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Playing blackjack offers a unique opportunity for profit because it is possible to beat the house by using effective, optimal strategies. Certainly in the short term. It's one of those rare cases where there is a chance to win some money at casino games, and if you play blackjack regularly enough some of the strategies you can employ begin to become second nature.
The same provisos apply as in all casino games though. The house has an edge, and in the long run they will win unless you're very, very lucky. If you do decide to play blackjack - and it's definitely an easy and enjoyable way to pass a few hours - then keep in mind that it's still gambling. The risk of addiction is always there for the unwary player, as is the potential for long losing runs which can reduce your bankroll quickly.
Playing Blackjack - The Rules
The rules of blackjack are fairly straightforward. You could register an account at an online casino and be playing within a few minutes. But if you don't understand the rules - and some simple strategies for the most effective play - then you'll most likely be giving the casino money right from the first minute.
Lets take a look at how it works:
A player, or number of players, take on the dealer. You place bets before the cards are dealt, and you win if your hand is closer to 21 than the dealers.
Two cards are dealt face up for each player. The dealer turns over one card and leaves his other face down. You can then choose to have one or more cards extra dealt to you, in an attempt to get as close to 21 as possible without going over.
If your first two cards dealt are already 21 (for example a ten card and an ace), this is called blackjack. If you have two tens, for example, you'd almost certainly decide to 'stick' as it would be unlikely the next card is an ace and makes up your 21. You play your own hand with full control over whether to stand or hit, unless of course you have 21.
Once all players have taken their turn, then the dealer plays too, and to win you must have a better hand than the dealer.
The dealer must hit, or turn over another card on any hand where he has 16 or less, no matter what cards are showing for the players on the table. In internet casinos, the options for any action are presented to you, so you'll always know what your choices are.
If either you or the dealer go over 21 you (or they) are bust, and lose the game. Ace counts as 1 or 11, tens and picture cards count as 10. If you win the hand, you win the amount you've bet plus your stake back, effectively doubling your money.
To make the game more exciting, a number of options are open. These include:
A bonus to your win if you hit blackjack with your 2 cards - an ace and a ten or picture card. That makes 21, and unless the dealer also gets blackjack, you win the hand. Blackjack pays out at one and a half times your original stake, so you can see the most desirable time to land it is when you've had a big initial bet.
Other options include double down, splitting pairs, and surrendering.
Doubling down is a good way to increase the amount you could win, without risking all that cash before you've seen your first two cards. If you've received a good hand, and believe you could make 21 (or any total that will beat the dealer) with just one more card, you can effectively double the value of your original bet and double your potential winnings.
You only get this chance on the first two cards, and occasionally on the first two cards after you've taken an option to split (see below). Of course, if it goes wrong and you don't get the card you were hoping for then you've lost double the money on that hand assuming the dealer goes on to win.
An example of a good time to double down might be when you have a total of 11 showing, and good reason to suspect there might be a number of tends in the deck.
Assuming you're playing a 6 deck game, a doubling bet has these affects on house edge:
Doubling on 10-11 only House Edge 0.75%
Doubling on 9-11 only House edge 0.67%
Doubling on any cards House edge 0.58%
The strategy for doubling down is as follows:
Against an up card of 10 or less, double down on 11.
Against an upcard of 9 or less, double down on 10.
Only double down on 9 if the dealer shows a 3, 4, 5, or 6.
Never double down if the dealer shows an Ace.
If you get a pair in your first hand, you get the option to split them and receive one more card on each. You'll need to place a new wage equal to the first one on your new hand.
A good example of cards worth splitting would be if you were dealt two aces. You could split these and hope for the next two cards to both be 10s or pictures, giving you 21 and blackjack. The other pairs to always split are 8s and 9s, giving you two chances to beat the dealer.
The surrender option is not always offered at all casinos, but it is an option where - if your first two cards look to be likely losers for you - you can make a decision to fold and not play on. In this case you lose half your bet.
Losing half your money without playing may seem like madness to some, but it is useful and can be the correct strategy where your cards are very poor and the dealer looks in a strong position to win.
Why Play Blackjack?
I've mentioned before that when you play blackjack you're getting one of the very few opportunities you ever get with casino games to use skill and strategy to beat the casino.
The others are video poker and poker in general.
Well practiced blackjack players - if they're able to count cards as well - can actually turn the house edge in their favour. But that'll only work in live games. In an online casino -even if you don't count cards - by using basic strategy you can keep the house edge to only 0.5%.
Aside from the obvious fact that playing blackjack is one of the most favourable options for the health of your bankroll, it's also yet another enjoyable casino game. Easy to play, easy to understand.
How To Play Blackjack To Win - Revealing A Handful Of Basic, But Effective Strategies
Over time there have been a number of computer simulations and deep analyses carried out in an attempt to find the most effective blackjack strategies, and to beat the dealer.
Time has shown that there is a right way and wrong way of playing every blackjack hand that your dealt. Intuition or luck plays only a very small part over the course of time. Yes, if you get blackjack on a hand that you've had a huge bet on, then that's luck and you should accept it happily. But playing using the core strategies is what might get you a profit over a period of time.
The house edge of around 0.5% means with practice you can reach the level of blackjack play necessary to make a consistent profit, but shop around for this as the edge can vary from casino to casino depending on the rules.
However, because the blackjack dealer is forced to follow strict rules of play based on their own cards, by following the optimal strategy in any situation you have good chances to win consistently enough to make a profit. An intelligent and experienced blackjack player can use knowledge of strategy to his or her advantage, and with optimal blackjack play can make a return of around 99% over a long period.
At the core of blackjack strategy is the basis that you are able to see one of the dealers cards (known as the up card ). Knowing the value of this card, and of course the value of your own, lets you work out some probability of the dealer winning that particular hand.
An example. Let's say you have a total of 16, and the dealers up card is showing a 5. The most likely card for the dealer to turn over would be a card higher than a 6, which would then force hm to turn another card to beat your 16 total. Again the probability is that the next card would also be higher (there are more tens in the pack than any other value cards). Turning a ten would bust the dealer, and you'd win with your 16 hand.
Here's a good illustration of why and how this works. In any one deck game, there's a 30% chance that any card turned over will be worth 10. So, when the dealers up card is a 6, and he has to turn over another card on 16, there's a 60% chance of him busting if his second card is a ten.
Basic strategy dictates that you should always stand on any hand of 12 or more where the up card of the dealer is showing as a 3,4,5, or 6, as the dealers chances of busting are higher.
Those, of course, are very simplistic examples. And there are multliple variations of cards that might be showing or in the pack ready to be dealt. But it does illustrate how choices are made depending on what cards are showing on the table.
Using Blackjack Charts
You can use a chart that tells you the correct option depending on what cards you have and the dealers upcard - when to hit, stand, split, or double down. Most of the online casinos have sections on blackjack rules where they make these charts available, or you can search online for 'blackjack strategy charts' and you'll get a bundle to choose from.
Blackjack Betting Strategies
We've seen a number of times with different types of betting that often the difference in whether you win or lose in the long term depends not solely on your selections or choices, but on how much you bet or how you manage your bankroll.
In blackjack, combining a strong betting strategy with correct card choice strategy will go a long way to increasing your playing time overall, and increasing the likelihood of ending up ahead.
The betting strategies for one and two deck games of blackjack are slightly different from the strategy for games with three or more decks.
If you are playing in a one or two deck game of blackjack you can start out by betting two units. If an ace is played in the first round then you will continue betting two units but if an ace is not played in the first round you will bet three units on the next round.
Once you've earned 50% of your starting bank, you can consider increasing the bet to 3 units, but if your winnings drop below the 50% level go back to 2 unit bets and quit if your winnings drop to a 25% increase of your original bank.
If you started out betting two units and find yourself on a losing streak, switch to a new table and start out with one unit bets. If you continue to lose at the second table it's time to quit for the day. However, if you begin winning at the second table follow the same strategy and increase your betting back to two units only after you have won back half of your loss from the first table.
In multiple deck games the strategy is the same except you start out with one unit bets and increase to two unit bets once you win 50% of your original stake. If you find yourself in a position where you have doubled your bank you can cash out half of your winnings and continue with your original stake and half of your winnings. Each time you double your stake set aside half of your winnings and play with the remaining money. If you are losing only continue to play until you have lost the other half of your earnings so that you walk away with your original investment plus the 50% of your winnings that you set aside.
Keeping Count Of Decks
You can see from the previous example of blackjack betting strategy that this can be a crucial factor in choosing a blackjack game.The higher the number of decks in play, the lower your chances to beat the casino edge. However, only a one or two deck game actually gives you better value, there's little difference once it goes up to over 3 or 4.
Taking Advantage Of Blackjack Insurance]
In most blackjack games the casino will offer the option of an insurance bet when the dealer has an ace showing as the upcard. This lets you take an insurance bet based on the probability that the dealer will turn over a face card and make blackjack.
Be careful if deciding to take this bet, as it's likely to cost money in the long run. If you believed there were a lot of face cards in the deck then this would be a good time to take insurance. The maximum allowed on an insurance bet is usually one half of your original bet and it usually pays out at 2:1.
When you lose the insurance bet you lose the entire amount but when you win the insurance bet you also either lose your original bet or have a push with your original bet.
If your original bet is twice your insurance bet and you lose that bet but win the insurance at a 2:1 pay out the original bet combined with the insurance bet is a push.
Take the simple example of a $20 bet.
The dealer has an ace showing and you are offered an insurance bet. You opt for a $10 insurance bet and it turns out that the dealers other card was a 10 giving them a blackjack which beats your hand. Now you lose the $10 on the original bet and receive a $10 pay out on the insurance bet.
Game Variations - Blackjack Tournaments
After the burst of interest in playing poker tournaments online over the last few years, it'll be no surprise to see that blackjack tournaments are on offer too. In fact interest has been so great that there are now a number of major international televised tournaments to watch, and many casinos offer online blackjack tournaments for their online players. Major tournaments include the World Series of Blackjack and Ultimate Blackjack Tour.
The blackjack tournament format will be familiar to any poker players - running over several rounds until all players except one are eliminated and he or she ends up with the highest number of chips..
The difference in a tournament is of course that you're not playing against the dealer, but against fellow players who are in fact your opponents. This means that your betting strategies need to reflect on what they do,and how they bet, rather than the dealer.
If you fancy getting involved, here's what you'll encounter.
After registering and getting accepted, and just before the tournament start, you'll get allocated to a table. Each participant will have the same value starting bankroll. Depending on the tournament rules, play will progress over either a specific time period or over a specified number of hands. At the table you're on, players will gradually be eliminated when they lose all their chips, and ultimately the winners from each table will meet up to pay either the final or more elimination rounds.
Just as in poker, there are different types of tournaments, so let's look at a few:
Scheduled Blackjack Tournaments
Scheduled means just that. There will be a specified start time, and all registered players will need to be ready at that time. You'll have been required to buy in - or in other words put up a specific entry fee that can be anywhere from $1 up to much more. Clearly the higher the buy in, the higher the prize - and most often the more competitive the tournament is going to be.
Sit n’ Go Blackjack Tournaments
Sit 'n’ Go blackjack tournaments are played with a limited number of players at one table and are subject to either a time or number of hands limit. Normally in sit 'n' go's there is a minimum requirement for the number of players. Games start as soon as this minimum is reached. So you can see that to get some sit n go action you need to be at a well trafficked casino that's going to attract interested players - or else you might have long waits between games.
Freeroll tournaments will again be very familiar to online poker fans. They're free to enter tournaments - sometimes with valuable prizes - that are often run for new players as an incentive to sign up with an online casino.
They're a good way to practice, but because of their free to enter nature you may find that players are reckless with their betting. They've got nothing to lose so won't necessarily play in the same way as they would if money was at stake. For that reason they're not particularly good at learning how to handle real tournament situations.
What's The Perfect Blackjack Game To Play?
Now we know the basic strategies to use to get ahead in blackjack games, it's worth thinking about where to play that gives maximum advantage to the player.
For that we need to consider the question ''What's the perfect blackjack game?''
The answer is that it's a single deck game where the dealer has to stand on soft 17 and blackjack pays 3/2. This combination results in a low house edge of less than 0.3%.
If you manage to find a casino that operates in this way, then make good use of it.
If you can find a game which pays out extra on five card hands (your total is 21 or under with 5 cards) that'll reduce the house edge a little further.
If the casino you're playing at only uses multiple decks, make sure it gives you options to split to four hands and double down on any card. You can take a look at Virgin Casino European blackjack for this, and get the advantages of playing against a house edge of 0.4%.
More Info & Valuable Resources
If you want to read some high quality extra info on blackjack there are two websites which are widely respected, well known sources of high quality reading material. They are Pagat.com and WizardOfOdds.com.
Pagat.com is a site dedicated to card games of all types, with the Pagat blackjack page in particular covering the game in depth.
WizardOfOdds.com is one of the most respected - and trusted - websites covering all aspects of casino games. The WizardOfOdds Blackjack page also covers our subject in fine detail.
BlackjackTactics.com is a well presented, supremely easy to read site dedicated to every aspect of blackjack game play.
Blackjack is a great game, and does give you reasonable prospects of ending up ahead at the end of a playing session. You'll still encounter a house edge, but a low one of around half a percent, depending on the number of decks used and the rules of the game. For that reason, you won't be able to make a living at it unless you have a foolproof method of card counting up your sleeve - and a way to keep that hidden from the casinos.
But you can play blackjack and have a lot of fun, with plenty of wins to keep the interest going.
If you're looking for aa truly unique and very simple casino table game that you'll see played in virtually every casino - be it online or bricks and mortar - you'll want to take the chance to play blackjack at some point.
Most likely you'll remember playing the game as a child with your brothers or friends, probably with a call of ''let's play 21'' or maybe ''pontoon''. You may remember the blend of skill and luck that winning at the game entails.