Basic Strategy Primer April 7th, 2008

Blackjack Basic Strategy has been tested both in the real world and in the theoretical world and it has been proven time and time again to be an effective strategy to lower the casino’s edge over the player. With this in mind I would like to present a basic primer on Blackjack Basic Strategy, how to use it and how it will affect your game.

The Goal of any strategy is to improve your odds of winning. Basic Strategy does this by providing a set of rules that you as the player will follow. These rules will dictate your play, when you should hit, stand, split, double etc. When you follow these rules exactly and play what is known as perfect strategy you can reduce the casino’s (or house) edge down to about one half of a percent, that is 0.5%!

Unfortunately there is not just one Basic Strategy that will cover all variants of Blackjack, there is one Basic Strategy that has been developed for each different variant of Blackjack. This means that you will need to play the same variant of Blackjack every time you goto the casino or you will need to learn a number of strategies that will cover the types of blackjack that you might play. Luckily casino’s don’t mind the use of Basic Strategy trainer cards at the tables as long as you do not rely solely on the card for each and every hand.

Here is an example of Basic Strategy explained in detail. Future Basic Strategy post will contain a Basic Strategy Trainer Card or Chart.

Soft Hands: Soft hands are hands that contain an Ace.

If your starting hand is:
Ace, 2 or Ace, 3 - If the dealer’s hand shows a 5 or 6 Double otherwise hit.
Ace, 4, or Ace, 5 - If the dealer’s hand shows 4 - 6 Double otherwise hit.
Ace, 6 - If the dealer’s hand shows 3 - 6 Double otherwise hit.
Ace, 7 - If the dealer’s hand shows a 2, 7, or 8 Double 3 -6 otherwise hit.
Ace, 8 or Ace, 9 - Always Stand.

Hard Hands: Hard hands are hand that do not contain an Ace.

If your starting hand is:
8 or less - Always hit.
9 - If the dealer’s hand shows a 3 - 6 Double, otherwise hit.
10 - If the dealer’s hand shows a 2 - 9 Double, otherwise hit.
11 - If the dealer’s hand shows a 2 - 10 Double, otherwise hi if the dealer shows an Ace.
13 - 16 - If the dealer’s hand shows a 2 - 6 Stand, otherwise hit.
17 - 21 - Always stand.


If you starting hand is:
Aces or 8s - Always Split
2 or 3s- If the dealer’s hand shows a 2 - 7 Split, otherwise hit.
4s - If the dealer’s hand shows a 5 or 6 Split, otherwise hit.
5s - If the dealer’s hand shows 2 - 9 Double, otherwise hit.
6s - If the dealer’s hand shows 2 - 6 Split, otherwise hit.
7s - If the dealer’s hand shows 2 - 7 Split, otherwise hit.
9s - If the dealer’s hand shows 2 - 6, 8 or 9 Split, if the dealer shows a 7, 10 or Ace Stand.
10s - Always Stand.

Soft Hands April 4th, 2008

In Blackjack there are two types of hands, Soft Hands and Hard Hands. Hard hands are very straight forward the value of the hand is the value of the cards in that hand. A hand that contains a 10 and a 8 is an 18. A soft hand is a hand that contains an Ace. If you remember from earlier I mentioned that an Ace can have a value of One (1) or Eleven (11) what this means is that a hand that contains an Ace and a 8 could be valued at 19 (11+8) or 9 (1+8). Now it might seem obvious in this example that you would want to value the Ace as 11 and have a hand of 19, which would be the correct thing to do. However lets assume you had
an Ace, 7 which is pretty good hand at 18, however according to Basic Strategy if the dealers up card is a 9, 10 or Ace you will need to hit. In this case any card higher than a 3 would bust your hand if it was a hard 18, the Ace in the soft 18 however would convert to a value of one and the hand would not bust.
For an Example lets say the card the hand recieved was a 5. Our hand of 18 if the Ace was valued at 11 would bust as adding 5 to 18 = 23. Since the hand would bust with the Ace valued at 11, the ace will be valued at 1 which means out new hand total is 13 (1+7+5).

It is almost like the soft hand is giving the player a second chance if the hit delivers a less than ideal card.

A detailed look at play in Blackjack April 3rd, 2008

When you step up to a blackjack table you will notice that the table has a half circle shape with the dealer standing in the middle of the table on the flat side. The players will be positioned around the curved edge of the table facing the dealer. Most Blackjack tables can accommodate 7 players. A hand of Blackjack begins with each player placing their wager for the next hand on the table in the designated spot in front of them. Once all the wagers have been placed the dealer will begin dealing out the cards starting with the player to the dealer’s immediate left and working around the table and ending with themselves.
After everyone has received one card the dealer will deal the second card to everyone at the table. The dealer will deal the first card face up including their first card. The second card will also be deal face up except for the dealer’s second card which will be dealt face down, this card is called the hole card. Once the deal has been completed the dealer will return to the player on their left and ask if they would like to hit (take a card), stand (take no card). There are other options like doubling, splitting, insurance and surrender that will be covered in another post. The player will indicate to the dealer what they would like to do.
If a player hits the dealer will deal another card face up, if the hand total has not exceeded 21 the player can take another card and continue to do so until they bust.
At any time the player can stand which means they do not want another card and the dealer will move to the next player and this will continue until all player hands have been played.
Once the player portion of the hand is completed the dealer will reveal their hole card and will hit until the hand is equal or greater than 17. Generally the dealer will stand on all 17s but at some tables the dealer may hit on a soft 17. A soft 17 is a hand that contains an Ace. The table will have the rules written on it so you will know if the dealer stands on all 17s or if they hit soft 17s.
When the dealer phase of the hand is over the dealer will collect money from busted hands, losing hands, Payoff hands that have one and return the wager of tied hand. This last action is called a ‘Push’.
The hand is completed with the dealer collecting the played cards and discarding them in the card disposal slot. At this point the next hand begins and the sequence starts over again.

Blackjack Basics April 2nd, 2008

Alright perhaps I should have started with this post instead of waiting so long. Since I am learning to play Blackjack there are probably a few other people out there that don’t know how to play this fun game and would like to start but do not know where to begin. Let me fill you in with the basics of Blackjack.

There are many different variations of Blackjack and all have subtly different rules but the basics of the game remain the same for all these variants. This is what I going to cover in this post, the basics of Blackjack.

The game of Blackjack is very simple and can be quickly summarized in a few quick points:

  • Each player is dealt two cards, usually face up.
  • The dealer is dealt two cards, usually one face up and one face down (hole card).
  • Each player in turn will decide which action they wish to take regarding thier hand.
    • Hit - To take another card
    • Stand - To stay with the current hand
    • Double - To double the wager and hit only one card .
    • Split - To separate a pair into two separate hands, requires an additional wager equal to the first.
    • Surrender - To fold the had and give up have of your wager (not always available).
  • The goal is to get you hand total as close to twenty-one without going over while beating the dealers hand.

That in a nutshell is the game of Blackjack. Of course actual game play is a little more complicated but not much more. The first question I had was, “How are hand values calculated?” It is pretty straight forward, the value of card is determined by it’s face. A 2 of clubs would be worth 2, a 10 of diamond is worth 10.
Face cards like the Jack, Queen and King are also worth 10. The Ace is a little tricky as it is worth either 1 or 11 depending on whether your hand would bust with the Ace being worth 11. I’ll explain the Ace later on in a detailed post on soft hands.

Still need to see 21 April 1st, 2008

Well the weather this weekend was decidedly unwinter like which is great because it isn’t winter anymore. Anyways I couldn’t bring myself to sit in a movie theater in such nice weather so I passed on seeing 21 on the opening weekend. It looks like they didn’t need my help to have a bang up opening weekend.
It would seem that the studio’s gamble on 21 was worth the risk and they certainly were dealt a Blackjack with this one. 21 grossed $24,105,943 on it’s opening weekend.

In case you haven’t heard about 21 yet here’s the trailer. (I tried to get it to embed but it would work so here’s a link)

21 March 28th, 2008

Tonight is the opening night of the much anticipated (at least by me) of the blackjack movie 21.

In case you do not know what 21 is about it is about a group of students from MIT lead by a Professor who form a card counting team and travel to Las Vegas on weekends. The MIT 6 as they have become known as use team work and card counting skills to win millions of dollars from Vegas Casinos. Eventually greed starts to take over and cracks begin to form in the team resulting in team members being caught and all of them being banned for life from most casinos.

I don’t feel too bad giving away the plot and ending as the movie is based on a real team of students from MIT. The MIT 6 exploits are (in)famous and there has been numerous books written about/by them.

The is certainly a must see, the trailers look excellent and Kevin Spacey as Prof. Rosa is a great choice! I’ll do a review once I see the movie (hopefully this weekend).

Basic Strategy March 25th, 2008

Basic Strategy, from the name you might expect a strategy that is simple, easy to use and provides very little benefit to your game play. At least those were the thoughts that came to mind when I first read about Basic Strategy for Blackjack. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Now I suppose compared to other strategies like card counting, Basic Strategy is pretty easy and simple to use. However for someone trying to learn them, they can be quite complicated.
First I have to worry about how many decks are being used, does the dealer hit or stand on soft 17’s, is early surrender available (to list only a few options).
Once I know these I have to pick the appropriate Basic strategy to use as each variant of Blackjack has it’s own Basic Strategy.

To make things easier for myself and for other I have decided that I will cover Basic Strategy in detail. I will post a Basic Strategy chart for each variant and explain which each chart means. This way I and my readers will be able to quickly find the appropriate chart for their chosen blackjack variant.

The best thing about Basic Strategy is that you can take a basic strategy chart with you to the casino blackjack table and use it as a reference for when you suffer a memory lapse :) One piece of advice that I have been told and it sounds like a good piece of advice so I will pass it along. Do not rely on your basic strategy chart at a table, if you slow down play at the table not only will be hurting the dealer (they have to deal a certain number of hands per hour) you will be asked to stop using the chart or leave the table. Remember to treat it as a “reference” chart and not a step by step guide.

Weekend Blackjack Results March 10th, 2008

Well I need to find a Blackjack strategy or something to help me play. I started playing on Saturday and quickly lost my bankroll. Loss after loss after loss.

I think I made every bad decision that could have been made while playing Blackjack. I held when I should have hit, and hit when I should have held. It seems that the only time I won was when I was dealt a Blackjack.

I had planned on playing Blackjack all weekend but my first game was such a horrid experience that I spent the reset of the weekend looking up blackjack strategies that could help me improve my game. I found two strategies that seem like they might hold the answer to my poor Blackjack skills. These blackjack strategies are Basic Blackjack Strategy and Card Counting. Everything I read said that I should start with Basic Strategy as some card counting strategies rely on Basic Strategy.

I’ll be writing about Basic Strategy shortly and how it affects my play.

First Blackjack Game March 8th, 2008

Well I just finished my first game of Blackjack and man was it a lot of fun!
I think I did pretty well. I played with $1 wagers and went on a streak right from the start until I was up about $20 and then I bounced around for a while until I left being up $3. I was able to play for about 45 mins. I never went higher than $20 in winnings and spent most of my time bouncing around $15 until I slowly started to loose. I figured I would walk away from my first game with some winnings.

I won’t bore you with a play by play of the game but I think I did pretty well considering. I’ve figured out a few things as I was playing. It seems like a safe bet to assume that the dealers hole card is a ten. More often than not I stood on a 17, or 18 with the dealer showing a 8 or 9 assuming that they would need to hit and then bust. This rarely happened. In most cases the hole card was a 10 and they won the hand. When I started assuming that the dealer’s hole card was a 10 I didn’t lose as often. Sure I busted more but I think I won more of these hands than I did before.

Don’t take insurance. Insurance is a huge waste of money that I only won a few times. Clearly the casino knows it is a looser for the player or they wouldn’t offer it.

I’m going to be playing some more Blackjack this weekend and we’ll see what happens.

Welcome to Blackjack for Dummies March 7th, 2008

Welcome to my Blackjack Blog. I know there are a large number of Blackjack related blogs to read. Blogs that offer strategies, others that offer tips and some that give hand by hand details of their latest game or tournament. I hope to offer something a little different. You see I’ve never actually played Blackjack other than at a friends house to kill some time.

I’ve always been interested in Blackjack but I’ve never taken the time to learn about the game other than the basic rules and I’ve never taken the plunge and actually played Blackjack at a casino whether it be a land based casino or an Online casino. Since I live in an area where there are no local casino’s I’ll be playing mostly online Blackjack. I’m hoping to get to Vegas soon and I am really interested in playing some Blackjack in Vegas.

Since I know very little about Blackjack I’ll be recording my thoughts and experiences as I play and learn about this game. Of course I’ve heard stories about the MIT team that went to Vegas and won millions of dollars by counting cards. Now I’m no math genius and I don’t think I could keep track of that many cards to win anything. There is no way I could tell you how many Aces, Kings and Queens had been played after about 15 cards so I think I will avoid card counting.

So It’s off to my online casino of choice (which is for my first real game of Blackjack.

Wish me Luck