Blackjack – Increase your chances of winning by learning the basics of blackjack, as well as some basic blackjack strategy in this article. Duncan Nicholls/OJO Images/Getty Images
Millions of players have heard the message that of all casino table games, blackjack is the one to beat. A practical system of counting cards in blackjack to gain an edge in the casino was made available to the public in the early 1960s. As it happened, few players learned to beat the dealer. Moreover, the playing field has changed since then. Some tables use more than one deck at a time or cut a percentage of the cards out of play so that the card counter never sees them.
Even though most players don’t have the ability to win consistently, the belief that blackjack can be beaten is enough to spark a boom in the game. Blackjack is by far the most popular casino table game in the United States, with more players than craps, roulette and baccarat combined.
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Many people do not have the patience, persistence and focus required to count cards or the bank account to do it efficiently. But they can still reduce the house to less than 1 percent in blackjack. The secret is to learn a basic strategy for hitting, standing, doubling and splitting pairs. A little time spent learning how to play well can make your money go much further in the casino. In this article, you will learn the basics of blackjack, as well as some strategies to increase your chances of winning. Let’s start by learning how to play the game:
Blackjack is played with one or more standard 52-card decks, with each suit assigned a point value. Cards 2 through 10 are worth face value. Kings, queens, and jacks are worth 10 each, and aces can be used as 1 or 11. The player’s goal is to draw cards closer to 21, without going over, like the dealer’s cards.
The best conversation of all is two-card 21, or blackjack. Blackjack pays 3-2 – that is, a two-card 21 on a $5 bet will win $7.50 instead of the normal $5 even money payout on other winning hands. However, if the dealer also has two 21s, the hand pushes, or calls, and you just get your original bet back. But if the dealer rolls 21 in three or more cards, your blackjack is still a winner with a 3-2 payout.
The game is usually played at an arched table with seating for up to seven players on the outside and for the dealer on the inside. In one corner of the table is a rectangular panel that states the minimum and maximum bets on the table, as well as variations on common rules. For example, the sign might say, “Blackjack. $5 to $2,000. Split any pair three times. Double on any two cards.” That means the minimum bet on this table is $5 and the maximum is $2,000. Pairs can be split according to the rules described below, and if more matching cards are dealt, the pairs can be split up to three times for a total of four hands. The player may double the original bet (double down) and receive only one more card on any two totals.
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Most games today use four, six or eight decks. After shuffling, the cards are placed in a container called a shoe, from which the dealer can remove one card at a time. Single or double deck games, most common in Nevada but also popular in Mississippi and some other markets, can be dealt from the dealer’s hand.
The game begins when you place a bet by stacking chips or chips into the betting box on the table directly in front of you. After all bets are placed, each player and dealer are dealt two cards. In a shoe game, all player cards are dealt face up and players may not combine their cards. In a single or double dealt deck game, cards are dealt face up and players can pick them up with one hand. Either way, one of the dealer’s cards is turned face up for the players to see.
Once the cards are dealt, players decide how to play their hands. After all players have finished, the dealer plays according to the set rules: the dealer must draw more cards of 16 or less and must stand on 17 or more. In some casinos, the dealer will also draw a “soft” 17 – 17 including an ace or aces that can also count as a 7. The most common soft 17 is an ace-6, but some other totals, such as an ace. -3-3 or ace-4-2, up to ace-as-ace-ace-ace-mas in many decks, are soft 17s.
Hit: If you hit, you take another card or cards in hopes of getting closer to 21. If the player’s total exceeds 21 after hitting, the player is said to “bust” and lose the bet. In shoe games, the player signals a hit by pointing to his cards or scratching or waving to himself. In face games, the player signals a hit by scratching the board with the cards. Verbal calls to strike are not accepted – signals are used in favor of security cameras above the table, so a busy plate is available to resolve potential disputes.
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Stand: If you stand, you choose not to draw any more cards in hopes that the current total will beat the dealer. Indicate your stand by holding a flat palm over your cards in a face game or by sliding your cards under your bet in a face game.
Doubling: You can choose to double your original bet and get just one more card, regardless of the denomination. Some casinos limit doubling to hands where your first two cards total 10 or 11. Others allow you to double on any two cards. Double down by taking chips or chips equal to the amount of your original bet and placing them next to your bet. In a face game, at this point you also need to turn your original two cards face down.
Split: If your first two cards are of the same name, you can choose to make another bet equal to your first and split the pair, using each card as the first card in one hand. For example, if you get two 8s, you can slip a second bet right into the first in your betting box. The dealer will deal the 8s and place another card on top of the first 8. You play that hand out normally until you either stand or bust; Then the dealer places another card on the second 8 and you play the hand out.
Insurance: If the dealer’s Facebook card is an ace, you can take a “insurance”, which is basically a bet that the dealer has a 10 card down to complete blackjack. Collateral, which can be taken for half of the original bet, pays 2-1 if the dealer has a blackjack. The net effect is that if you win the insurance bet and lose the hand, you come out even. For example, the player has 18 with a bet of $10. The dealer has an ace up. The player takes a $5 insurance bet. If the dealer has blackjack, the player loses the $10 bet on the hand but wins $10 with the 2-1 payout on the $5 insurance bet.
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Many dealers will advise players to take out insurance if the player has blackjack. This can be done by simply calling “even money” – because if the dealer has blackjack, the player receives a payout equal to the player’s bet instead of the 3-2 normally paid for blackjack.
These are the steps involved: A player bets $10 and draws a blackjack. The dealer has an ace up. A player makes a $5 insurance bet. The dealer has blackjack. The player’s blackjack binds the dealer, so no money changes hands on the original bet. But the $5 insurance bet wins $10 on the 2-1 payout – the same as if the original $10 bet had won even money.
As it happens, the dealers who suggest this game are giving bad advice. Insurance would be an even bet if the dealer shows that a mouse completes blackjack one-third (33.3 percent) of the time. But only 30.8 percent of cards have 10 values. Taking a bet is a bad percentage play, no matter what the player’s total, unless the player is a card counter who knows there are an unusually large number of 10-value cards left to play.
Not all blackjack games are created equal. Some variations of the rules are good for the player and others are bad. The changes in the house edge may look small, but they make a big difference in a game where the whole house
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