Lesson 1A : Learning Blackjack Basic Strategies
the gamemaster's blackjack school
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This is a very simple lesson -- I'm going to show you how to memorize your chosen basic strategy perfectly. So
perfect, in fact, that you won't have to think about which play is proper; you'll just do it automatically. That
skill is developed through a lot of practice; many hours of repetitious exercises which will leave you knowing
basic strategy as well as your own name. (I didn't say this was easy, just simple ).
But we can make those hours of practice a little more fun and somewhat interesting -- even
challenging -- by using different methods of training. If you're a competitive person the timed exercises will
appeal to you; it's a lot of fun to see if you can post a new "personal best" in each of them. But don't worry, you
don't have to be a Type A personality to learn perfect basic strategy. Just take your time and do as many exercises
in a day as you want and if you keep at it on a regular basis, the knowledge will come. Remember, you are learning
a skill here which you will be able to use for the rest of your life. Spending a few dozen hours now may return
hundreds of hours of profitable play in the future; seems like a fair trade to me.
Let's get started.
Flashcards - By now, you should have a set of these made up and are using
them on a regular basis. Start timing yourself as you go through all of them; a good goal is to recite all the
rules perfectly and get through your pack in under two minutes. The time pressure works well in "forcing" you to
learn, so record your results so that you can see your progress. If you have a stopwatch, so much the better,
because you can use it not only with the flashcards but with many other exercises as well. Don't go out and buy
one, though; the approximate time is all we're interested in here, so a wrist watch will do just as
Basic Strategy Reconstruction Exercise - Print out the form below and run
off a bunch of copies. You will notice that it is just a "blank" of the form we used in Lesson 1 to create the
rules for each of the player's starting hands. The object here is to write in the rule for each hand and then check
for accuracy. Remember the old saying; "I see, I forget; I write, I remember"? (Or something like that -- never did
write it down). That's what this exercise will do for you. Time yourself as you do it and see if you can get under
60 seconds with 100% accuracy.
Basic Strategy Decision Exercise - Here I've made up a lot of player's
starting hands along with a dealer's up card. Use your "Basic Strategy Matrix" from Lesson 1 to make a "correction
copy" and mark it as such at the top. Then, just go down the columns of another copy and fill in the proper play.
Use your correction copy to check for accuracy. Speed is of the essence here, so work towards a goal of completing
this in under two minutes with 100% accuracy(Indicate proper play under "Decision")
S=Stand H=Hit P=Split Pairs D=DoubleBasic Strategy Decision Exercise - Here I've made up a
lot of player's starting hands along with a dealer's up card. Use your "Basic Strategy Matrix" from Lesson 1 to
make a "correction copy" and mark it as such at the top. Then, just go down the columns of another copy and fill in
the proper play. Use your correction copy to check for accuracy. Speed is of the essence here, so work towards a
goal of completing this in under two minutes with 100% accuracy(Indicate proper play under "Decision")
S=Stand H=Hit P=Split Pairs D=Double
The Importance of Speed - I stress speed in my classes because the ability
to do anything quickly and accurately means you know it well. The play of your hand must be "automatic" because
once you learn how to count cards, you'll be too busy counting to think about the proper play. Make
Card Practice #1 - Now, with a copy of your Basic Strategy Matrix next to you, get out a
deck of cards and try this exercise. Deal one card up for the dealer and then two cards for your starting hand.
Play that hand according to proper basic strategy and, without playing out the dealer's hand, push all the used
cards off to the side and do it again. Keep going until the deck is used up, shuffle and repeat. This exercise will
get you used to making playing decisions in a casino-style setting. Refer to your Matrix as often as you must in
order to assure yourself that you are making the proper play.
Card Practice #2 - Some player hands, like A-7 are difficult to learn. So set up a practice
like the one above but leave the player's hand the same and change only the dealer's up card after each round.
Continue to hit or double as before. This exercise is particularly good for getting you used to playing "soft"
hands (those which contain an Ace) properly. Time is not important here but accuracy is.
Card Practice #3 - This is a variation on the practice above. On this one, keep the
dealer's card the same -- say a 6 -- then deal two cards for the player. Play out the hand and then move just the
player's cards off to the side. "Stack" your deck a bit by putting in a lot of pairs so you can get used to
Spend at least a half-hour each day on your flashcards and time yourself. Do a minimum of
one "Basic Strategy Reconstruction" each day. Time yourself and record the results along with the date right on the
form. Do a minimum of one "Basic Strategy Decision Exercise" each day and mark both the date and time it took you
to complete it on the form. Spend at least a half-hour each day doing the 3 card practices. Work on those hands
which are the most difficult for you to learn.
School's out. Any apples?