way to the
bottom of the deck. Since the card count became more effective as more
cards were used out of the deck, this practice decreased the number of
favorable betting opportunities.
Another change was that
casinos began to use multiple decks. It began with 2 decks but soon 3,
4, and 6 deck shoes appeared culminating in the famous 8-deck shoe used
in Atlantic City. Multiple decks being used diluted the effectiveness of
the card count.
Other minor rules were added
or taken away and they varied from casino to casino but no other major
changes in the rules have taken place to date.
If all else failed, casinos
often barred card counters and would no longer even allow them entrance.
And though I won't get into it here, some casinos have even resorted to
bringing in expert cheaters known as "mechanics" to deal to unwanted
Thorpe was the first famous
card counter although there are stories of others who preceded him who
were knowledgeable and skilful enough to make a living playing the game.
Before the publication of his book, Thorpe played his system in many
unsuspecting casinos. They were amazed at his constant success and
concluded that he must be cheating. They thought he was marking the
cards somehow (since back then only single deck blackjack was played and
the players handled their cards). They thought he might be crimping or
scratching some of the ranking cards in the deck so they forbade him to
touch the cards. They dealt his cards face up. Of course he continued to
win and the casinos continued to harass him. Thorpe eventually went to
Puerto Rico for awhile where he received the same kind of treatment.
Many successful card
counters like Thorpe were eventually barred from casino play so they
became proficient at using disguises in order to continue to make
withdrawals from casino coffers. Some of the stories of their exploits
make fascinating reading.
Out of the throngs of card
counters produced by Thorpe's insightful book, a small handful rose to
the top and even gained quite a bit of notoriety. Among those were
Lawrence Revere and Ken Uston.
Revere produced some of the
more effective and easier to use counting methods and presented them in
his popular 1977 book "Playing Blackjack as a Business".
Ken Uston was famous, not
only for being a very successful blackjack player, but he put together a
team of players that used hidden computers to determine perfect
blackjack play as each card was dealt. Information about which cards had
been played as well as both the player's and dealer's hand was input by
means of pressure sensitive switches located in the player's shoe. By
using his toes to press these switches, accurate up to the second
information was entered into the computer. The player wore a device
hidden in his ear, similar to a hearing aid, which told him the correct
decision to make at each juncture. Before one of the devices was found
and confiscated, Uston's team won over $100,000. Uston was prosecuted
but a federal judge found that since the information used in the
programming and use of the computer was public domain and fairly common
knowledge, he had broken no laws. But needless to say Uston was not very
welcome in casinos after that.
Today there are still a few
single and double deck pitch games available here and there, but the
majority of blackjack tables found in casinos are 4, 6, and 8 deck
games. Even though players don't enjoy the advantages of games offered
back in the 50's, 60's, and 70's, it is still the most popular table
game in the casino.
Blackjack is a casino card
game where players compete individually against the dealer. The player
attempts to get a hand with a total as close to 21 as possible without
going over. His hand must also have a higher total than the dealer's
hand unless the dealer "busts" by going over 21. If the player's hand
and the dealer's hand are equal, then it is a tie (also called a "push")
and no money changes hands.
All tens and face cards in
the deck are valued at 10, aces have a value of 1 or 11, and the
remaining cards are equal to their face value.
A winning hand in blackjack
pays even money (1 to 1) unless the player is dealt a natural (a 10
value card and an Ace). A natural, also known as blackjack, pays the
player 3 to 2. When a player gets blackjack, he is paid immediately so
he still wins even if the dealer takes one or more cards and winds up
with 21 also.
A round begins when each
player at the table places his bet inside the circle in front of him,
then cards are dealt in a clockwise rotation around the table. Each
player, including the dealer, initially gets 2 cards. One of the
dealer's two cards is dealt face up and the other face down.
In 4, 6, and 8-deck
blackjack games, all cards (except the dealer's hole card) are dealt
face up from a card holding device called a shoe. The player never
touches the cards. If he wants to "hit" (take another card), he points
at his cards on the table or else wiggles his finger to indicate he
wants a card. When the player is satisfied with his card total, he waves
his hand over them to indicate he is standing and doesn't want another
In single and double deck
games, the dealer holds the deck in his/her hand and pitches the cards
face down onto the table in front of the player. The player looks at his
two cards and decides how he wants to play them. If he wants to take a
hit, he will scratch the cards on the table in a sweeping motion toward
his body. When the player is satisfied with his total, he tucks the
original 2 cards under his bet.
If the player takes a card
and busts by exceeding a total of 21, the dealer collects his cards
along with his bet and he is out until the next round.
The player seated
immediately to the dealer's left is said to be sitting at the "first
base" position and the dealer always addresses him first after the
initial two cards are dealt. Play then moves around the table in a
clockwise fashion and each player takes his turn at deciding how to best
play his hand. The last player to make his decision is the one seated
immediately to the dealer's right. He is said to be occupying the third
When all players are
satisfied with their card totals or have busted (gone over 21), the
dealer then turns over his hole card and plays out his hand. The biggest
advantage the casino has over the player is the fact that the player
must go first and may bust his hand and lose even if the dealer
subsequently busts when he plays his hand.
Whereas players have the
option to stand on any total they choose, the dealer must hit any total
less than 17 while standing on any total of 17 to 21. The exception to
this is when a dealer has a total of soft 17 (a total of 17 where the
Ace is counted as 11). Most casinos rule that the dealer must hit soft
17 until it either becomes a hard 17 (total of 17 where the ace counts
as 1) or has any total greater than 17. Some casinos stand on soft 17,
however, and this is advantageous to the player.
As I stated earlier, the
dealer has no options in how he plays his hand, but the player may have
several. Naturally the player always makes the decision to either hit or
stand, but he also has the choice to "double down". To double down means
that after seeing the first two cards dealt him, a player has the option
of making a second bet. This bet can be any amount equal to or less than
his original bet. It cannot exceed his original bet, however. If a
player decides to double down, he places his second bet in the circle
beside his first bet and the dealer gives him one (and only one) more
card. This card is usually dealt face down. If the player wins his
double down, he is paid even money on both his original bet and second
Although, in multiple deck
blackjack the player is normally allowed to double down on any two card
total, it is generally unwise to double on anything other than a total
of 9, 10 or 11. In single or double deck blackjack, doubling is normally
only allowed on totals of 9, 10 or 11 and often only on 10 or 11. This
varies from casino to casino.
Another option the player
has, if he is dealt two cards of the same value such as two 3's or two
8's, is to split that pair into two separate hands. If a player decides
to split a pair, he must place another bet equal to his first bet to
cover the second hand. When this is done, each hand is played out in the
usual fashion. Each hand is considered individually and the bet on that
hand is either paid or collected depending upon whether it beat the
dealer's hand. By the way, if a player splits a pair of Aces and is
dealt a 10 value card on one or both of them, this is not considered to
be a natural and the hand is paid even money, not 3 to 2.
Another aspect of splitting
is this; if after a player has split his original hand he is dealt
another card of the same value as the first two, he is usually allowed
to split the hand again resulting in his having 3 hands. With multiple
deck blackjack, most casinos allow the player to split as many times as
he wants as long as he continues to be dealt a matching card. However,
once again, single and double deck games are usually more restricted and
the player may only be allowed to split once.
Besides whether to hit,
stand, double down or split, in certain circumstances there is another
decision a player has to make. After the first two cards are dealt, if
the dealer's face up card is an Ace, the player will be offered
insurance. The insurance bet is allowed so the player can insure his
hand against the possibility that the dealer has a 10 in the hole thus
giving him a natural total of 21 and an automatic winning hand. If the
player believes the dealer has a 10 in the hole, he can place a wager on
the insurance line equal to half his bet. Then, if the dealer does have
blackjack, the player is paid 2 to 1 for his winning insurance bet but
losses his original bet and therefore breaks out even on the exchange.
But if the dealer does not have blackjack, the insurance bet is lost and
play continues as normal. Generally, the insurance bet is considered a
sucker bet that strongly favors the house.
There is one unique
situation that involves insurance. If the player is dealt a blackjack
but the dealer's up card is an ace, then the player can take insurance
and assure himself of at least getting paid even money for his blackjack
even if the dealer also has a natural. But doing this is not generally
recommended by the experts.
Some few casinos allow the
player still another option that reduces the house edge when used
correctly by the player. I'm speaking of a strategy called "surrender".
If a casino allows surrender, that means a player may surrender half his
bet instead of playing out his hand. This option is generally only used
when the player has a stiff hand of 16 or maybe 15, and the dealer's up
card is a 10.
Blackjack is somewhat unique
among games of chance offered by casinos in that it is recognised as a
game of skill that can be beaten long term. Even though blackjack is the
most profitable casino table game in North America and many other
countries as well, it is still the game about which casinos are most
paranoid. And it is certainly the only game at which even a small stakes
player stands a chance of getting barred from playing if he/she is too
successful too often.
The reason blackjack can be
beaten long term is easily understood. Whereas games like roulette and
craps are infinite games (meaning that the results of each individual
spin of the wheel or roll of the dice are not directly related to
previous results and there is no definite beginning or end), blackjack
is a finite game. By "finite" I mean that previous results or hands
dealt do affect future results and there can be a reasonable expectation
that the affect will manifest in a discernible way. Also, there is a
definite beginning and end where blackjack is concerned. The beginning
is when a new shoe or deck of cards is shuffled and put into play, and
the end is when the cut card is reached and the deck is shuffled again.
Since blackjack is a finite
game, and since certain cards in the deck are more favorable to the
player than others, every time a card is played from the deck, the odds
change slightly. Most often they favor the house, but sometimes when
quantities of certain cards are removed from the deck during the course
of normal play, the player actually enjoys a slight advantage. And if
the player places a higher bet when the odds are in his favor and a
lower bet when the odds favor the house, over the long haul he should
win more than he loses. This is why blackjack is considered to be a game
that can be beaten long term.
The way a successful
blackjack player beats the game over the long haul revolves around what
is known as "card counting". By keeping a running count of the cards as
they are played, it can be determined at what point the odds favor the
player and by how much.
Card counting has gotten a
lot of bad publicity. It has mostly come from sources that had something
to gain by spreading negative propaganda concerning the supposed
difficulty involved in mastering and executing it under live conditions.
And it is true that some of the early counting methods introduced by
Edward O. Thorpe and others were difficult to execute in live play not
to mention confusing. Not only was a running count called for but the
player had to make mental computations involving fractions in order to
arrive at the amount to bet. But soon it was learned that easier methods
could be used that were almost as effective as the more complicated
ones, and card counting entered a new era. However, the casinos were
instrumental in empowering the belief that card counting was extremely
difficult and only a genius could pull it off successfully. Also people
in the business of selling blackjack systems jumped on the same train
and added their voice of discouragement when they saw an opportunity to
sell methods that could supposedly win without counting. Then, of
course, the average everyday gambler who knew no better accepted the
statements of the so-called experts and so the belief spread that
successful card counting was an unachievable goal for most players. But
in reality, card counting is not that difficult. My 6 year old daughter
learned to do it and she was not a genius by any means.
Despite claims to the
contrary, apart from the utilisation of card counting to some degree or
another, I don't know of any other way to beat the game long term. I've
examined many so-called non counting methods, but none ever held up over
extended play. So, if you are a serious blackjack player with a strong
desire and motivation to win long term, you've got to bite the bullet
and learn some method of card counting. On my web site I introduce a
very simple yet effective method with "MP
To clear up another
misconception, card counting does not involve the memorisation of every
card played. It is accomplished by assigning a value to each card and
then adding or subtracting that value as each card is played. For
instance, if five's and six's are assigned a value of +1 and nine's and
tens have a value of -1, then if a six and a nine were dealt, the count
would be zero, but if a five and a six were dealt, the count would be
+2. And, if those cards were followed by a nine, the count would fall to
+1. Simple enough.
Now, when the count is
higher, the remaining cards in the deck (or shoe) are favorable to the
player and when it is lower the house has the upper hand. So the idea,
as I said before, is to bet more when the count is higher and less (or
nothing at all) when the count is low.
Knowing the proper count can
not only affect the size of your bet, but it can also help you adjust
your playing strategy so that you are making the most advantageous
decisions at any point in the deck or shoe. Later I will give you the
basic strategy that has been worked out using computer analysis and
every blackjack player should know it by heart. But there are times when
a card counter can depart from basic strategy based upon the current
composition of the cards remaining to be played. This can give him a
little extra advantage.
Ten valued cards and Aces
are the most valuable cards to the player and that is why they are
assigned higher negative values in most counting systems. Lower cards,
especially the five's and six's are more valuable to the house so they
are assigned positive values because as they are played and eliminated
from the remaining deck, the odds swing toward the player.
One of the main reasons 10
valued cards and Aces are important to the player is rather obvious. It
takes a 10 and an Ace to form a natural blackjack for which the player
is paid 3 to 2. But if the dealer gets a natural blackjack, the player
only loses his regular bet and does not have to pay odds to the house.
Besides having a greater chance for a blackjack, more 10 value cards in
the deck means more pat hands for the player. Another advantage to a
deck rich in tens and high cards is that if the dealer gets a hand that
must be hit, he/she has a much greater chance of busting. And finally,
when there is an abundance of high cards left, the player's chances of
getting a hand on which he can double down (9, 10, or 11) are increased
and also he has a better chance of getting a pat hand when he does
double down. Millions of computer simulations have proven beyond doubt
that card composition rich in high value cards favors the player.
Another way card counting
aids the decision making process is when the dealer's up card is an Ace,
and the player is offered insurance. Normally insurance is a bad bet
with odds that heavily favor the house, however, if the player knows the
deck is rich in 10's, it might be to his advantage to take it.
Besides card counting, there
are a few other things that accomplished players have incorporated into
"Shuffle Tracking" is the
art of being able to track certain favorable sections of a multiple deck
shoe even as they are broken down and shuffled. The player takes careful
note of the sections of the shoe where the cards ran favorably, then he
attempts to track those sections as the dealer shuffles. If two
favorable sections are shuffled together, he attempts to mentally mark
where those cards wind up in the newly shuffled deck and will raise his
bets when those sections come into play. But, everything considered,
this is a very difficult thing to accomplish yet some have reported good
Another procedure is
something called "back counting". This requires a player to watch a
table for 10 rounds or so in order to qualify it for play. There are
certain things that must happen in order for the table to qualify. This
is explained in detail in
An ability to read card flow
and clumps is also a necessity if one is to be successful playing
against multiple deck shoes. Most people think that card flow in
multiple deck blackjack is totally random, but that is seldom the case
and it is also the reason that the house advantage in multiple deck
blackjack is much higher than most people (even experts) think. Once
Blackjack explains why card flow is not usually totally random and
it also gives insight into how to take advantage of this fact.
Some savvy players have made
use of a strategy that requires the player to occupy the first base
position (first position at the table to the dealer's left). This
strategy is also based upon card flow tendencies. If the last card dealt
by the dealer (either to himself or the player at third base to the
dealer's immediate right) was a 10 value card, then the player at first
base raises his bet in hopes that the first card he is dealt will also
be a 10 or maybe even an ace. If this happens, then the player has an
elevated chance of winning since he is much more likely to have a pat
hand (or maybe even a blackjack) than if he received a lower value card.
Since casinos are very much
aware that blackjack can be beaten, over the years they have developed
several counter measures that are highly effective.
One of the biggest
countermeasures was the introduction of the use of multiple decks.
Originally, the game used only one 52 card deck and all the cards were
dealt, right down to the last one, before the deck was reshuffled and
play continued. But with the advent and success of card counters,
casinos began using 2 decks and eventually expanded that to 4, 6 and 8
decks dealt from a shoe. The use of more decks dilutes the card count
and makes it less meaningful and effective.
Also, something known as a
cut card began to be used. This is a plastic card which is inserted two
thirds to three fourths of the way into a freshly shuffled deck or shoe
and when the cards are dealt down to the cut card they are reshuffled.
This is done because the card count is more effective with fewer cards
left in the deck since the count is less diluted. Using a cut card also
gives the card counter fewer opportunities to place a larger bet while
enjoying favorable odds.
Other countermeasures used
may be a little more subtle and as a result, blackjack is probably the
most manipulated game in the casino other than slots. In some casinos
that still perform manual shuffles rather than using shuffle machines,
dealers are taught to change the shuffle based upon how well the house
did in the last shoe. This is normally not detected by the untrained eye
but it happens all the time. I've even seen dealers use false shuffles
when mixing certain parts of the deck and if the player catches it and
says something, the dealer simply claims that it was accidental. And who
can prove or say for sure that it wasn't?
Another countermeasure that
can be attributed to Pit Bosses and casino management is the practice of
only opening just enough tables to accommodate the number of blackjack
players in the casino. They want to keep the tables as full as possible
at all times because this also makes the job of a card counter much more
difficult. A card counter would much prefer to play the dealer heads up
(one on one). The more players at the table, the better chance that
someone else will get the good cards when the count is high. Also, there
is an increased chance that the count may change dramatically by the
time the dealer is ready to play his own hand and the odds could already
have turned back in favor of the house.
Another counter measure that
has more recently come into vogue is the use of continuous shuffle
machines. These machines are a combination of shoe and shuffler. Each
new round of blackjack is dealt directly from the machine and when the
hands are played and picked up, they are immediately deposited back into
the machine. One model machine places each card into a different
numbered slot. It contains a computer chip with a random number
generator that randomly selects cards from the individual slots for
replay so it is possible for some of the same cards that were just
played to come out in the next round. This sophisticated technology of
course completely negates card counting.
I strongly urge all
blackjack players to unite, whether you count cards or not, and avoid
these continuous shuffle machines, if nothing else then out of
principle. If enough blackjack players will boycott them and refuse to
play them, then the casinos will eventually stop using them because they
have a strong adversity to reduced revenues due to lack of action.
In discussing counter
measures I hate to even bring up this topic, but I would be remiss if I
didn't. Although the majority of players are convinced that casinos
never cheat because they have no need to, unfortunately this is not
always the case. It is commonly known among casino insiders that there
are blackjack dealers who have the ability to cheat. They are known as
"mechanics". Many casinos make use of their services from time to time
and may even have one on staff. In a TV interview, a Vegas insider told
of a very successful female dealer/mechanic in that city who wore a
beeper and made a very good living making herself available to several
different casinos when they were having problems with a counter or
someone on a roll. I know from personal experience that bringing in a
mechanic is one of the last options used against a counter before
finally resorting to the ultimate countermeasure…
If all else fails, even
bringing in a mechanic, and the casino's level of paranoia is elevated
because of the constant success of a blackjack player, they may resort
to barring him/her from any future indulgence in the game at that
casino. A few years ago successful players were often barred from casino
property all together but in recent years the trend seems to be more
toward just barring them from playing blackjack. That is probably due to
some law suits brought against casinos by players contesting this unfair
treatment. Card counting is not illegal, although casinos would like to
have you believe it is. But casinos are technically private clubs or
private entities that can choose whom they want to allow admittance.
In closing out my general
discussion of blackjack strategies for live casino play, I wish to
encourage serious players to stay away from multiple deck games. Your
best chance comes by using an effective method like
Blackjack and playing single or double deck pitch games. I realise
that 6 and 8 deck games are all that is available in many venues and
that is tragic. If that is the case, and you just have to play
blackjack, then at least learn to count cards and become adept at
reading card flow etc. That will help give you a fighting chance.
As far as playing blackjack
online is concerned, you have probably already guessed that since the
software in most online casinos is set up so that each new hand is dealt
from a fresh deck, card counting is useless. In fact none of the
strategies discussed so far (except Basic Strategy described below)
apply to online play. Success at online play is pretty much a factor of
luck, unless you do something stupid like hitting when you already have
a total of 20. If you must play online, then the best strategy seems to
be to keep your sessions short and play at a lot of different casinos
while trying to take maximum advantage of the bonuses offered.
In this discussion all
totals are considered to be hard totals unless specified as soft hands.
A hard hand is any hand consisting of two or more cards which does not
contain an ace which can be counted as 11 without yielding a total in
excess of 21. A soft hand is a hand containing two or more cards one of
which is an ace which can be counted as 11 without yielding a total in
excess of 21.
The following is a
discussion of hard totals, soft totals are addressed last. It is assumed
the player is not counting cards because if that were the case, there
would be a slight alteration in strategy in some cases.
When the dealer is showing a
2 up, always hit if your total is 12 or less. If you are playing a
single or double deck game, stand on 13 or more. Hit a total of 13
against the dealer's 2 up if you are playing multiple deck and stand on
a total of 14 or more. When playing multiple deck, always hit 12 against
the dealers 2 or 3 up.
The generally accepted rule
is to stand on 12 or more against the dealer's 3 through 6 up, otherwise
Against the dealer's 7
through ten and ace up, stand on 17 or more, otherwise hit.
Double down on a total of 11
against the dealer's 2 through 9 up. Some say always double down on 11
while others advocate refraining against a 10 or ace up, especially when
playing against a 6 or 8 deck shoe.
Double down on a total of 10
against the dealer's 2 through 9 up. Double down with a total of 9
against the dealer's 4 through 6 up. You may also consider doubling
against a 3 up but that is a little more aggressive especially against a
multiple deck shoe.
Basic Strategy says to
always split aces and 8's.
Never split 10's! The reason
is obvious. You have the 3rd best hand you can be dealt (behind a
blackjack and a card total of 21) and will win a majority of the time,
so don't risk messing it up.
Split 2's against the
dealer's 3 through 7 up.
Split 3's against the
dealer's 4 through 7 up.
Don't split 4's.
Never split 5's.
Split 6's against 2 through
Split 7's against 2 through
Do not split 9's against 7, 10, or ace up. Otherwise split.
When holding a soft total of
13 through 16 (A2-A5), double down against the dealer's 4 through 6 up.
Otherwise hit until you have a standing hard total of 17 or more.
Double down with soft 17
(A6) against the dealer's 3 through 6 up. Otherwise hit.
Double down with soft 18
(A7) against the dealer's 3 through 6 up. Stand if the dealer has 2, 7,
8, or ace up. Hit against the dealer's 9 or 10 up until you have a hard
total of 17 or more.
If holding a soft 19 or soft
20 (A8, A9), always stand.