Blackjack Basic Strategy

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. The rules of casino blackjack are generally determined by law or regulation, which establishes certain rule variations allowed at the discretion of the casino. These inferences can be used in the following ways:. Fully insuring a blackjack against blackjack is thus referred to as "taking even money", and paid out immediately, before the dealer's hand is resolved; the players do not need to place more chips for the insurance wager. An ace can only count as eleven, but two aces count as a blackjack.

Correct Basic Strategy

Blackjack Starter Kit

Each participant attempts to beat the dealer by getting a count as close to 21 as possible, without going over It is up to each individual player if an ace is worth 1 or Face cards are 10 and any other card is its pip value.

Before the deal begins, each player places a bet, in chips, in front of him in the designated area. The dealer thoroughly shuffles portions of the pack until all the cards have been mixed and combined. He designates one of the players to cut, and the plastic insert card is placed so that the last 60 to 75 cards or so will not be used.

Not dealing to the bottom of all the cards makes it more difficult for professional card counters to operate effectively. When all the players have placed their bets, the dealer gives one card face up to each player in rotation clockwise, and then one card face up to himself.

Another round of cards is then dealt face up to each player, but the dealer takes his second card face down. Thus, each player except the dealer receives two cards face up, and the dealer receives one card face up and one card face down.

In some games, played with only one deck, the players' cards are dealt face down and they get to hold them. Today, however, virtually all Blackjack games feature the players' cards dealt face up on the condition that no player may touch any cards. If a player's first two cards are an ace and a "ten-card" a picture card or 10 , giving him a count of 21 in two cards, this is a natural or "blackjack.

If the dealer has a natural, he immediately collects the bets of all players who do not have naturals, but no additional amount. If the dealer and another player both have naturals, the bet of that player is a stand-off a tie , and the player takes back his chips. If the dealer's face-up card is a ten-card or an ace, he looks at his face-down card to see if the two cards make a natural. If the face-up card is not a ten-card or an ace, he does not look at the face-down card until it is the dealer's turn to play.

The player to the left goes first and must decide whether to "stand" not ask for another card or "hit" ask for another card in an attempt to get closer to a count of 21, or even hit 21 exactly. Thus, a player may stand on the two cards originally dealt him, or he may ask the dealer for additional cards, one at a time, until he either decides to stand on the total if it is 21 or under , or goes "bust" if it is over In the latter case, the player loses and the dealer collects the bet wagered.

The dealer then turns to the next player to his left and serves him in the same manner. The combination of an ace with a card other than a ten-card is known as a "soft hand," because the player can count the ace as a 1 or 11, and either draw cards or not.

For example with a "soft 17" an ace and a 6 , the total is 7 or While a count of 17 is a good hand, the player may wish to draw for a higher total. If the draw creates a bust hand by counting the ace as an 11, the player simply counts the ace as a 1 and continues playing by standing or "hitting" asking the dealer for additional cards, one at a time.

When the dealer has served every player, his face-down card is turned up. If the total is 17 or more, he must stand.

If the total is 16 or under, he must take a card. He must continue to take cards until the total is 17 or more, at which point the dealer must stand.

If the dealer has an ace, and counting it as 11 would bring his total to 17 or more but not over 21 , he must count the ace as 11 and stand. The dealer's decisions, then, are automatic on all plays, whereas the player always has the option of taking one or more cards.

When a player's turn comes, he can say "Hit" or can signal for a card by scratching the table with a finger or two in a motion toward himself, or he can wave his hand in the same motion that would say to someone "Come here!

If a player's first two cards are of the same denomination, such as two jacks or two sixes, he may choose to treat them as two separate hands when his turn comes around. The amount of his original bet then goes on one of the cards, and an equal amount must be placed as a bet on the other card. The player first plays the hand to his left by standing or hitting one or more times; only then is the hand to the right played. The two hands are thus treated separately, and the dealer settles with each on its own merits.

With a pair of aces, the player is given one card for each ace and may not draw again. Also, if a ten-card is dealt to one of these aces, the payoff is equal to the bet not one and one-half to one, as with a blackjack at any other time. Another option open to the player is doubling his bet when the original two cards dealt total 9, 10, or When the player's turn comes, he places a bet equal to the original bet, and the dealer gives him just one card, which is placed face down and is not turned up until the bets are settled at the end of the hand.

With two fives, the player may split a pair, double down, or just play the hand in the regular way.

Note that the dealer does not have the option of splitting or doubling down. When the dealer's face-up card is an ace, any of the players may make a side bet of up to half the original bet that the dealer's face-down card is a ten-card, and thus a blackjack for the house.

Once all such side bets are placed, the dealer looks at his hole card. If it is a ten-card, it is turned up, and those players who have made the insurance bet win and are paid double the amount of their half-bet - a 2 to 1 payoff. When a blackjack occurs for the dealer, of course, the hand is over, and the players' main bets are collected - unless a player also has blackjack, in which case it is a stand-off. Insurance is invariably not a good proposition for the player, unless he is quite sure that there are an unusually high number of ten-cards still left undealt.

A bet once paid and collected is never returned. Thus, one key advantage to the dealer is that the player goes first. If the player goes bust, he has already lost his wager, even if the dealer goes bust as well.

If the dealer goes over 21, he pays each player who has stood the amount of that player's bet. If the dealer stands at 21 or less, he pays the bet of any player having a higher total not exceeding 21 and collects the bet of any player having a lower total.

If there is a stand-off a player having the same total as the dealer , no chips are paid out or collected. When each player's bet is settled, the dealer gathers in that player's cards and places them face up at the side against a clear plastic L-shaped shield. The dealer continues to deal from the shoe until he comes to the plastic insert card, which indicates that it is time to reshuffle. Once that round of play is over, the dealer shuffles all the cards, prepares them for the cut, places the cards in the shoe, and the game continues.

Winning tactics in Blackjack require that the player play each hand in the optimum way, and such strategy always takes into account what the dealer's upcard is. When the dealer's upcard is a good one, a 7, 8, 9, card, or ace for example, the player should not stop drawing until a total of 17 or more is reached.

When the dealer's upcard is a poor one, 4, 5, or 6, the player should stop drawing as soon as he gets a total of 12 or higher. The strategy here is never to take a card if there is any chance of going bust.

The desire with this poor holding is to let the dealer hit and hopefully go over Finally, when the dealer's up card is a fair one, 2 or 3, the player should stop with a total of 13 or higher.

With a soft hand, the general strategy is to keep hitting until a total of at least 18 is reached. Thus, with an ace and a six 7 or 17 , the player would not stop at 17, but would hit. The basic strategy for doubling down is as follows: With a total of 11, the player should always double down. With a total of 10, he should double down unless the dealer shows a ten-card or an ace. With a total of 9, he should double down only if the dealer's card is fair or poor 2 through 6. Players with a blackjack may also take insurance, and in taking maximum insurance they commit themselves to winning an amount exactly equal to their main wager, regardless of the dealer's outcome.

Fully insuring a blackjack against blackjack is thus referred to as "taking even money", and paid out immediately, before the dealer's hand is resolved; the players do not need to place more chips for the insurance wager.

Insurance bets are expected to lose money in the long run, because the dealer is likely to have blackjack less than one-third of the time.

However the insurance outcome is strongly anti-correlated with that of the main wager, and if the player's priority is to reduce variation , they might choose to pay for this. Furthermore, the insurance bet is susceptible to advantage play.

It is advantageous to make an insurance bet whenever the hole card has more than a chance of one in three of being a ten. Advantage play techniques can sometimes identify such situations.

In a multi-hand, face-up, single deck game, it is possible to establish whether insurance is a good bet simply by observing the other cards on the table after the deal; even if there are just 2 player hands exposed, and neither of their two initial cards is a ten, then 16 in 47 of the remaining cards are tens, which is larger than 1 in 3, so insurance is a good bet. This is an elementary example of the family of advantage play techniques known as card counting.

Bets to insure against blackjack are slightly less likely to be advantageous than insurance bets in general, since the ten in the player's blackjack makes it less likely that the dealer has blackjack too. The rules of casino blackjack are generally determined by law or regulation, which establishes certain rule variations allowed at the discretion of the casino.

The rules of any particular game are generally posted on or near the table, failing which there is an expectation that casino staff will provide them on request. Over variations of blackjack have been documented. As with all casino games, blackjack incorporates a "house edge", a statistical advantage for the casino that is built into the game.

The advantage of the dealer's position in blackjack relative to the player comes from the fact that if the player busts, the player loses, regardless of whether the dealer subsequently busts. The loss rate of players who deviate from basic strategy through ignorance is generally expected to be greater.

Surrender, for those games that allow it, is usually not permitted against a dealer blackjack; if the dealer's first card is an ace or ten, the hole card is checked to make sure there is no blackjack before surrender is offered. This rule protocol is consequently known as "late" surrender.

The alternative, "early" surrender, gives player the option to surrender before the dealer checks for blackjack, or in a no-hole-card game. Early surrender is much more favorable to the player than late surrender. Most medium-strength hands should be surrendered against a dealer Ace if the hole card has not been checked. For late surrender, however, while it is tempting to opt for surrender on any hand which will probably lose, the correct strategy is to only surrender on the very worst hands, because having even a one in four chance of winning the full bet is better than losing half the bet and pushing the other half, as entailed by surrendering.

With no hole card, it is almost never correct basic strategy to double or split against a dealer ten or ace, since a dealer blackjack will result in the loss of the split and double bets; the only exception is with a pair of A's against a dealer 10, where it is still correct to split.

In all other cases, a stand, hit or surrender is called for. For instance, holding 11 against a dealer 10, the correct strategy is to double in a hole card game where the player knows the dealer's second card is not an ace , but to hit in a no hole card game.

The no hole card rule adds approximately 0. The "original bets only" rule variation appearing in certain no hole card games states that if the player's hand loses to a dealer blackjack, only the mandatory initial bet "original" is forfeited, and all optional bets, meaning doubles and splits, are pushed.

Each blackjack game has a basic strategy , which is playing a hand of any total value against any dealer's up-card, which loses the least money to the house in the long term. An example of basic strategy is shown in the table below, and includes the following parameters: The bulk of basic strategy is common to all blackjack games, with most rule variations calling for changes in only a few situations. For example, if the above game used the hit on soft 17 rule, common in Las Vegas Strip casinos, only 6 cells of the table would need to be changed: A, surrender 15 or 17 vs.

A, double on A,7 vs. Also when playing basic strategy never take insurance or "even money. Estimates of the house edge for blackjack games quoted by casinos and gaming regulators are generally based on the assumption that the players follow basic strategy and do not systematically change their bet size.

Most blackjack games have a house edge of between 0. Casino promotions such as complimentary matchplay vouchers or 2: Basic strategy is based upon a player's point total and the dealer's visible card.

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. The presence of a 10 in the player's hand has two consequences: 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. When a card is exposed, a counter adds the score of that card to a running total, the 'count'.

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. Blackjack's house edge is usually between 0.

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 isn't using an external device, [12]: 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. Shuffle tracking requires excellent eyesight and powers of visual estimation but is more difficult to detect since the player's actions are largely unrelated to the composition of the cards in the shoe.

Arnold Snyder's articles in Blackjack Forum magazine brought shuffle tracking to the general public. His book, The Shuffle Tracker's Cookbook, mathematically analyzed the player edge available from shuffle tracking based on the actual size of the tracked slug.

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 deal each coup from a fresh shoe, rendering card counting much less effective. 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".

Blackjack is also featured in various television shows. Here are a few shows inspired by the game. In , professional gamblers around the world were invited to nominate great blackjack players for admission into the Blackjack Hall of Fame.

Seven members were inducted in , with new people inducted every year after. Members include Edward O. Thorp , author of the s book Beat the Dealer which proved that the game could be beaten with a combination of basic strategy and card counting ; Ken Uston , who popularized the concept of team play; Arnold Snyder , author and editor of the Blackjack Forum trade journal; Stanford Wong , author and popularizer of the "Wonging" technique of only playing at a positive count, and several others.

Blackjack Basic Strategy

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