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Blackjack

Blackjack

Frank Scoblete (Casino Gambling Expert & Bestselling Author) gives expert video advice on: What are the odds of winning in blackjack?; If I follow the basic strategy for blackjack, will I decrease the house advantage?; What factors should I consider in my blackjack strategy? and more...

What is the basic objective of blackjack?

The basic objective of blackjack is to beat the dealer. While the game is sometimes called "21", that is not the object, beating the dealer is. Ways of winning blackjack include; having a higher hand than the dealer or having a valid hand when the dealer goes bust. It's important to remember that you don't have to get 21, just beat the dealer.

What does "hit", "stay", and "bust" mean when playing blackjack?

Blackjack players have various choices they can make during the game; once they get their initial two cards, they can make a decision that they need more, and take a "hit" of extra cards. At this point, they like their hand, then they can signal to "stay" and keep the cards they. However, if they "hit" and go above 21 then they are "bust".

What is the "shoe"?

There are two ways to approach the game of blackjack: in one, the cards are dealt face-down and the players pick them up, in the other, a device known as a "shoe" is used. A "shoe" can hold four, six or eight decks of cards and has an opening where single cards can pulled from and dealt face-up.

Why can't I touch the cards when playing blackjack in a casino?

While it is true that players are not allowed to touch the cards in a four, six or eight deck game, I have no idea why this should be the case in a single or double deck game, where the cards are face down. If you find out the reason for this, let me know.

What are the odds of winning in blackjack?

Blackjack is a curious game, because if you just simply look at how many hands a player wins, how many hands the dealer wins and how many ties there are, it looks like the game is overwhemingly in the casino's favor. For example, you win approximately 44% of your hands as a player. The casino wins approximately 48% of the hands, and about 8% are ties. Now, winning 48 to 44 gives the casino a giant edge. So how come the game is close? Because players get to double down on certain hands, players get paid 3 to 2 on blackjack, and players get to split on certain cards. So in reality, the house edge shrinks against the player, because the player is allowed to do all these other things.

What is the "basic blackjack strategy"?

In the game of blackjack, the dealer has an "up" card, which tells you what you should do with your hand. Computer programs have been developed which calculate the most sensible move to make against any possible "up" card, and this is called a "basic strategy". "Basic strategies" are universally applicable to blackjack and are a great way of playing.

If I follow the basic strategy for blackjack, will I decrease the house advantage?

If you're a blackjack player and you follow a basic strategy, developed by a computer for the game of blackjack, you will reduce the house edge to approximately a half percent. On some games the house edge will be even lower than a half percent. The house edge could be two-tenths of one percent. In some other games, the house edge might be a little higher than a half percent. But using basic strategy keeps the house edge containable. If you don't use basic strategy, you're going to face edges of one, two, three, even upwards of six or seven percent. So it's always wise to use the basic strategy.

What is a "hard hand"?

In blackjack, there are 2 types of hands: the "hard hand" and the "soft hand". If you have an 11 or a 12, made of a 9 and a 2, or a 10 and a 2, then that is a "hard hand," and can't be changed. However, If you have a hand with an ace in it, which can either be 1 or 11, then that is a "soft hand".

What is a "soft hand"?

In blackjack, just about every hand where you get an ace is called a soft hand. The reason it's a soft hand is because the ace can be used either as a one or an eleven, so that the hand is soft. It isn't a one. It isn't eleven. You decide what it is.

What is "doubling down"?

In blackjack there are certain hands where you can bet more money once you've seen the hand; this is called "doubling down". For example, if you have an 11 and the dealer is showing a 7, you'd want to take advantage of this situation and increase your bet; his is "doubling down"

What does it mean to "split" a hand?

About 2% of all blackjack hands are pairs: 2 2s, 2 3s and so on. If you have a pair, then you can inform the dealer that you would like to "split" them. "Splitting" allows you to start another hand, based on those each of those two cards, with a bet that matches your original stake.

What are the "dealer rules" in blackjack?

In casinos, dealers are subject to rules that players are not. In blackjack, for example, the dealer has to "hit" until they reach 17. There are even some physical regulations that govern the dealers activities. In a "shoe game", the dealer must always have one hand on the "shoe", one hand in the center of the table and they should always stand flush to the tables edge; but these physical rules change from place to place.

What is "insurance" on my blackjack hand?

In the game of blackjack, if the dealer shows an Ace, they'll say, "does anyone want insurance?" That means that you're putting up a bet that's half the size of your regular bet, on the basis that, under that Ace is a Ten and that indeed the dealer has "blackjack". If the dealer does have "blackjack", the dealer will pay you off on your "insurance" bet, but take your other bet. Blackjack "insurance" is not a good thing as the house has around a 5-7% edge.

What are some basic strategies for playing blackjack?

If you've never played Blackjack, there are certain rules of thumb that you can follow. For example, never hit your 12, 13, 14, 15, or 16 when the dealer is showing a 3, 4, 5, or 6; always split your aces; always split your 8's and always double down on an 11, if the dealer has 10 or less. These basic tips are helpful, but I advise everybody to get a copy of the "basic strategy" card.

What is a "basic strategy card"?

Casino gift-shops will sell something called a "basic strategy" card; a little card that will have details of every move you should make against every possible "up" card. These "basic strategy" cards are perfect for people who are new to blackjack, but don't want to learn the hard way.

What factors should I consider in my blackjack strategy?

Blackjack players have a lot of choices to make. It's always important to consider the dealer's card and how that affects the game; if you have 12 and the dealer has a 5, then it's wise to "stay" and take advantage of the dealer's awkward position. Taking your cue from the dealer's position is vital to winning at blackjack.

When should I double down?

In blackjack, there are times when you want to put up another bet, called "doubling down." You've seen your cards, you've seen the dealers cards "Doubling down" either wins you more money, in the short-term, or loses you less money in the long-term. If we take a look at an 11, for example, you want to double down if the dealer is showing a 2 through 10; If you have a 10, you want to "double down" if the dealer is showing a 2 through 9; and if you have a 9, and you want to double down if the dealer is showing a 3 through 6. "Those are the basic rules for doubling down".

Should I always split 8's?

A lot of people think, "I don't want to 'split my 8s' if the dealer is showing a 10 or a 9. I'm in a weak position?" However, "Splitting your 8s" is always a good idea, it reduces your losses against the dealers high cards and increases them against his lower cards. In this way, "splitting your 8s" reduces your overall loss to the casino.

Are there any other cards I should split?

When you get various combinations of pairs, many of them should be split. Should always split pairs of aces, twos, threes and eights; you should consider splitting fours, sevens and nines; and you should never split tens or fives. These are the basic guidelines for "splitting", in blackjack.

Should I vary the amount I bet while playing Blackjack?

A lot of casino players feel that, if they're winning, they should increase their bets, so that they can win more; they don't realize that you're increasing your bet into the "house edge". For example, if you have ten dollars up and the house has a half percent edge on you, then you're doubling the amount you're going to lose if you increase that bet from ten to twenty. My advice, when playing against the house edge, is: DON'T increase your bets.