Blackjack Rules and Strategy

blackjack-21Blackjack is considered as the ultimate classic casino table game. Some say its rules could not be simpler, but the game is often found tricky by beginner players.

The truth is that no matter how easy the rules of Blackjack may seem, there is a variety of options provided by the casino, which make the game so interesting and attractive for players.

Blackjack Objective and Basic Rules

Before you start playing Blackjack in a casino, you need to learn what the objective of the game is.

Often even advanced players are mistaken that the objective of the game is to get as close as 21 as possible, but without surpassing that number. This, however, is wrong. The object of Blackjack is first, to beat the dealer without going over 21 and second, you must either beat the dealer or have their bust.

  • The game of Blackjack is played with one to eight decks consistent of 52 cards.
  • Aces in the game can be counted as 1 or 11 points. The cards from 2 to 9 are counted according to face value, while tens and face cards are always counted as 10 points.
  • The hand consists of two cards. Its value is the sum of the point values of the individual cards. The highest hand, which consists of an ace and any card counted as 10 points, is called “blackjack”.
  • The rules of the game are rather simple. If the total value of your hand goes over 21, you go bust and lose. If the dealer’s hand is closer to 21 than yours, you lose.

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Before Playing Blackjack

It is a good idea to spend some time just observing the casino and its policy and check on the different types of Blackjack games players are offered. Here is a list with the most important elements to look out for:

  • Make sure you check what the minimum stakes at each table are.
  • Check if a shoe is being used by the dealer or there is a dealing machine. This may have significance for the strategy of more experienced players, but there is hardly any difference that these two methods make for a beginner player.
  • A good idea is to join a table where there are fewer people. This will give you the opportunity to settle down and be more relaxed. Try to stay away from crowded tables, because the gamy can be really slow and its pace usually becomes hard to follow.
  • Choose a stake in compliance with your bankroll. Experts say that in the ideal case, you should sit down at a Blackjack table with bankroll that amounts about 40 times the stake you wish to bet. The absolute minimum is to sit down with a bankroll 20 times your stake.

Bankroll management is an important part of every player’s strategy. This is why there is one word you can use to describe that – discipline. Every player should be perfectly aware of the amount of money they can afford to lose instead of taking a random approach.

  • Check if the house pays 3-2 for Blackjack. There are some casinos, which offer only 6-5, which is quite a bad situation because over 1% is swung back in the bank and are in favour of the casino.
  • Note if the dealer prefers to stand on “soft 17” – this is the best option. On the other hand, it is not recommendable for you as a player to stand on “soft 17”, because you should always try to make your hand better.

Other Player Options Offered by the House

There are some casinos, which put notes about the house rules at each blackjack table. In case you cannot find these rules, you better go to an empty table and ask the dealer about them. The dealers and supervisors are obliged to reveal which rules are in force in the casino.

Here are the most important other player options provided by the house:

  • Early surrender
  • Double down after splitting
  • Soft doubles
  • Re-splitting of aces

You should have in mind the fact that these house rules are aimed at narrowing the edge the casino holds against you at a game of Blackjack.

Playing Blackjack

BlackJack-1Usually, the dealer’s shoe or dealing machine is position to the far right of the Blackjack table. Most casinos have seven betting circles/boxes where you can place your bets. If there are side-bet opportunities, they are usually placed in additional betting boxes.

When players sat at the table, they could be asked in what denomination they would like their chips. The best option for you is to ask for the same denomination as the size of bet you have decided to place.

To play, you should put one or more chips in the betting box and wait for your cards to be dealt. After the players have placed their bets, two cards will be given to each player by the dealer, who will also give two cards to themselves.

One of the dealer’s cards is always placed face up. The other card, which is placed face down, is called the “hole card”. In case there is an ace showing in the dealer’s hand, players are usually offered a side bet, which is called “insurance”, which pays 2 to 1 in case of the hole card of the dealer is a 10-point card.

Insurance bets are not obligatory. They may not surpass half the original bet.

If the dealer’s up card is an ace, the player is provided with the opportunity to place a bet that equals to 50% of their original one that the dealer has made a Blackjack. If the dealer really does, the player gets 2-1 on their money. This basically means they will be returned their insurance bet and their original bet and their hand will end up even. The player loses the insurance in case the dealer does not make a Blackjack and continues to play their hand with the original bet.

No matter if you are a beginner or have more experience playing Blackjack, never take insurance in case you are not counting cards.

In case the dealer has a ten or an ace face up, they will take a glimpse of their other card in order to check if they have a Blackjack. In such cases, they will turn their hand immediately. When the dealer has a Blackjack, all bets, except insurance, will lose. The only exception is if the player has a Blackjack, too.

In some countries, the dealer takes one card, which is placed face up, but does not take a second card until all the players have finished playing out their hands. This basically means that players play their hands without knowing if the dealer will make Blackjack.

It is important for you to know that most casinos worldwide prefer an “up-game”, where the cards are placed next to your bet face up and are not supposed to be touched at all by the player. Still, there are some old-school casinos, which prefer the “down-game”, where the cards are placed face down and the player has the right to privately look at them.

When it comes to the dealer’s card that is placed face up, guesses are in order. Every player tries to make an assumption what the dealer’s hand may play out. So, when making your guesses, do always have in mind that if the dealer holds a 7 or better, the chances of them busting sharply declines. That is the reason why you need to do your best in order to improve your hand to a total of at least 17.

When you make your decision about how you are going to proceed, you should inform the dealer about it. You can choose a “Hit me” option in case you want another card or a “Stand” option in case you do not want any more cards.

Here are some important pieces of advice, which could be especially useful for beginners:

  • If the casino follows the “up-game” policy, do not touch the cards in any way.
  • Touching your chips after your bet was places is also considered unacceptable.
  • Do not be offensive towards the dealer in case your cards run badly. Do not be rude to the other players, too.
  • Stay calm no matter what the outcome of the game is. Do not change your strategy “in motion”.
  • Never increase your bets in case you are losing, such a strategy could lead to you losing more and more money.

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Should You Take Dealer’s Advice?

When playing in a physical casino, it is important for you the realize that all dealers, supervisors and pit bosses are giving their advice to players when they are asked to or when they see a player is not exactly certain what to do.

So, if you feel puzzled about the game, you are always free to ask your dealer for an advice. Still, be cautious, because it is not uncommon for these recommendations to be wrong. Sometimes it is really not to be influenced by the dealer advice, so the only person who should listen to, is yourself.

Hit or Stand Rules

Always pay attention to the dealer’s hand and especially on the card showed face up, because this will predetermine your further strategy. There are basically two main rules you need to follow:

  • If the dealer’s card is 7 or larger, you must take further cards in order to get a total of at least 17. In such cases the next card of the dealer is to give them a “made hand”, which means that they will not take any more cards.
  • If the dealer’s card is from 3 to 6, players should not risk busting due to the fact that the chance of the dealer to go bust is larger. In such cases they must take another card which, if high, will probably make their hand exceed 21 and go bust.
  • If the face up card of the dealer is a 2, continue taking more cards until you reach a score of 14. Then you can stand and hope for the dealer to bust.

Sometimes, even the experienced players do not know what to do. We offer you some tips how the dealer’s cards should be considered in order to build a proper game strategy. They will help you greatly reduce the bank’s edge and be more successful.

  • The best cards of the dealer from the player’s point of view are the cards from 3 to 6. They are the ones from which the dealer is most likely to bust. Statistically speaking, 5 is actually the best card for the dealer from the player’s point of view.
  • The worst cards that could be held by the dealer from the player’s point of view, are 9, 10, J, Q, K and ace. These are the cards from which the dealer is likely to make a result better than yours in case of drawing a ten card.
  • 7 and 8 are considered as neutral cards if in the dealer’s hand. Still, do have in mind that it is still likely to end up in a hand totalling 17 or more.

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Splitting Pairs

Split is most commonly used by players to help them avoid losing the hand by winning one of the split hands and losing the other. Using this strategy in the game will provide you with the opportunity to minimize losses and generate larger profits.

Nowadays most casinos allow players to double down or split hands. Here is the idea of splitting – this strategy can be used in cases when the player has two cards of the same value. By using the split, the player divides the cards from their initial hand in two separate hands to play each of them individually.

When you split, you need to place a bet that is equal to the one you have made in the beginning. In physical casinos, the dealer divides your hand and begins playing each hand.

Remember that it is wise to split your hand only if such a step would guarantee you better chances in comparison to your first two cards. We offer you a list with the opportunities for you to split:

  • Always split when you have a hand containing two aces. There is one exception only – do not split if you are playing to a no hole-card game and the dealer’s face up-placed card is an ace. You should also always split a hand of two 8s unless the dealer shows a 9, a 10 or an ace.
  • Split a hand containing two 2s in case the dealer shows a card from 2 to 7. The same rule applies to a hand consistent of two 3s.
  • If your hand contains two 4s, you could split in case the dealer’s face up-placed card is a 5 or a 6.
  • Never split a hand containing two 5s.
  • Split a hand of two 6s in case the dealer shows a 3, a 4, a 5 or a 6. The same condition, including the case when the dealer shows a 7, applies to a hand of two 7s.
  • The player should consider splitting a hand containing two 9s when the dealer holds 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 or 9.

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Soft Totals

We offer you some Hit and Stand rules related to the so-called “soft hand”, or in other words – the hands that contain an ace. Since an ace can count as either 1 or 11, this is an opportunity to improve your hand two times, rather than just one.

  • If the player holds a hand that contains an ace and 2, 3, 4 or 5 as a second card, the ace can count as one. This is a chance for the player to hit until they make a hard total amounting to 17 or better
  • If the player holds a hand containing an ace and 6 as a second card, they also have the opportunity of improving their hand and hit it. It will be a good idea to continue hitting the hand until the player makes a hard total of 17 and more
  • In case the player has a hand of ace and 7, the hand can be worth 8 or 18 according to the value of the ace. Still, you have in mind that if the dealer’s card placed face up is a 9 or a 10, there is a great chance for you losing the hand. You could ask for one more card and continue hitting until reaching 17
  • If the player hold a hand consisting of an ace and an 8 or a 9, they they will have a score of 19 or 20. The best decision is to stand because it will be hard to improve your total

Doubling Down – Soft Hands

The hand containing an ace in Blackjack is commonly called a “soft hand”. Aces in soft hands also have two values – either a 1 or an 11. Doubling when holding such a hand is more rare and less important than doubling when holding a hard hand.

There are merely two simple rules, which you can follow when considering to double in case of a soft hand:

  • In case your hand consists of an ace and a 2, a 3, a 4 or a 5, double down if the dealer’s face up-placed card is a 4, a 5 or a 6.
  • If your hand consists of an ace and a 6 or a 7, double down in cases when the dealer has 3, 4, 5 or 6.
  • Avoid doubling down in cases of any other soft total.

Doubling Down – Hard Hands

The so-called “hard hand” is a hand, which does not contain an ace. Players are permitted by most casinos to double their wager after the first two cards and get another card.

If you want to double, the bet you place is equivalent to the original one. The player also receives only one more cards.

This is called doubling down and the best time for doing so is when holding a total of 9, 10 or 11 with the initial hand. He player may hope they will get another card worth 10, which would make the entire hand particularly strong. Doubling should be made in the appropriate moment in order to avoid making any foolish bets, called “sucker bets”.

Here are some rules that can be helpful for you:

  • In case your hand totals 9, it is a good idea to double down if the dealer’s face up-placed card is a 3, a 4, a 5 or a 6. Make sure you don’t double down in case the dealer shows a 2, a 7 or an 8.
  • If the player holds a total of 10, then they should double down in case the dealer’s face up card shows 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9.
  • In case the total of your first two cards is 11, then double down in any case expect in the cases when the dealer face up-placed card is an ace.

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Surrender

The opportunity to surrender is being offered to the players by a large number of casinos nowadays in the cases. The Surrender option is provided in the cases when players have received their first two cards and have already seen the dealer’s card which is placed face up.

A common casino policy is also to not allow players to surrender in case the dealer holds an ace. Sometimes, surrender is permitted if a hole card is taken by the dealer who checks whether they have a Blackjack.

Still, surrender should be taken advantage of your hand unless you are counting. Here are the main cases when you could consider if it would be wise to surrender:

  • A correct time to surrender is in the cases when the player holds a hand that totals to 15 or 16, and the dealer face up card equals to 9 or 10.
  • A wise decision to surrender is also when an ace is being shown by the dealer and the player holds a two-card total of 15 or 16.
  • You must not surrender at any other time of the game.

Late Surrender

Very few casinos offer the option of a late surrender, which in fact is the opportunity to surrender at any time in the game. The strategy of a late surrender is the same as the one given above.

Side Bets

    • Under of Over 13: This bet gives you the opportunity to make a guess if your original hand’s value will be more or less than 13. Before making it, do have in mind that an ace is always counted as 1 in this bet and the Blackjack is 11.In other words, if you bet on Under 13, the bank will pay you a bonus for two aces, normally 7-1.
    • Perfect Pair: This bet is becoming one of the most preferred ones at Blackjack tables. The player bets that their original hand will be a pair. The payouts depend on the casino policy, but the standard is: Mixed pair 5-1, Same colour pair 12-1, Perfect pair 30-1. Although it sounds tempting, this bet is also best to be avoided.
    • Five-Card Trick: This bet is actually offered quite rarely by casinos, which pay a bonus if the player manages to make a hand of five cards that does not bust. Normally, this bet does not require an extra bet from the player.The tricky part here is that if tempted, the player should decide if it is more important for them to win their Blackjack hand, or if they wish to get the bonus. If there is such a doubt in you, the wise choice is to stick to your Blackjack hand and leave the bonus behind.
    • Magic 7s: This is again a commonly offered bet. It allows you to bet that you will get three consecutive 7s. In case the player manages to make three 7s of the same suit, they win the jackpot.

Betting Patterns

The simple truth is there is an equal chance for the player to win or lose when they are making a little bet and when they make a big bet. Still, changing the type of your bet is a wise strategy with good reasons that vary from proper bankroll management to reducing losses over a particular gambling session.

A common mistake made by a lot of players is boosting the size of their bet in the cases when they have just lost the previous hand. Always remember that your main objective as a player is to increase your profits to the maximum and bring your losses to the minimum.

A great idea is to build a strategy of slowly increasing your bet in times when you win, and gradually decreasing it in times when you lose. It is also considered a wise decision to bet the minimum all the time, which will help you limit my losses. On the other hand, slowly increasing the bet while you are winning is a good choice is to give you the opportunity to boost your profits.

Counting

If Blackjack is dealt out of a shoe, it is important for you as a player to know that the cards that appear on the table would never show up again over the duration of the shoe. Most people think that counting’s principle equals to tracking every card that is played on the table.

However, this is not exactly true. The truth is that the player, who counts, does not track the cards, but the ratio of high cards dealt by the dealer.

The principle is basically as follows: The larger the number of high cards remaining in the shoe, the better the player’s position. And on the contrary – the more small cards remaining in the shoe, the less favourable the situation is for the player.

Following the ratio of high cards that have already been dealt, could be useful for you. The strategy of keeping a track of the cards dealt is entirely up to you, but it is a good idea to “mark” the cards in your mind, dividing them into several groups. One of the most appropriate ways of diving them is as follows:

      • High Cards: 9s, 10s, all face cards and aces
      • Low Cards: 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s and 6s
      • Neutral Cards: 7s and 8s

As it was mentioned above, the strategy of tracking the cards depends on you, but one of the most commonly used methods is subtracting a card from the count total every time a high card appears. Then, every time a low card appears, you add 1 to your total. When a neutral card (a 7 or an 8) is dealt, don’t count them.

Positive Positions and Strategy Changes

A positive position for the player is when the count, divided by the number of decks remaining, is +8 or better. The chances for this to happen is relatively rare, but you better be prepared with a strategy when it does.

      • Stand on 12 and 13 against dealer’s 2
        This is a reasonable thing to do because the dealer is more likely to break from a 2 in the conditions of more high cards outstanding.
      • Double down with 9 if the dealer has a 2 or a 7
        It is more likely for you to make a total of 19 with extra tens available, while the dealer can make either a total of 17 or bust.
      • Double down with an 8, against dealer’s 5 or 6
        The possibility of you making your hand total 18 is quite large. At the same time it is very likely for the dealer to bust.
      • Surrender when you got 16 at a time when the dealer holds an 8
        If you don’t, you should be aware of the fact that the chances of you getting a card that will help you make a winning hand are small, while the dealer is less likely to break.
      • If the surrender choice is not available, stand on 16 in case the dealer has a 10
      • Take insurance in case the count is +12 or higher

Negative Positions and Strategy Changes

A negative position is when high cards have appeared early in the game, and in large quantity, too, while the count totals to -8 or less. The best strategy in such cases is to be playing minimum bets.

  • Do not double down on 9, except in the cases when the dealer has a 5 or a 6
    The chances of you getting a decent hand’s total with one card only, or the dealer busting, are minimal when doubling in such cases.
  • If the dealer’s up card is a 2, hit 12, 13 and 14 against it
    You need to do everything possible to improve the total of your hand from low teens to a better result.
  • Do not be tempted to surrender a total of 15 against a dealer’s 9
    There is a better chance for you to have a success with a hand totalling 15 than losing half your bet if you surrender.
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