Blackjack Basics

Blackjack – or “21” as some players call it – is the most popular table game in the casino.  That was not always the case.  For years Craps was the most popular table game.  Then, in 1963, a mathematician named Ed Thorp wrote a book on card counting called “Beat the Dealer”  that revolutionized the casino industry.  Suddenly, every player who walked into the casino fancied himself a card counter.  Casinos, at first intimidated by Thorp’s book, initially considered getting rid of the game entirely.  But instead of losing vast sums of money to the players, the casinos won vast sums of money FROM the players.  More Blackjack tables were added to the casino floor.  Casinos hired their own mathematicians to recommend minor changes to the game to reduce the good card counters edge at the game.  The Blackjack boom was on.

Blackjack is played at a semi-circular table with one, two, four, six or eight decks of cards.  In single and double deck games the cards are often held by the dealer when dealt.  In four, six or eight deck games the cards are often dealt from a tray-like box called a shoe.  These games are all possible to count.  Many casinos overcome this by dealing from a device called a continuous shuffling machine.

In hand held games the cards are dealt face down and the player is allowed to pick up his cards. In a shoe game the cards are dealt face up and cannot be picked up by the player. It really does not matter whether the cards are dealt face up or face down.  The basic play for either game is the same.

Objective :  The objective of the game is to beat the dealer – just as Thorp’s book suggested.  You beat the dealer if your cards face value totals higher than the dealer’s cards without going over 21.  If your hand goes over 21 you “Bust.” If you bust you automatically lose. The same is true for the dealer.  If her hand exceeds 21 she “Busts” and the players win.

Card Values :  Although some “carnival” type Blackjack games offer side bets for things like “suited Blackjacks,” generally the suit of the cards has no affect on the game. Cards numbered 2 – 10 are counted at face value without regards to their suit. All face cards have a value of ten. An ace can count as either one or eleven.  A King and an eight would equal 18. An ace and an eight could total either 8 or 18.  This type of hand is referred to as a Soft Hand, because the value can change. If you draw to a soft hand and the three cards total a number where counting an ace as eleven puts you over 21, then you can count the ace as if it counted as a one and give yourself a second chance at not Busting.  For example, if you are dealt an ace and a six. You have 7 or 17. If you then draw a six you now have a 13, because if you count the ace as 11 you would have 23, which would bust you.

Blackjack Play:  The Blackjack layout has separate circle, square, or casino logo in front of each player’s chair or stool.  This is where the player makes his bet.  After all bets are made the play begins.  Let’s assume you are playing a multi-deck game and the cards are being dealt from a shoe – one of the most common games available. Each player is dealt two cards face up. The dealer receives one card face down and one card face up.  The face down card is called the hole card.  After the cards are dealt the dealer will check the hole card to see if she has a Blackjack.  If so, she turns her hole card over, declares Blackjack and collects the players’ losing bets. If you get the Blackjack you should be paid 3 to 2 for your bet assuming that you are playing a game with good rules.  Some casinos pay 6 to 5 or even money for Blackjack.  These games should be avoided.   If you and the dealer BOTH have Blackjack it is a Push or Tie.  She will collect the other bets, but not yours.  Otherwise, play continues and the dealer will ask each player in turn to make their decision.

The player to the left of the dealer acts first. This position is known as first base. The position of the last person to act is called third base. Players make their decisions about how to play their hands based on the dealer’s up card and the two cards they were dealt. A rule of thumb for the beginner is to assume the dealer always has a nine or ten in the hole.

Hitting and Standing:  In many games the dealer will tell you the total of your cards value, indicating it is your turn to make a decision on your play.  Players are asked to use hand signals to make their decisions known.  Tapping the table top with your finger or making a beckoning motion with your hand while saying “hit me” is the proper way to let the dealer – and the eye in the sky – know you are requesting another card.  Waving your hand above your cards and saying “stand” let’s the dealer know you do not want another card.  Hand signals help keep the game moving and insures that there are no misunderstandings regarding your intent.

Doubling Down:  Most casinos will allow you do double your bet after receiving your first two cards.  If  you Double Down you are only dealt one more card on your hand.  Most casinos will allow you to Double Down on any two cards, while some limit your doubling to hands that total ten or eleven.  To signal that you are doubling down simply place an additional bet next to your original bet.

Splitting :  If you are dealt a pair of cards – for example two eights – you can split these into two separate hands. You must make an additional bet equal to your starting bet. You signal the dealer that you are splitting by placing your second bet next to your first bet in the betting circle and saying “Splitting my eights.” Do not put this bet on top of the original bet. Do not separate the cards. The dealer will do this for you. Then you will play each hand one at a time. The dealer will give you a second card to go with the first split card. You will then decide to hit or stand. After you play out this hand and stand you will move on to the next split card and the process will be repeated. Some casinos will allow you to re-split a hand should you be dealt a third card of equal value to the first two – in the above example the dealer might deal another eight.  Likewise, some casinos allow you to double down on your first two cards after splitting. You would play this as you would if you were doubling down on your first two cards. Both of these rules are favorable to the player.

Insurance :  If the dealer’s up card is an ace the dealer will offer insurance. This is not really insurance.  It is a side bet wagering half your original bet that the dealer has a ten value card in the hole. If you make the bet and he has the ten you are paid 2 to 1. Insurance is a sucker bets, as the dealer will NOT have a ten more times than they will have one.

Surrender :  Some casinos will allow you to surrender your hand and give up half your bet on your first two cards after the dealer checks for a blackjack. This is known as late surrender. This option is not offered in many casinos, as it offers the player a strong advantage.  However, players who do not understand the Surrender rule and the mathematics of the game often end up surrendering more hands than they should, and give away any advantage gained by this option.

Card Counting and Casino PlayCard Counting is not illegal.  However, casinos have the right to reserve service to anyone and if you appear to be too lucky at Blackjack they may assume that you are counting cards and ask you to leave the premises.  The reality of Card Counting is this.  Unless you are prepared to gamble thousands of dollars on a single hand, forget about it. If you play perfect Basic Strategy at Blackjack, Card Counting  converts the casinos less than 1% advantage to a less than 1% advantage for you. Which means if you make $1000 total bets over an hour, you will win less than $10.

Card Counters are notoriously easy to pick out in the casino.  They play at relatively empty, higher limit tables.  They play long grind-type sessions.  They rarely tip the dealers or beverage servers.  Here at High Roller System we teach you how to blend in and fly under the radar.  We offer a very simple, inexpensive Card Counting strategy called the KISS Kount.  When combined with Basic Blackjack Strategy and one of our powerful Betting Systems you can play with a significant advantage over the house – while having fun with your friends at full tables.  Don’t want to learn to count cards?  No problem.  After all, about 90% of what makes Card Counting work is the betting strategy.

Summary:  Blackjack is a great game for casino newcomers and experts alike.  It is more fun interacting with the dealer and the other players than a slot machine, but is much less complex than many other casino games.  Armed with the correct Betting System, good money management and discipline skills, it is easy to walk away a winner.  Why not try your hand next time you are in the casino?