The history of blackjack, specifically its origins, how “21” became “blackjack,” and who the pioneers were that developed the first basic playing strategy for blackjack. Why blackjack is “different” from other casino games and how we can exploit this difference; and how the casino enjoys a built-in advantage over players and what we can do about it. What are the


I often shake my head in disgust when I pick up a brochure that you will usually find somewhere in a casino that explains “How to Play Blackjack.” Invariably it will state that the objective of blackjack is to get as close to 21 as possible. Wrong!

Equipment

Blackjack is played with a standard international deck of cards with the Jokers removed, leaving 52 cards. Originally the game was played with a single deck. However, as a counter measure to card counting, casinos introduced multi-deck games, based on the false assumption that if there were more cards in play it would be harder for the card counter to keep track of them all. As a result, Blackjack is now usually offered in either single deck, double deck, 4 deck, 6 deck or 8 deck variants. It should be noted that there are exceptions in online casinos where far larger numbers of decks can be used than would be practical to manage offline.

After the dealer has shuffled a player will be selected at random and asked to take the cut card – a coloured plastic card matching the playing cards in size – and place it at a random position within stack of cards. The dealer will then move the cards above the cut card to the back of the stack. This technique is intended to demonstrate to the players that the dealer cannot have rigged the deck. The cut card is then reinserted into the stack of cards by the dealer at a pre-defined position and when this card is reached this indicates the final deal of the game before the cards are shuffled.

BLACKJACK ETIQUETTE

The casino game of blackjack has its procedures, codes of conduct, and playing strategies. The procedures are essential to ensure the security and integrity of the game. The codes of conduct encompass the playing etiquette so you won’t attract the ire of your fellow players, or the dealer. What follows is a list of common faux pas made by novice players so that you will avoid making them.

CARD VALUES

Picture cards count as 10 and the ace can count as either 1 or 11. Card suits have no meaning in blackjack. The total of any hand is the sum of the card values in the hand. A hand containing a 4-5-8 totals 17. Another containing a queen-5 totals 15. It is always assumed that the ace counts as 11 unless so doing would make your hand total exceed 21, in which case the ace reverts to a value of 1.

INSURANCE

When the dealer’s upcard is an ace, she will ask players if they want to make the insurance wager, which is a side bet in which players are betting that the dealer’s hole card will be a ten-value card. Players can make an insurance bet less than or equal to one-half of the initial bet made on the hand. To make the insurance bet, simply place your chips on the insurance line, which is located right above the player’s betting spot. You win your insurance bet if the dealer has a ten-value card in the hole. A winning insurance bet pays off at 2 to 1 odds.

EVEN MONEY

When the player has a blackjack hand and the dealer has an ace showing, the dealer will ask the player if he wants “even money.” Even money means the dealer will automatically give you a 1 to 1 (or even money) payoff on your bet before she checks her downcard for a potential blackjack. Taking even money yields the same result as making an insurance bet on your blackjack hand.


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WHY PLAY BLACKJACK? WHY, INDEED, BECAUSE:

  • It is a game of skill, not solely chance.
  • By using certain playing and betting techniques, it is possible to swing the odds in your favor. This is not possible for any other casino game.
  • By learning a simple playing strategy, you can reduce the house edge to less than 1%
  • By learning a specific betting technique based on the composition of the cards already played, it is possible to gain a mathematical advantage over the casino.

CONCLUSION – BLACKJACK IS A GAME OF SKILL

As you will learn in subsequent chapters, the mix of the previously played cards has a great influence on your chance of winning the next hand. Given this fact, it would seem logical that by knowing something about the composition of the cards in this previous mix, you could alter your bets and/or playing strategy to maximize your chances of winning the most money on the upcoming hand. This concept may seem complicated now but it will become much clearer in subsequent chapters. For now just remember these facts of blackjack

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