How to play blackjack
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How To Play Blackjack VideoHow to Play (and Win) at Blackjack: The Expert's Guide
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Casino promotions such as complimentary matchplay vouchers or 2: Players may be able to improve on this decision by considering the precise composition of their hand, not just the point total.
For example, players should ordinarily stand when holding 12 against a dealer 4. However, in a single deck game, players should hit if their 12 consists of a 10 and a 2.
However, even when basic and composition-dependent strategy lead to different actions, the difference in expected reward is small, and it becomes even smaller with more decks.
Using a composition-dependent strategy rather than basic strategy in a single deck game reduces the house edge by 4 in 10,, which falls to 3 in , for a six-deck game.
Blackjack has been a high-profile target for advantage players since the s. Advantage play is the attempt to win more using skills such as memory, computation, and observation.
These techniques, while generally legal, can be powerful enough to give the player a long-term edge in the game, making them an undesirable customer for the casino and potentially leading to ejection or blacklisting if they are detected.
The main techniques of advantage play in blackjack are as follows:. During the course of a blackjack shoe, the dealer exposes the dealt cards.
Careful accounting of the exposed cards allows a player to make inferences about the cards which remain to be dealt. These inferences can be used in the following ways:.
A card counting system assigns a point score to each rank of card e. A card counter uses this count to make betting and playing decisions according to a table which they have learned.
The count starts at 0 for a freshly shuffled deck for "balanced" counting systems. Unbalanced counts are often started at a value which depends on the number of decks used in the game.
Card counting is most rewarding near the end of a complete shoe when as few as possible cards remain. Single-deck games are therefore particularly susceptible to card counting.
As a result, casinos are more likely to insist that players do not reveal their cards to one another in single-deck games. In games with more decks of cards, casinos limit penetration by ending the shoe and reshuffling when one or more decks remain undealt.
Casinos also sometimes use a shuffling machine to reintroduce the exhausted cards every time a deck has been played. Card counting is legal and is not considered cheating as long as the counter is not using an external device, : Sometimes a casino might ban a card counter from the property.
The use of external devices to help counting cards is illegal in all US states that license blackjack card games. Techniques other than card counting can swing the advantage of casino blackjack toward the player.
All such techniques are based on the value of the cards to the player and the casino as originally conceived by Edward O.
Patterson also developed and published a shuffle-tracking method for tracking favorable clumps of cards and cutting them into play and tracking unfavorable clumps of cards and cutting them out of play.
The player can also gain an advantage by identifying cards from distinctive wear markings on their backs, or by hole carding observing during the dealing process the front of a card dealt face down.
These methods are generally legal although their status in particular jurisdictions may vary. Many blackjack tables offer a side bet on various outcomes including: The side wager is typically placed in a designated area next to the box for the main wager.
A player wishing to wager on a side bet is usually required to place a wager on blackjack. Some games require that the blackjack wager should equal or exceed any side bet wager.
A non-controlling player of a blackjack hand is usually permitted to place a side bet regardless of whether the controlling player does so.
The house edge for side bets is generally far higher than for the blackjack game itself. Nonetheless side bets can be susceptible to card counting.
A side count, designed specifically for a particular side bet, can improve the player edge. Only a few side bets, like "Lucky Ladies", offer a sufficient win rate to justify the effort of advantage play.
In team play it is common for team members to be dedicated toward counting only a sidebet using a specialized count. Blackjack can be played in tournament form.
Players start with an equal numbers of chips; the goal is to finish among the top chip-holders. Depending on the number of competitors, tournaments may be held over several rounds, with one or two players qualifying from each table after a set number of deals to meet the qualifiers from the other tables in the next round.
Another tournament format, Elimination Blackjack , drops the lowest-stacked player from the table at pre-determined points in the tournament.
Good strategy for blackjack tournaments can differ from non-tournament strategy because of the added dimension of choosing the amount to be wagered.
As in poker tournaments, players pay the casino an initial entry fee to participate in a tournament, and re-buys are sometimes permitted.
Some casinos, as well as general betting outlets, provide blackjack among a selection of casino-style games at electronic consoles. Video blackjack game rules are generally more favorable to the house; e.
Video and online blackjack games generally deal each round from a fresh shoe, rendering card counting ineffective in most situations. Blackjack is a member of a large family of traditional card games played recreationally all around the world.
Most of these games have not been adapted for casino play. Furthermore, the casino game development industry is very active in producing blackjack variants, most of which are ultimately not adopted for widespread use in casinos.
The following are the prominent twenty-one themed comparing card games which have been adapted or invented for use in casinos and have become established in the gambling industry.
Twenty-one or "Siebzehn und Vier" German: An ace can only count as eleven, but two aces count as a blackjack. It is mostly played in private circles and barracks.
A British variation is called "Pontoon", the name being probably a corruption of "Vingt-et-un". It must be understood that this does not guarantee that the player will win.
Just as a regular player may win though good luck despite playing at a disadvantage, it is perfectly possible for the Card Counter to lose through an extended period of bad luck even though playing with a small advantage over the House.
The basic premise of Card Counting is that mathematically speaking, low cards on average are beneficial to the dealer while high cards favour the player.
There are many subtle reasons for this but the most significant are:. So the Card Counter looks for times when there are more high cards left to be played than a regular deck would have.
Rather than trying to remember each card that has been played, the Card Counter will usually use a ratio system that offsets cards that are good for the player against cards that are good for the dealer.
The most commonly used Card Counting system is the HiLo count , which values cards as follows:. To keep track the player starts at zero, adds one to the total every time a low card is played and subtracts one from the total when a high card is played.
It may seem counter-intuitive to subtract one for high value cards that are good for the player, but a high card that has been played is one less high card that is left to be played.
Where the Running Count is positive the player knows that there are more player favourable cards remaining to be played. When kept correctly the Running Count will start at 0 and, if all the cards were to be played out, would end at 0.
This is because there are an equal number of high cards and low cards. Card Counting systems are generally not impeded by the addition of multiple decks to the game.
At any rate multiple decks do not make it significantly more difficult for the Card Counter to keep track of the Running Count, since the Card Counter only needs to keep track of a single number, the Running Count.
However many decks are used, the count begins at zero and would end at zero if there were no cards left, so no changes need to be made to the counting process.
Where multiple decks do make a difference is in how much impact a positive Running Count has to the player advantage. If there are 5 decks remaining to be played there are only 2 extra player favourable cards in each deck.
To estimate the strength of the player advantage the Running count therefore needs to be divided by the number of decks remaining to be played.
This figure is called the True Count. With the True Count the player has a consistent measure of how many extra player favourable cards are contained within the cards remaining to be dealt.
The player can use this information to vary their bet and playing strategy. Deviations from Basic Strategy are far less important than placing big bets when the True Count is high and low bets or preferably nothing when the True count is low or negative.
It is important to note that sizing your bet correctly is critical to your long term success as a card counter.
This requires substantial additional knowledge that is beyond the scope of this article. Instead we refer interested readers to the books listed below for an insight into this complex aspect of card counting.
While Card Counting is legal in most jurisdictions, for obvious reasons casinos do not like players that can consistently beat them.
They therefore employ counter measures and any players they identify as Card Counters will be asked to leave the casino.
The most common method used to identify Card Counters is to watch for a large bet spread difference between the minimum and maximum bet a player uses and to see whether large bets correlate with player favourable counts.
Card Counters have developed several methods to help them avoid detection. The two most common are:. There are several variations on team play designed to be employed in different situations and to different effects.
These are covered more fully in the reading resources detailed below. Successful Card Counting is generally only profitable in land based casinos, not in online games.
The strategy relies on the game having a "memory" in that cards are dealt from the cards remaining after previous rounds have been played.
Online Blackjack games are dealt by computer and normally use a random number generator to shuffle the whole deck after every round of play. Games of this sort are not countable.
There are some Live Blackjack games online, which are played over a video feed with a human dealer. There is a great deal more to card counting successfully than we can reasonable cover here.
Many books have been written on this subject and we will recommend some of the better ones below:. Blackjack Attack — One of the foremost mathematicians in the Blackjack field, Schlesinger successfully compares the strength of various counting systems in different conditions.
Blackbelt in Blackjack — One of the most easily accessible authors on the subject of Blackjack, Snyder still provides everything you need to know to start on your journey.
Blackjack Blueprint — A good book covering everything from Basic Strategy, through several counting systems and on to advanced techniques and team play.
Blackjack for Blood — Discussion of various card counting systems and strategies to avoid being detected.
Includes discussion of some strategies that unlike card counting, may not be legal. As such we would strongly advise user caution and research before engaging some of the strategies discussed.
Burning the Tables in Las Vegas — One of the best discussions of how to play successfully long term without being detected. Olaf Vancura and Ken Fuchs: Knockout Blackjack — Credited as being the first published unbalanced counting system system that did not require a True Count conversion.
Million Dollar Blackjack — An old book now but written by a man famous for popularising the concepts of team play.
This book covers several counting systems alongside some advanced techniques. Play Blackjack Like the Pros — This book covers Basic Strategy, a variety of counting systems, money management and team play.
The Blackjack Life — A autobiographical account of a small number of players implementing modernised team play strategies. Very useful insight into how team play can still be effective.
The Blackjack Zone — A lot of space is devoted to how to become a better player and debunking myths surrounding gambling, but this book also has a good treatment of the basics of card counting.
The Theory of Blackjack — Peter Griffin was one of the most widely respected gambling mathematicians of all time. This book is maths heavy but very informative.
There are a couple situations where a game of Blackjack will deviate from the procedures outlined above. Insurance is a side bet offered when the dealer has an Ace as an up-card.
Before anyone plays their hands the dealer will offer insurance or even money if you have a Blackjack. You can put up a wager equal to half your original wager or less, which will get paid 2 to 1 if the dealer has a ten as their hole card.
If you win, you get paid 2 to 1. Only a card counter is skilled enough to play this side bet. Once all the players who want to buy insurance place their bets, the dealer will check her hole card using a special viewing window in the table.
Anyone who bought insurance will get paid 2 to 1 on their insurance wager. If the dealer does not have a ten underneath, she will take any insurance wagers that were made and the game will continue like it normally would.
This is just another name for what is mathematically the same as insurance. If you take even money, your blackjack will not get paid 3 to 2 like it normally would.
It will just get one times the original wager even money regardless of whether or not the dealer has a blackjack.
If you do not take even money and the dealer has a blackjack your wager will push and your blackjack will not get paid.
Again, you should never take even money if you are not a professional card counter. To better understand the difference or lack thereof between insurance and even money watch this video from our premium video course: The Truth about Insurance.
It is possible for the dealer to have a blackjack without offering insurance or even money. If the dealer is showing a ten up, they will check their hole card automatically, before anyone is allowed to play their hands.
If there is an ace underneath, the dealer has a blackjack and all bets on the table will be taken except for any player blackjacks, which would just push.
Insurance is only offered when the dealer is showing an ace. In the last 2 decades or so, Blackjack side bets have become popular.
Insurance is the only side bet that is universally offered on all Blackjack tables and is a big part of beating the game for a card counter.
But there are hundreds of other kinds of side bets on the felts these days. Most of them will require you to place a bet at the same time you place your main wager.
These side bets are everywhere and have various different procedures and pay tables so we will not explain them here.
Just know that they are not part of the game of Blackjack itself but may affect the normal dealing procedure of the game. We never recommend playing these side bets.
Casinos only offer them because they have a huge advantage over you. There are many different rule variations and conditions that can affect how the game of Blackjack is played.
In other words, not all blackjack games are created equal, in terms of the odds and favorability to the player.
Here is an overview of some of the rules that will affect the odds of the game. This simply means you can double down on a hand you just split. Some casinos allow the player to re-split their aces after they have already split a pair of aces, meaning if you just split a pair of aces and received another ace as the next card, you are allowed to split to a 3rd hand up to a total of 4 hands.
The ace is the most powerful card for the player so it is a very advantageous rule for the player if the casino allows RSA. Typically speaking, even if the casino offers RSA, you are still only allowed to take one card on each ace.
When it was still around it was highly favorable to the player, to the point where a perfect basic strategy player could have a small edge, without counting cards.
It went extinct for that reason. Some casinos that offer blackjack will reduce the 3 to 2 payout for Blackjacks down to only 6 to 5.
It also makes card counting basically useless. Even casinos that have this rule may not have it at every table. Be sure to read the rules on the felt before you sit down.
Some casinos use Continuous Shuffling Machines on their blackjack tables. This is a machine that continually shuffles the cards as they are being played.
Instead of putting the cards in the discard tray until the end of the shoe, the dealer will continually feed the machine all the used cards and there is never an end to the shoe.
This also makes card counting impossible and worsens the odds for a basic strategy player. Single Deck versus Multi-deck: All else being equal, the house edge on Blackjack gets higher for every deck you add to the game.
As a rule of thumb, a 6 deck game will have a higher house edge than a 2 deck game if all other conditions are equal. The problem is, all the other conditions are rarely equal.
Often times a single deck game will not allow doubling after splitting or re-splitting aces and will have 6 to 5 blackjacks, whereas an 8 deck game in the same casino might allow DAS, RSA, and have 3: