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Blackjack

1. How to Play
2. Rule Variations
3. Strategy
4. Tips
5. History
 
ONE OF THE BEST CASINOS FOR BLACKJACK
OUR REVIEW
 
  1. HOW TO PLAY BLACKJACK  
  Most Blackjack tables have spots for 7 players. Players can enter a game at any time. To start playing at a table, sit down at any open spot and place your money in front of you towards the dealer to exchange for chips. Never place money in the small betting circle in front of your seat because it may be interpreted as a single bet by the dealer.

All face cards have a value of 10. Cards 2 through 9 are counted at face value. Aces can count as either one or eleven. At the beginning of each hand players make bets by placing chips in the circle in front of them. After all players have placed their bets the dealer deals out two cards to each player and two to her hand. The dealer’s first card, or “upcard”, is visible, but the dealer’s second card, or “hole card”, is dealt face down [bottom right].




FACE VALUE
10
1 OR 11

If the dealer’s upcard is an Ace, players are given the option of placing an Insurance bet. An Insurance bet is equal to 1/2 of a player’s initial bet and pays 2 to 1 if the dealer has Blackjack. After asking for Insurance bets, the dealer will check her hole card for a ten, making sure it is not exposed for players to see. If the dealer’s hole card is a ten she will turn it over, pay off Insurance bets and collect all losing bets. In some casinos if the dealer’s upcard is a 10 she will check her hole card for an Ace.

If the dealer does not have Blackjack play starts with the first player to the dealer’s left. Depending upon their initial hands, players may Stand, Hit, Double-Down, Split, or (on very few tables) Surrender [top right].

“Busting” occurs any time a player’s hand exceeds 21. If a player busts the dealer will immediately collect his bet. If a player is initially dealt an Ace and a ten value card this is known as a Blackjack, or “Natural”. This hand pays a bonus on the initial bet (usually 3 to 2) except in the case where the dealer also has Blackjack which results in a Tie, or “Push”.

After all players have resolved their hands, the dealer plays out her own hand. The dealer makes no decisions herself, but plays out her hand according to the rules of the casino. If the Dealer busts, all non-busting players win. If a player’s hand is higher than the dealer’s hand, the player wins. If the dealer and player’s hands are equal, it is a Push, and the player’s bet is returned. If the dealer’s hand is higher, the player loses.

STAND
The player sticks with whatever cards he currently holds.

HIT
The player takes an additional card.

DOUBLE-DOWN
The player doubles his initial bet and receives one — and only one — more card. Players can only Double-Down on their initial 2-card hand.

SPLIT
If the player is dealt cards of equal value, he may split them into two separate hands. Splitting requires the player to match his current wager for the second hand. When a player splits Aces he is only dealt one more card to each hand. Split Aces resulting in a Blackjack only pay 1 to 1. Each hand can win or lose independent of the others.

SURRENDER
Surrender is a rule that allows a player to give up half of his initial bet instead of playing out his hand. Players can only Surrender on their initial 2-card hand.


Example of a dealer’s initial hand; the upcard (here a queen) with the hole card (right).

 
OTHER RESOURCES AT WORK THE ODDS
BEST BETS
SUCKER BETS
LUCK VS SKILL
GLOSSARY
 
  2. BLACKJACK RULE VARIATIONS  
  Blackjack is the one casino game where the rules vary from casino to casino. Although gameplay remains the same, differences in rules affect playing strategy and house advantage. Listed below are the rule variations and their effect on house advantage.

A. NUMBER OF DECKS USED
Variables — 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, or 8 decks
Blackjack games can be found using anywhere from 1 to 8 decks. The more decks that are used, the greater the house advantage. Before “Beat the Dealer” was published, the standard Las Vegas Strip Blackjack game was played with one deck. Although single deck games can still be found, other rule changes are usually instituted to ensure a higher house advantage.

B. WHAT THE DEALER DOES WITH A SOFT 17
Variables — Stand or Hit
It is advantageous to a player when the dealer Stands with a Soft 17 [see above right]. This rule is common in Atlantic City and Las Vegas Strip casinos. It is advantageous to the House if the dealer Hits with a Soft 17. This rule is common with 1 or 2 deck games.

C. DOUBLE-DOWN VARIATIONS
Variables — restrictions: 9–11, 10/11, or None; Doubling after a Split: Yes or No
Limitations on what combinations a player can Double-Down on increase the house advantage. In some games players are only allowed to Double-Down on a 10 or 11, or they are not allowed to Double after Splitting.

D. SPLITTING VARIATIONS
Variables — 1, 2, or 3 Splits allowed
In some games players are not allowed to resplit cards (Splitting after a Split) — this is advantageous to the house. In some games resplitting Aces is not allowed which is also advantageous to the house.

E. LATE SURRENDER
Variables — Late Surrender allowed: Yes or No
Late Surrender is only available on an intial 2 card hand. When a player chooses to Surrender, they forfeit half of their bet without playing out the hand. With Late Surrender, a player can only Surrender after the dealer checks for blackjack.

F. DEALER PEEK VS. DEALER NO PEEK RULE
Variables — Peek, No Peek, Full No Peek
In most games the Dealer will check for Blackjack when her upcard is an Ace or a Ten. This is advantageous to the player. In some games the Dealer will not check for a Blackjack when her upcard is a Ten or not even check when it is an Ace (Full No Peek). This is advantageous to the house. “No Peek” rules are advantageous to the House because a player may lose more than his original bet (through Splitting or Doubling Down) against a Dealer’s Blackjack.


SOFT 17: A soft number in Blackjack indicates the presence of an 11-value Ace in the hand. It is “Soft” because the Ace can also assume the lower value 1.

» GLOSSARY
COMMON RULE SETS’ EFFECT ON HOUSE ADVANTAGE

Atlantic City
  8 DECKS
  DEALER STANDS ON SOFT 17
  3 SPLITS ALLOWED
  NO SURRENDER ALLOWED
  DEALER PEEK
HOUSE ADVANTAGE
  0.44%

Las Vegas Strip
  6 OR 8 DECKS
  DEALER STANDS ON SOFT 17
  NO DOUBLING AFTER A SPLIT
  3 SPLITS ALLOWED
  LATE SURRENDER ALLOWED
  DEALER PEEK
HOUSE ADVANTAGE
  0.33%

Single Deck
  1 DECK
  DEALER HITS ON SOFT 17
  NO DOUBLING AFTER A SPLIT
  3 SPLITS ALLOWED
  NO SURRENDER ALLOWED
  DEALER PEEK
HOUSE ADVANTAGE
  0.11%

 
1. How to Play
2. Rule Variations
3. Strategy
4. Tips
5. History
 
ONE OF THE BEST CASINOS FOR BLACKJACK
OUR REVIEW
 
  3. BLACKJACK STRATEGY  
 
 




 » 
 
SELECT A RULESET:
 

KEY:  

STAND  

HIT  

DOUBLE  

SPLIT  

SURRENDER  
To use the strategy tables, find the column that matches your hand. Use the second set of values if you have one Ace, the third if your initial two cards are of equal value. When you’ve found the correct column, match it to the dealer’s upcard for the proper play. Continue using the table as you play until you Stand, Double-Down or (rarely) Surrender.

Always Stand with a Hard 18 or higher, and a Soft 20. Always Hit with any non-pair total below 8. If Surrender is suggested but is not available, then Hit. If Double-Down is suggested but unavailable, then Hit.

 
Use the pull-down menu beneath the table to view the strategies for different rulesets.

 
OTHER RESOURCES AT WORK THE ODDS
BEST BETS
SUCKER BETS
LUCK VS SKILL
GLOSSARY
 
  4. TIPS FOR BLACKJACK PLAYERS  
  Most casinos have a limit bet size for players entering mid-shoe. This is because card counters will watch a shoe in progress and only sit down to play when the count is in their favor.

Seating doesn’t matter (except for card counters).

Other players’ results do not affect your hand.

The object of Blackjack is to beat the dealer. Many neophytes make the mistake of thinking that the game is to get as close to 21 as possible.

Don’t play by the dealer’s rules — you bust you lose.

Don’t always assume the next card is a ten — only 31% of the cards have a value of ten.

The true house advantage in Blackjack is the fact that a player always loses when he busts, even if the dealer busts.

All tables have a card stating minimum and maximum bets for the table. During busy times, minimum bets will be higher. During slow times minimum bets may be lower or even changed during the game to encourage more players to sit down.

Blackjack is one of the few casino games where rules vary from casino to casino, or even from table to table in the same casino. Know the rules and proper strategy before you play.

HOUSE ADVANTAGE: A house advantage of 2% means that, on average, the casino will retain 2% of a player’s bet. So, the lower the better. All House Advantages listed on this sited are expressed in terms of average bet amount using the strategy we recommend.

» GLOSSARY
SUCKER BET
Blackjack Insurance Bet. Avoid this bet unless you are an experienced card counter. This bet has a House Advantage of 5–8% depending upon the table rules.

» SUCKER BETS
 
1. How to Play
2. Rule Variations
3. Strategy
4. Tips
5. History
 
  5. THE HISTORY OF BLACKJACK  
 
The origin of the game Blackjack is still in dispute to this day, but can be traced back to several European card games. The French “Vingt-Un” (21), “Trente et Quarente” (20 and 30), “Chemin de Fer” (Railroad); Spanish “One and Thirty”; and Italian “Baccara” and “Seven and a Half” all have some similarity to modern Blackjack. Blackjack came to the United States in the 19th century.

Gambling was legal in the Western part of the United States from the 1850’s to 1910. From 1910 to 1931 gambling was illegal in Nevada. In 1931 Nevada legalized casino gambling and Blackjack became very popular. The most common type of Blackjack game was played with one or two decks.

In 1956, Roger Baldwin published a paper in the Journal of the American Statistical Association titled “The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack”. The paper explained how to reduce the “House”, or casino, advantage based upon probability and statistics. The strategy outlined proved confusing for non-mathematicians.

In 1962, Edward O. Thorp, a Mathematics Professor at New Mexico State University published “Beat the Dealer”. Dr. Thorp used an IBM 704 computer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computation Center to refine the strategy in Edward Thorp’s paper. He also developed the first card counting techniques. In 1963, “Beat the Dealer” spent one week on the New York Times bestseller list.

Due to the popularity of Dr. Thorp’s book, there was a huge increase in the amount of Blackjack players at casinos trying to implement his strategy. This caused some consternation among casinos. Many casinos changed their Blackjack rules fearing losses from people using Thorp’s system. This caused a noteable backlash among Blackjack players and a huge dropoff in the amount of people playing Blackjack. The casinos subsequently changed their rules back. Thorp’s book ended up making money for casinos, as it increased the amount of Blackjack being played. His system, however, was hard to understand and difficult for players to implement.

One of the most important contributors to modern Blackjack strategy was Julian Braun. Mr Braun was an IBM employee who improved Dr. Thorp’s code and ran simulations on IBM mainframes. His updated strategies and card counting techniques were included in the second edition of “Beat the Dealer” and numerous later books.

The work by Thorp, Braun and others transformed Blackjack from a little-played game stuck in the corner of most casinos into the most popular casino table game in the US today.

The name Blackjack comes from the “natural” hand winner of the early version of the game. If a player was dealt a Jack and Ace of Spades in his initial two card hand, he was an automatic winner and was payed a bonus. In modern Blackjack, any Ace combined with any ten value card (excepting after a Split) counts as a “natural” Blackjack.

 
ONE OF THE BEST CASINOS FOR BLACKJACK
OUR REVIEW
 
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