Tips For Casual Blackjack Players

” I only visit a casino a couple of times a year and play mostly slots. I’d like to play blackjack but I’m afraid I’ll make mistakes that would upset other players plus those strategy charts are to confusing. Can you give me any help?”

I think I can. Let’s start with the basic rules and then I’ll show you a simplified playing strategy that’s easy to use.

The objective of blackjack is to beat the dealer’s hand by either having your hand total higher than the dealer’s hand or by not going over a total of 21 when the dealer does.

The cards in blackjack count their face value. All picture cards count as 10 and the ace can count as either 1 or 11. The highest hand is a blackjack, which occurs when the first two cards dealt to you total 11 (i.e. an ace and ten-value card). If you get a blackjack and the dealer doesn’t, you get paid 1.5 times your bet (bet $5 and win $7.50). Otherwise all winning hands are paid at even odds and if your hand has the same total as the dealer’s hand, that’s a tie and you don’t lose your bet (known as a push).

Most casinos nowadays use 6-deck of cards and the player’s cards are dealt face up. Do not touch the cards (that’s a no-no). When you want to buy-in to a game, just take a seat, wait till the dealer begins her shuffling routine, place your money on the layout, and ask the dealer for chips. It’s best you play at the lowest minimum bet table that you can find ($5 or less).

There are several playing options and hand signals that you must be aware of. If you are satisfied with the total of your hand and you want to stand, just wave you hand over the cards (remember not to touch them). If you want another card to try to improve the total of your hand, just make a beckoning motion with your hand and the dealer will give you another card face up. You can draw as many cards as you want but remember if the total of your hand exceeds 21, you automatically lose (that is known as busting or breaking).

Most casinos will allow you to double down on any two cards. This means you can double your bet and then receive one and only one draw card. This is a good strategy when your first two cards total 11 or 10 since if you draw a ten you will have a strong 20 or 21. When you double down place the same amount of chips next to your original bet and the dealer will give you one draw card.

If you are dealt a pair, you can split them into two Unique Casino hands. To do this, you would place another bet on the layout next to your original bet (same amount). Splitting 8’s is a good move because a 16 is a poor hand.

To understand the simplified playing strategy that follows, you must be able to recognize a soft hand and hard hand. A hard hand is any hand that either doesn’t have an ace, or if it does the ace counts as 1 (e.g. 10-7 and 10-6-ace are hard 17 hands). A soft hand in blackjack contains ana ce counted as 11 (e.g.. Ace-6 is soft 17).

If you found the basic strategy in charts too intimidating then I suggest you learn the following 8 simplified rules to get you started (from the book, Knock Out Blackjack by Vancura & Fuchs).

For pair splitting

Always split 8’s and aces

For doubling down

With 10 or 11, double down if your total is greater than the dealer’s upcard

For hard hands

With 17 or more, always stand

With 12 through 16, hit against a dealer’s upcard of 7 or more, otherwise stand

With 11 or less, always hit (unless doubling)

For soft hands

With soft 18 or more, always stanWith soft 17 or less, always hit.

Never take insurance

As far as betting, I would keep it simple and only bet the minimum. But watch all the cards and if you see a disproportionate number of small cards on the layout (2’s through 6’s) with few tens, picture cards or aces, now would be the time if you want to bump up your bet a little on the next hand (your odds are better when there are more high cards in the unplayed decks of cards).

Now for some don’ts. Don’t drink a lot when you play, don’t offer playing advice to other players unless they ask, don’t use any kind of double up after a loss betting system, don’t make any side bets, and don’t chase your losses. Set a goal to win about 25% of your bankroll and be happy if you achieve it. If you want to play longer, then set a goal to win another 25% but if the tide turns be ready to take your profits and run from the table.

There are plenty of good blackjack books for beginners including Knock-Out Blackjack, my own Blackjack: Take The Money & Run, and Fred Renzey’s Blackjack Bluebook. If books are not your thing, then you may want to consider a video (my Blackjack-Deal Me In video is for beginners).