Basic blackjack strategy depends primarily on the playerís existing hand value. Also critical is the concept of "hard" and "soft" totals. In blackjack a soft total is one in which the ace takes the value of 11, for example an ace and a five total to a soft 16. All other totals are hard totals. Central to hard total is the constraining of the ace to the value of 1. For example if the blackjack hand currently holds a ten, an eight and an ace, the ace cannot take a value of 11 because then the hand value exceeds 21. The advantage of a soft total is that the value of the ace can be switched to 1 should the need arise after taking the additional card.
For the purposes of analyzing the blackjack strategy the player's hand value of hard totals is divided into three ranges. The first range is an existing hand value of 11 or less. The maximum value that can be added to the hand is 10, because the ace can count as 1. Hence in this range the player can never bust by hitting and therefore must always hit. The second range in basic blackjack strategy is an existing hand value of 17 to 21. In this case the only cards that a player can draw without going bust are twos, threes and fours. More important is the blackjack rule that the dealer is forced to stand on 17 or more. Hence in this case the basic blackjack strategy is always stand. The problematic range is an existing hand value between 12 and 16. For this range the dealerís face up card is critical. If the dealers face up card is between a seven and ace then the player has very little chance of winning. He has to go down fighting and the correct blackjack strategy is to hit. However when the dealerís face up card is between a two and six, then the dealer has a very high likelihood of busting. The basic blackjack strategy says that the player should stand and let the dealer inflict the damage to himself.
The last section of the basic blackjack strategy deals with soft totals. If the soft totals are 17 or less the player should always hit because if the need arises the value of the ace can be switched to 1. Soft totals of 18 or 21 have a very good chance of winning and the player should stand with these totals. If the player has a blackjack he automatically wins.