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How to Play and Win at Blackjack - Blackjack rules and strategy - A Blackjack Tutorial


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  • Blackjack -

    Whether you play blackjack online, at a Vegas casino or with a few a few friends to spice up a regular poker night, play is the same. Players get two cards face up, and the dealer receives one up and one down. The object is to beat the dealer. The card the dealer has showing is therefore critical in strategy.

    Cards are worth their face value, except face cards, all worth 10, and the ace, worth either 1 or 11 (up to the player). Blackjack hands are either "hard" or "soft".

    A "hard" hand can bust (go over 21) with just one wrong card. A hand of 12 or more that does not contain an ace can bust on any card with a value of 10.

    A "soft" hand cannot be busted by any one card.

    The other players' cards don't matter. Forget the other players. It's you against the dealer.

    You begin play by placing a bet. Once the cards are dealt, hands off your bet. If your cards are good (10 or 11, for example), you can "double down." Basically, you double your bet (next to your original wager, not on top) and get one more card - just one.

    If you're dealt a pair, you can split. Splitting is dividing your pair into two new hands. You match your original bet and separate the two cards. Getting dealt two 8s is a good example. 16 is a terrible hand to start with, but 8 isn't bad.

    If you're dealt an Ace and a 10, Jack, Queen or King, you've got blackjack and win 1 1/2 times the amount of your bet immediately (unless the dealer has blackjack, then it's a tie).

    Some casinos will let you surrender your hand along with half your bet before playing your hand. If the casino allows you to surrender, the basic variant is before (early) or after (late) the dealer checks to see if they have blackjack.

    If, after looking at your cards, you want another, point at your cards or make a scratching motion on the felt, indicating you want a "hit." The physical gesture is required for the cameras and security personal that watch the game, but don't monitor sound.

    Blackjack Strategy -

    Perfect basic strategy will put you at somewhere between a 1/2 and 1% disadvantage against the house, not bad as casino games go.

    Stick to the strategy below. Otherwise you are giving the casino money.

    The dealer must hit until they have 17 and then stand.

    Four cards (10, J, Q, K) are worth 10 and nine (A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) are not, computer simulations can be used to create perfect basic strategy.

    The dealer will bust most often when showing a 4, 5 or 6, somewhat often when showing a 2 or 3 and not very often when showing a 7 or higher. So the basic strategy is to hit aggressively when the dealer is less likely to bust and a less aggressively when the dealer is likely to bust.

    Most casinos will even allow you to bring a basic strategy chart right to the table. Many casino gift shops even sell them. Of course if you play blackjack online, it's not a question.

    Feel free to print and use the basic chart below.

    To Split or Not to Split Pairs (y = yes, n = no, r = surrender)

    You vs. the dealer 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
    A-A y y y y y y y y y y
    10-10, J-J, Q-Q or K-K n n n n n n n n n n
    9-9 y y y y y n y y n n
    8-8 y y y y y y y y y r
    7-7 y y y y y y n n n n
    6-6 y y y y y n n n n n
    5-5 n n n n n n n n n n
    4-4 n n n y y n n n n n
    3-3 y y y y y y n n n n
    2-2 y y y y y y n n n n

    Soft Totals (h = hit, s = stand, d = double, ds = double if you can, otherwise stand)

    You vs. the dealer 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
    A-9 s s s s s s s s s s
    A-8 s s s s ds s s s s s
    A-7 ds ds ds ds ds s s h h h
    A-6 h d d d d h h h h h
    A-5 h h d d d h h h h h
    A-4 h h d d d h h h h h
    A-3 h h h d d h h h h h
    A-2 h h h d d h h h h h

    Hard Totals (h = hit, s = stand, d = double, r = surrender, rs = surrender if you can, otherwise stand)

    You vs. the dealer 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
    17 s s s s s s s s s rs
    16 s s s s s h h h r r
    15 s s s s s h h h r r
    14 s s s s s h h h h h
    13 s s s s s h h h h h
    12 h h s s s h h h h h
    11 d d d d d d d d d d
    10 d d d d d d d d h h
    9 h d d d d h h h h h
    8 and under h h h h h h h h h h


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