Getting Started with Blackjack
Blackjack is a very easy card game to play, in fact, most people actually learn to play as children or young adults. If you can tally numbers between 1 and 11 and count as high as 21, blackjack should be a really easy game for you to learn to play.
Before all of the fancy varieties of blackjack offered around the world today, there was single deck blackjack, which is simply put, just blackjack played with a single deck of cards. Today Blackjack is still played with as few as as one deck of cards however, it’s also played with as many as 8.
Most commonly blackjack is played with six decks of regular playing cards. Single deck blackjack today is a rarity, and the most advantageous for the player. Double deck blackjack is about as close to single as you can find now, and even those games are few and far between.
One advantage to using multiple decks is that there are fewer game interruptions for shuffling, however, the real reason casinos like to use more decks of cards is to disable would-be card counters. Even so, players using an optimum blackjack strategy still have a small edge over the casino, not a stupendous edge, but enough to earn a decent profit over time.
The reason for that is that blackjack card counting really isn’t that difficult, and when card counting is used as a part of a solid strategy, in a game with only one blackjack deck, the house, or casino cannot profit. In fact, they lose big.
The point of of the game of blackjack is to add together all of the cards dealt to you in order to reach 21, or as close to 21 as you can get without busting, or going over.
Blackjack is a multi-player game, however the players are not on a team and they don’t play against each other. Although there can be several players all playing with the same deck of cards, each player is playing individually against the dealer.
To win your hand must be better, or higher than the dealers. If the dealer is dealt 21 he wins, and if your hand matches the dealers, that’s a push and no one wins.
Blackjack can be played with just one player playing against the dealer or 2 or more players playing against a dealer. The players are not opponents however, each player is individually playing against the dealer.
A hand of Single Deck Blackjack
The hand begins when the dealer deals each player at the table two cards. The first card will be dealt face down, and the second face up. If you were counting cards, you’d want to include those face-up cards in your count.
If the dealer is dealt a ten or an ace, he will briefly check his cards for a blackjack. If the dealer has 21, no matter what the player has, the dealer wins and a new hand begins.
We’ll assume for now that the dealer was not dealt 21, and the hand continues. The player now checks his/her hand for a blackjack (meaning a and totalling 21). If the player does have 21, they turn their cards over and announce blackjack.
If the player does not have 21 play continues. At this point the player can opt to take another card from the dealer, or stay with just the two cards he was originally dealt. The player can come to this decision using blackjack strategy or card counting methods, common sense, or just on a whim. When the player reaches 22, or decides to stand, the play moves onto the next player or the dealer.
If the player busts by reaching a number higher than 21, that player loses that hand.
If the player wants more cards, he asks for a hit, or taps his cards on the table if he’s playing a live hand of blackjack. When playing online blackjack there’s a button to push for another card, usually labeled ‘hit’.
If the player is content with his hand he opts to stand, taking no more cards, the hand gesture for this in a live casino is a wave over the players hand.
The dealer doesn’t have the same freedoms however, the dealer must follow rules for hand play that are set in advance. Commonly the dealer hits on 16 and stands on 17. Those numbers do vary though and can generally be found posted on the blackjack table.
Blackjack can be a fun and entertaining game played with the knowledge that the house has the edge, or it can be a game played for profit, with the use of a basic blackjack strategy wherein the player has the edge.
If you’re just getting started playing blackjack, or learning strategy, the following basic blackjack strategy is the perfect place to start.
Playing blackjack is gambling, and when you gamble there’s always a distinct possibility that you will lose, however there’s nothing wrong with putting the math to use on your side.
Basic blackjack strategy is easy to memorize, and available on strategy cards at most casinos. In fact, blackjack strategy cards used to come inside just about every deck of cards sold in stores.
If you’re using a blackjack strategy card you’ll generally scan the left side of the card until you come to your hand. Then on the right hand side of the card you’ll locate the dealers up card. Find the place where these two columns meet and you have the best action for you to take.
It‘s preferable however to memorize and practice some basic strategy, so that you don’t have to be the guy sitting at the blackjack table taking peaks at a strategy card (if they’re allowed at all).
Basic Blackjack Strategy – When to take a Card
In the following situations the player will want to hit, accepting another card. These situations are based on a combination of the player’s hand, and the dealers UP card.
· When the total of the player’s two cards is 8 or any combination between 12 and 16 and the dealer is showing a 7, 8,9,10 or an ace the player should hit.
· If the player’s total of the players hand is 11 and the dealer has an ace showing, the player should hit, the player does not double down in this situation.
· When the players hand totals 10, and the dealer is also showing 10, the player should hit, this is another example of a situation where the player might mistakenly double down, when he should in fact only hit.
· When the cards in the players hand total 9 and the dealer is showing a 7, 8 or a 9, the player should just hit.
Basic Blackjack Strategy – When to Stand
A player that is content with his or her hand, or believes that the next card is likely to bust the dealer, will opt to stand, and not take any more cards.
· If the total of both of the player’s two cards is 17 or more, stand. Players should not take a card anytime their hand is higher than 16.
· If the dealer is showing a low card, 6 or lower, and the player is holding a hand higher than 12 (13 and up) the player should stand.
· If the player has a pair of tens, or two matching face cards the player should stand, the player shouldn’t ever split a hand totaling 20.
Basic Blackjack Strategy – When to Split
If a blackjack player has a pair, they are given the option of splitting that pair into two individual hands, and then playing the hands independently of each other.
· Pairs of twos and threes should only be split if the dealer’s up card is a 4, 5, 6, or 7.
· Fives shouldn’t ever be split, if the dealer is showing a 10 or an ace, just hit them, if the dealers showing anything else, double these down.
· 6’s and 7’s should only be split if the dealers up card is a six or lower.
· Aces and 8’s should always be split, regardless of the dealers card if allowed (Some casinos or games don‘t allow aces to be split).
Basic Blackjack Strategy – Doubling your Bet
Blackjack players double down when they believe they have a good chance of hitting 19 or better and the dealer does not have a 10 showing.
· Double down whenever their hand totals 10, unless the dealer’s up card is a 10 or an ace.
· Double 11 unless the dealer has an Ace up.
· Double on 9 only if the dealer has a 3-6 up.
Because the dealer has to use a strict rule set when playing, regardless of your up card, using the above strategy tips will improve your overall ROI as a blackjack player.
The table below outlines a simple Strategy that should improve your winning percentage…
One of the most successful forms of blackjack strategy is card counting. In fact, it’s such a successful strategy that there are several card counting strategies available on the Internet and in books.
The Hi-Lo card counting system, also referred to as the Plus/Minus blackjack card counting system is the most common and easy to learn and utilize blackjack strategy, it’s the strategy seen in the movie about the MIT students that rolled the casinos for hundreds of thousands of dollars in the blockbuster hit movie 21.
The system, which is known as a balanced card counting system was developed by Harvey Dubner and is a simplified version of Dr Edward Thorp’s card counting system known as the Ten Count. Dubner realized there was a need for a system that could be easily recalled and implemented at a blackjack table.
The following system is perfect for the recreational blackjack player or a player who intends to become a more serious force, but needs a place to begin building their blackjack strategy skillset.
Both intermediate and beginning blackjack players will be able to grasp this system fairly effortlessly, and then use it as a springboard to more intricate systems if they have the inclination.
To begin, every card is assessed a value of either -1, 0, or 1
· 2s 3s, 4s, 5s, and 6s count as 1 point, or +1
· 7s 8s and 9s are free cards; they have no value and count as 0.
· 10, J, Q, K, A Count as -1
There are 20 cards in the deck that range from 2 to 6, and whenever a player see’s one of these cards, in his hand, the dealers up cards, or the other opponents cards, the player adds 1 point to the count.
The 12 cards from 7 to 9 are neutral cards, you can ignore these cards, to do not have a value and they do not change the count.
The 20 high cards in the deck, the 10’s, jacks, queens, kings, and aces are counted as negative one. That being said, whenever one of these cards is dealt the count is reduced by one.
To begin learning this system, sit down with a deck of cards, and begin your count at zero, deal the cards out face up one by one keeping the count, if you kept an accurate tally, the count will be zero when the last card is dealt.
When the count is high, meaning more low cards have already been played, the player’s odds of winning are highest. When the amount of low cards in the deck is higher, the player’s odds of winning are lower, and a lower bet is the smarter move.
our blackjack bankroll is the money that you set aside from your regular budget to play blackjack. For some players this is the amount of money that they can afford to lose playing blackjack, for other players, more serious players, it’s the amount of money they plan to use to build a fierce blackjack bankroll.
Hopefully you’re in group two, if by chance you came to this site thinking that the house always wins, and you did indeed intend to ‘limit your losses’ we invite you to take a look around, you might just find the skills here to build your own strategy for becoming a winning blackjack player.
Blackjack Bankrolls – Table Budget
You should never gamble with more money than you can afford to lose, no matter how good you are at the game, or how much the odds are in your favor, that being said, the first decision a blackjack player needs to make is how much cash to bring to the blackjack table.
If you do not plan ahead, one bad run can bust you, and then you have no stake in the game at all, however, with a bit of planning and bankroll management you’re putting yourself in a strong position to build a large blackjack bankroll over time.
As a general rule of thumb, you want to be don’t want to play with more than 1/20th of your bankroll, while establishing a bankroll however, you may find yourself playing with 1/10th of your roll. Sitting down with anymore than that amount is just setting yourself up for eventual failure.
Choosing a Table Limit
Once you’ve figured how much you have to initially set aside for blackjack play, and have some idea what one tenth, and one twentieth of that number is, you can begin to consider the stakes you would like to play.
If you’re playing at a live land based casino, each table displays a placard telling players what the table minimum and maximum bets are. No suffice it to say, if you are bringing $100 to the table, you don’t want to sit at a table with a $100 minimum bet.
The size of your bankroll should have a large effect on the table stakes that you choose. A good rule of thumb to go by when choosing the appropriate table for your bankroll is 20 wagers. You want to bring enough cash with you to consecutively lose 20 bets. That means if your bankroll is $2000.00 in total, you want to bring no more than $100.00 with you to the blackjack tables per sitting, and you want to sit at a table with $5 minimum bets or less.
Paying the Bills and Growing the Bankroll
When you walk away from a blackjack table with a win, aside from your original buyin, you need to decide on a percentage of that win that will become your income, or profits from the game, and a percentage that will further fund and increase your bankroll, giving you a buffer against losing sessions and ultimately allowing you to steadily increase the amount of your bankroll, and therefore the stakes at which you can play.
A simple bankroll strategy here would be to take 50% of your wins as profit, and add 50% of the win back into your bankroll (your win is defined as the amount over and above your original buyin that leaves the table with you.)
Getting up When you’re Going Down
The only thing left to know before you set off to begin building a solid blackjack bankroll is when to get up from the table. Blackjack isn’t an emotional game, it’s a mathematical game, and that’s the most important thing for a blackjack player to remember.
If the math plays a trick on you, and you lose where you’re sure you should have won, that can’t effect the next hand. Have you ever heard of a poker player being ‘on tilt’? Well in blackjack the term for tilting is steaming. When a player reacts to a loss, or loosing many hands in a row, the player is steaming.
If you are serious about building a bankroll, the minute your emotions start getting involved with your blackjack game, it’s time to call it a day, or at least break for dinner.
Losses cannot be made up. A loss is a loss, and a win that follows that loss is a win that has nothing to do with the previous loss. Players that take losses personally, and try to make up the money they’ve lost by betting more and making looser decisions tend to become losing players in the blink of an eye.
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