Even if a blackjack player doesn't master card counting, he should understand the basic strategy that dictates whether to "hit" or "stand" after receiving the first two cards. Strategy is based on the dealer's face-up card.

The Math Club took the rules of blackjack in Atlantic City and programmed their computers to play millions of simulated hands. The result:

HIT/STAND STRATEGY

If your first two cards total: *11 or less, always hit. *12, you should stand if the dealer shows a 4, 5 or 6; hit otherwise. *13 through 16, you should stand against 2 through 6 for the dealer; hit otherwise. *17 or higher, stand.

SOFT HIT/STAND STRATEGY

If you have a: *Soft 17 or less (soft means one of your cards is an ace, which counts either one or 11), you should always hit. *Soft 18, hit against 9, 10 or ace. *Soft 19 or 20, never hit.

PAIR SPLITTING

If your first two cards are the same, you may split them, make another bet and play both hands: *Always split aces and 8s. *Never split 10s and 5s. *9s--split against 2, 3 , 4 , 5, 6 & 8, 9. *7s, 3s, 2s--split against 2 through 7. *6s--split against 2 through 6. *4s--split against 5 and 6.

DOUBLING

If you like your first two cards compared to the dealer's face-up card, you may double your bet--but you only will be dealt one more card: *Double 11 against all but ace. *Double 10 against all but 10, ace. *Double 9 against 3, 4, 5, or 6.

SOFT DOUBLING *Ace, 7 or ace, 6 (soft 18 or 17): double against 3, 4, 5, 6. *Ace, 5 or ace, 4 (soft 16 or 15): double against 4, 5, 6. *Ace, 3 or ace, 2 (soft 14 or 13): double against 5, 6. *Aces: always split.

SURRENDER (if permitted)

If the dealer is showing: *Ace, surrender with a 5 through 7, or 12 though 17. *10, surrender 14 through 16. *9, surrender a 16.