Basic Strategy ExampleHow Basic Strategy comes into play can be illustrated by using a very simple example. You are dealt a hand consisting of an 8 and a 4 for a total of 12. The dealer's upcard is a 6. What do you do? Well, the proper answer (Which comes as a great surprise to many) is to stay on your hand of 12.
Many new Blackjack players would take a card in the above situation. They feel their hand is very weak and can be improved by taking a card. After all, a 12 is a very low total to be standing on, right! This reasoning is flawed for several reasons, one of which is not so obvious. The first reason why this course of action would be incorrect stems from a basic premise of Blackjack which is that the most plentiful card in the deck is a 10 value card (10, Jack, Queen or King). Given that this is the most plentiful card in the deck, you will assume the dealer has a 10 as his hole card for a total of 16. You will also have to assume that the next card that comes out of the shoe is a 10 value card as well. This would bust you. Therefore, instead of you taking this bust card, the proper course of action is to stand and let the dealer take this card and bust what you believe to be a total of 16 that he has. Now, you may decide to stray from this strategy and take a card. You may actually better your hand in the process. Alternatively, the dealer may not have a 16, but may have a good hand (Say a 10, or an 11) and he doesn't bust. You will have been better off taking a card for that particular hand. In the long run, however, the odds are that you will do better if you stand in this situation as opposed to taking a card.
The not so obvious reason why standing is the correct play given those cards is computer simulations. Computer simulations have shown that there is a greater expectation by standing on a 12 and hoping the dealer busts with his upcard of 6 than by taking an additional card on a hand of 12 with the upcard of 6 showing. Let's face it, a 12 is not a good hand, but these statistical simulations have shown that you will win more money (or rather, lose less, under these unfavourable circumstances) than if you hit.
The above analysis demonstrates how the Basic Strategy play for a hand of 12 with a dealer upcard of 6 is optimized. Basic Strategy, in general, has been calculated in this fashion for any player hand and dealer upcard. There is no guesswork as far as how to play your cards if you follow Basic Strategy.