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The Blackjack Basic Strategy

For those people who wish to attack the game of blackjack in a prudent way, there is indeed a blueprint as to where to start. It is called the blackjack basic strategy, and what it represents is the mathematically correct play for each individual player vs. dealer situation that one can encounter at a blackjack table. It is the foundation for anything a player will do when playing the game, and is the precursor to learning more advanced techniques, such as counting cards.

Because there are concrete rules as to how the game of blackjack is conducted, the dealer faces constraints as to what to do with his or her hand, while the player does not. That has led to some of the logic that dictates there are certain things the player can do in each situation and emerge relatively successful, because there are no "counter-strikes," so to speak, on the part of the dealer in the game.

Early Blackjack Strategies Were Closely Guarded Secrets

The general consensus among those who have followed the history of casino games is that, more than likely, there were people who were playing a basic strategy of some kind as far back as the 1920's, and possibly even earlier. However, this was not a strategy that was published or touted by those individuals who may have been practicing it, for many reasons, including fear of reprisal from the casinos they were playing in, which were, by and large, unregulated and run by some of the more rogue elements of society. Strategies to beat the game were not widely known, so the assumption on the part of some people was that consistent winners must have been doing something to cheat the game.

A Basic Strategy For Blackjack is Developed and Published

In 1956, a breakthrough occurred, and it did not come from a high-roller or a card sharp, but instead by a group of men who, in fact, were not known to be devotees of blackjack. Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, Herbert Maisel and James McDermott, who were employed at the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Proving Grounds, had a curiosity about the possibilities of a mathematical model that could be developed around blackjack, and went about constructing a strategy in their spare time. Using nothing more complicated than adding machines, they crunched numbers for eighteen months and the result was a research paper entitled, "The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack," which was published in the journal of the American Statistical Association in 1957 and provided the basis for a book called "Playing Blackjack to Win."

In point of fact, the strategy they formulated was enough to garner a small advantage under the rules that were played at many casinos at the time, though not enough to make a major impact. The work of the "Four Horsemen," as they were dubbed, was significant not necessarily because they were the first people to come up with a definitive strategy with which to play the game, but because they were the first to publish one, and they had in all likelihood done the most sophisticated research on the subject to that time.

Blackjack Basic Strategy and Card Counting - A Perfect Match

There were other advances later, of course, and a seminal moment occurred with the publication of Edward O. Thorp's "Beat the Dealer," which utilized early computer technology and not only built upon the the work of the Four Horsemen, but also unveiled multiple systems to gain a long-run advantage over the house through card counting techniques.

Whether one is a recreational player, an aspiring aficionado, or a serious professional, there is no getting around the fact that everything starts with the Basic Strategy, which essentially brings a break-even game with the house. Because it supplies an absolute best decision for each situation (dependent upon the rules available of course), it is a staple of the blackjack player's arsenal and leaves no room for "improvisation" or "hunches."

The good news is that it is not difficult to learn. So read, learn, practice a little, and take that knowledge into the casino with you!

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