An Easy Way to Become a Good Blackjack Player
By Tom McBroom
Learning to play the game of casino Blackjack reasonably well is not rocket science, regardless of what the dozens of books on the subject would have you believe.
Playing professionally at the expert level, as is true of any game, is indeed complex and takes years to perfect. But anyone can become a good recreational player and have a fighting chance against the casino simply by learning some very easy rules.
So, if you’re tired of throwing all your money away on brain-numbing slot machines, read on!
Blackjack can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. Using card counting and advanced techniques, you can actually have a slight advantage over the house in certain conditions. That is, if you are willing to spend hundreds of hours learning and practicing, plus hundreds of hours each year playing!
Only a few of us have this kind of dedication.
The "beginner strategy" described below is designed for those of you who have never played Blackjack before or have played only a few times (and are tired of losing!). It requires that you learn only four simple rules. You can memorize these rules in 30 minutes or less.
Well, actually, much less!
You may have heard of the term ”Blackjack basic strategy”. The Blackjack basic strategy is a set of betting and hit/stand rules to statistically maximize your chances of winning. While not complex, it will still take some time and quite a bit of practice to learn and apply consistently.
For beginners, or very occasional players who don't want to spend hours practicing the Blackjack basic strategy, here is a Beginner Strategy that won’t give you a headache trying to learn.
While this will not give you the same low odds against you as the true Blackjack Basic Strategy (about .5%), it produces a low 1.5% or so edge for the casino, still one of the best odds you'll find in any casino game.
You won't lose your shirt and you'll have a fighting chance of winning if you encounter a favorable run of cards.
It should only take a few minutes to learn these four simple Blackjack rules, though you should practice for a couple of hours to get comfortable with them before actually playing in a casino game.
FIRST, A SHORT AND EASY LESSON ON THE GAME RULES
If you already know how to play Blackjack, you can skip this section. Otherwise, it will only take a few minutes to learn the simple playing rules.
Tens and face cards count as 10, Aces count as either 1 or 11 (your choice), and all other cards have a count equal to their face value.
All players play against the dealer, not against one another. Each player makes their bet and the dealer starts out by dealing two cards to each player and two cards to himself. The dealer’s second card is dealt face-up for all players to see. If the dealer has a “Blackjack” (and Ace and a ten or face card), he will turn it over and automatically wins all bets, unless a player also has a Blackjack, in which case it’s a tie.
Then, starting with the player to the dealer’s left, each player has the choice of standing (not drawing any more cards) or being dealt additional cards. Play continues with that player until the player stands or “busts” (gets a card count that totals more than 21). After all players have made their decisions (or busted), the dealer draws additional cards to either reach a total of 17 or higher (when they must automatically stop), or bust. If the dealer doesn’t bust, all remaining player’s hands with a higher card total win, and those with a lower card total lose.
One very critical point to remember is this: you goal is not to get a card count as close to 21 as possible, but to get closer to 21 than the dealer, without going over. The goal is to beat the dealer! Thus, your decisions on whether or not draw additional cards are based on the value of the dealer’s up card.
DOUBLING DOWN, SPLITTING PAIRS AND INSURANCE
There are three special bets you can make after the first two cards are dealt. Doubling down means you can double your original bet after you receive your first two cards. You then receive one – and only one – additional card.
Splitting pairs means that when you receive any pair on your first two cards, you can split them into two separate hands and play each one independently (of course, you must place an additional bet equal to your first bet on the second hand).
Taking insurance means that if the dealer’s up card is an Ace, you can wager an additional amount equal to half your original bet as “insurance” in case the dealer has a blackjack. If the dealer has a blackjack, you lose your original bet but your insurance bet is paid at 2 to 1, so you break even.
“HARD HANDS” VERSUS “SOFT HANDS”
In order to understand and apply any Blackjack strategy, you need to learn the difference between "hard" and "soft" hands. This is because the strategies for various plays are different depending on whether you have a soft hand or a hard hand.
A "soft" hand is one that has an Ace which is counted as 11 (remember: Aces can be counted as either one or 11). For example, a hand composed of an Ace and a 4 is called a soft 15.
A hand that either contains no Aces or the Ace is counted as a 1 is called a "hard" hand. For example, a hand composed of a 6 and a 9 is a hard 15. A hand with an Ace and 4 is called a soft 15 (11 plus 4), but if you then draw an 8 you have to count the Ace as 1 instead of 11, giving you a hard 13 (because counting it as 11 would give you a “bust” hand of 23).
FOUR SIMPLE RULES
Here are four Blackjack basic strategy rules that anyone can easily remember. Always adhere to them exactly and you will be playing better then the majority of people who sit down at a blackjack table.
While these four rules do not represent "perfect" Blackjack basic strategy, they give you a great deal of the advantage of a perfect basic strategy and are very simple to memorize.
1. If the dealer's up card is 7 or higher, continue to draw cards until you have a hard count of at least 17 or higher, or a soft count of 18 or higher.
2. If the dealer's up card is 6 or lower, draw cards until you have at least 12. Stop when you have 12 or higher.
3. Double down when your first two cards total 10 or 11, IF the dealer has a 9 or lower.
4. Always split aces and eights. Do not split any other pairs.
And that's it! These four simple rules will take you out of the “sucker” category, keep you out of serious trouble and ensure that the house edge is around 1.5% or so – some of the best odds you'll get in a casino.
Once you’ve mastered this easy system, learn the full Blackjack Basic Strategy and you’ll whittle that house edge down to almost zero. Good luck!
Tom is the webmaster for http://www.blackjack-for-everyone.com, which is a website dedicated to the beginner through serious recreational Blackjack player.
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