How to Play Blackjack


This article contains the following categories:


How to Play Blackjack
A Crash Course to Playing Blackjack
Blackjack Tips
Casino Blackjack Tips
Blackjack Rules for Beginners
Blackjack Rule Variations
Five Keys to Blackjack Success


How to play Blackjack


Whether you are a complete blackjack novice or someone who considers themselves highly experienced, you can learn the optimal strategies for your play rather quickly. When you learn the right strategies, you can be sure that you are on the right path, that much is certain. 


The procedure of how blackjack is played can be intimidating for people who are just starting. In that regard, the strategies that are being mentioned here will help a lot of players. 


You must first know that the objective in the game of blackjack is to emerge victorious over the dealer. This can happen in a couple of different ways. Sure, you can achieve a total closer to 21 than the dealer with your cards, but that is just half of it. Part of winning may also be to successfully stay under 21 while the dealer breaks or "busts," which means he goes over 21. As a component of beginner's blackjack, it is important to remember that. 


The process begins as you have been dealt two cards. These could come either face-up or face-down if you were in a physical casino setting. When you play online, you are going to get them face-up, because that's the only way you're going to know what you have. The dealer, in most cases, has one card that is face-down "in the hole" and another that is shown to you. After those cards have been dealt, decisions have to be made. 


You choose from several options for your decision, depending on what the situation dictates. You can choose to "hit,' which means that you can take a card, and if needed, additional cards. You can "stand," which means you are going to do nothing and just stick with what you have. You might be able to "double" or "double down," which means you are going to double the bet and take one card. You could "split" when you have two cards of equal value and want to make two hands out of it. Some games give you the option of "surrender," in which you can throw a bad hand, stop playing and save half your bet. 


Any explanation of blackjack for beginners also has to include "insurance," which appears in all versions of the game. When the dealer has an Ace (and in some cases a ten-value card) showing, the player gets the choice of taking insurance, which amounts to placing half the original wager into the betting square; essentially it is a bet that the dealer has a two-card blackjack. The insurance bet pays 2-to-1. 


In the online game, icons denoting all the available options appear on the screen, giving you a convenient way to choose. 


And by the way, a stroke of beginners blackjack luck would be for the player to achieve a two-card "natural" of his or her own; that is, a total on the first two hands dealt that would add up to 21. That particular stroke of good fortune pays off at 3-to-2 odds, and that can nullify a few losses along the way, for certain. 


A Crash Course to Playing Blackjack


Would you like to learn how to play blackjack in a hurry? Well, we know that some folks are impatient, so we can give you something in a nutshell, but we certainly can't promise anything. 


We are going to assume, for purposes of this conversation, that you know the rules and the basic procedures that are followed in the game. What you may not have is a sense of how to play your hands, which is the most critical thing once you get going. 


We know that you have heard the term "card counting," and you want to get right to that because you want to be a big winner, and after all, this is a "crash course." But we are not going to go THAT fast. 


First we want you to learn blackjack with a "Basic Strategy," which is the optimum mathematical approach to blackjack for a player who is not counting cards. It shows you the best move that can be made for any player hand against any dealer hand. That is something we can explain to you rather quickly, and we'll do a pretty good job of it, but frankly, you are going to have to carry most of the water yourself. 


Let's begin with the "crash course" on how to play blackjack, and please note that when we talk about any of these hands, we refer to the first two cards you've been dealt, and when we talk about what the dealer has, it is the upcard: 


* With a 5, 6, 7 or 8, you would always hit. 
* With a 9, you would double against a dealer's 3-6, and otherwise hit
* With a 10, you would double against a dealer's 2-9, otherwise hit.
* With an 11, you have to double against a dealer's 2-10, otherwise hit.
* With a 12, you should stand against a dealer's 4, 5 or 6, otherwise hit.
* With anything from 13 to 16, you would stand against the dealer's 2-6, otherwise hit
* With anything from 17 to 21, you must always stand
* With Ace-two or Ace-three, you double against a dealer's 5 or 6, otherwise hit. 
* With Ace-four or Ace-five, you double against a dealer's 4, 5 or 6, otherwise hit
* With Ace-six, you would double against the dealer's 3-6, otherwise hit
* With Ace-seven, you'd double against the dealer's 3-6, but stand against 2, 7 or 8, otherwise hit
* With anything from Ace-eight to Ace-ten (a blackjack), you will always stand
* With a pair of 2's, 3's or 7's, split against the dealer's 2-7, otherwise hit
* With a pair of 4's, you split against the dealer's 5 or 6, otherwise hit
* With a pair of 5's, treat it as 10, which means you double against the dealer's 2-10, otherwise hit
* With a pair of 6's, double against the dealer's 2-6, otherwise hit
* With a pair of 8's, always split
* With a pair of 9's, you split against the dealer's 2-6 and 8-9, stand against dealer's 7, otherwise stand
* With a pair of 10's, always stand
* With a pair of Aces, always split


That's a quick way to learn blackjack moves. Now study, practice, and go get 'em!


Blackjack Tips


What are the best kinds of blackjack tips one can receive? Well, obviously they are the ones that tell you what to do, but there is also much value in blackjack advice about what not to do. 


These tips are not limited to explaining what play to make on any particular hand, but indeed expand to how to go about preparing for a game by practicing all the hands you can. 


Here are some parts of the best blackjack advice we can give you:


1) Learn a Basic Strategy -- And stick to it. There is nothing good that can happen to you at a blackjack table unless you are able to learn and master a Basic Strategy to play the game. It doesn't really take any superhuman abilities; if you were able to memorize multiplication tables when you were a kid, this is not much more involved. 


2) Don't Play Hunches -- This goes hand in hand with #1, because if you are going to take the time to learn the Basic Strategy, it certainly doesn't make sense to veer away from it. Keep in mind that the Basic Strategy is a set of plays that represents the best mathematical way to approach any player vs. dealer situation. If you play a hunch because you "feel" a certain way, you are, by definition, doing something that is not as sound. 


3) Practice Before Playing -- We understand that this is easier said than done, especially if you are on a vacation, but somewhere before you go to dinner, show and gambling, it doesn't hurt to take a few minutes to review your chart and deal some hands to yourself, just as a refresher. 


4) Bet With Your Head, Not Over It -- Have you ever heard that said? We bet you have. That's not a bad piece of blackjack advice, and it means that you should never wager money that is out of proportion to your bankroll. It's always a good idea to decide what you have to play with, and keep the bets down to where your maximum wager does not exceed 2.5% of your total bankroll for playing blackjack. 


5) If You Feel Distracted, Stop Playing -- If you are at all serious about coming away a winner, you need to understand that if you start to think about something else at the table, you are thinking less about the task at hand. Do you think that will help you or hurt you in the long run? 


6) Don't Drink While Playing -- This is one of the more valuable blackjack tips we could possibly give you. Drinking dulls concentration. There is very little margin of error when you are playing. Enough said.


7) Don't Look Obvious -- This is a piece of blackjack advice for those of you who are endeavoring to count cards. Casinos still throw out players they think may have an edge. If you are counting, don't move your lips when you're keeping the count, and try to not to exhibit so much eye or head movement that makes it obvious you are keeping track of the cards. 


Follow these blackjack tips, and you'll have a better chance of staying in the action!


Casino Blackjack Tips


In online blackjack, it's a good idea to always review your Basic Strategy before sitting down to play, so that it's fresh in your mind. When you play blackjack online, certainly you can have your charts or cards or whatever you want to use right in front of you, but that is kind of awkward. What you probably want to do in online blackjack is have it at your disposal, in case you need to refer to it, but don't underestimate the importance of knowing it and understanding it in order to play blackjack online with the highest degree of effectiveness. Once you commit to the Basic Strategy as your approach, it is in your best interests to follow it faithfully. Also, when we say "Bet with your head, not over it," we mean it. Get your bankroll into perspective, and keep your bets within proportion. If you have a $100 bankroll to play with, you don't need to be making $25 bets, or even $10 bets, because you'll find yourself quickly out of action unless you get on a winning streak. Remember that you are there to have fun. And fun doesn't include losing your bankroll in a flash. Set bankroll limits for your session, and this way you are able to minimize the risk of busting out prematurely.


Whether you are playing online blackjack or blackjack in a physical casino, don't let drinking distort your play if at all possible. Don't ever forget that you play blackjack online with real money, and if you're serious at all about winning or at least preserving your bankroll, you don't want to do things that dull your senses or alter your level of concentration. And while we're on the subject of playing online blackjack to win, when you do indeed start winning, remember that the new money you're holding is yours; you do not play blackjack online "with the house's money," the implication of which is that it is theirs to win back. It belongs to you. This may seem trite but it is a psychological pitfall that players must overcome. Another psychological trap the player can fall into involves the "no bust" blackjack strategy, in which you may be afraid to hit any number 12 or higher for fear of busting, operating on the principle that if you don't bust, you are always going to be in the hand and eligible to win. You'll always be in the hand alright, but not for long; even with the worst upcards, the dealer is only going to bust about 42% of the time anyway.


If it's at all possible, find a set of online blackjack rules that are to your liking. Good rules for you when you play blackjack online include the following: doubling down after split (DDAS), re-splitting (splitting and then splitting again if you are dealt the same rank of card), splitting ten-value cards of different rank; doubling on any two cards; dealer hits all 17's (including soft 17's) and surrender, which gives the player the opportunity to save half the wager in a particularly bad percentage situation. Where surrender is offered in online blackjack, it is usually of the "late" variety, which, when you play blackjack online, is possible after the dealer checks his hole card for blackjack. Insurance should generally be avoided. It pays at a 2-to-1 rate, but the odds against it winning for you are 2.18-to-1. As for the so-called "gimmick" games, like Double Exposure, feel free to have some fun with them, but don't make them a steady part of your diet.


Blackjack Rules for Beginners


When you play blackjack, you are engaging in something that is not automatic. In other words, it is not like a slot game where you place a bet and click the "Spin" button, or a roulette game, where you have nothing to do with what the final result is. 


If you sit down at the table for the first time, you might find that some things are confusing and intimidating. When it comes to playing your hands, there might also be an intimidation factor, since there are different ways you can go on each hand. 


It doesn't have to be that way at all. 


When you are starting to play blackjack, it makes a lot of sense to know what to do and how to do it. The first thing you want to consider is how the decisions are actually made. When you're in the brick and mortar setting, this is probably a little more important. 


Learn how to make the signals for hitting, standing, doubling and splitting. For example, when you want to hit, you will take the cards (in a face-down game) and brush them toward you, as if to say, "Bring 'em on." When you are in the face-up game, you can make that same gesture with your hand. When you are standing, you can just place your two-card hand under the chip or chips in the betting square and the dealer will know exactly what you are doing. In the face-up game, you simply wave away any further action. 


When you're starting to play blackjack, you also need to know about the other options. For doubling, you can put a wager equal to that which you originally wagered, and you'll get a card face-down. If you are in the face-down situation, you can turn the cards up and get one card face-down. When you wish to split a hand up, you can separate the cards you have, and take one hit to the first split hand. Then you will play that hand out. When that process is complete, you'll play the other part of the split hand. 


A dealer will ask the players if they want to take insurance at the appropriate time; that is, when there is an Ace (or in some cases a ten) showing. Your decision at that point is whether to put half of your original wager in front of you to do the insurance bet. 


So now that you know how to call for the various decisions, you should know what those decisions are. It is a necessary part of a blackjack beginners strategy that a Basic Strategy be learned and implemented. This will give you the guideline as to which decisions to make when it comes down to every situation you'll face. If you really want to know how to get off on the right foot, you have to memorize it, practice it, and play it without mistakes. 


And as you are playing, come to an understanding of what the proper payouts are. When you are dealt a two-card 21 (also known as a "natural"), you are to be paid 3-to-2. When you take insurance and win that particular bet, it pays at 2-to-1. When you're starting to play blackjack, these are the kinds of things you need to know. 


Blackjack Rule Variations


When someone asks the question, "What are the rules for playing blackjack?," that is, in reality, not the easiest question in the world to answer. That is because there are differences in blackjack rules, some subtle and some not so subtle, that can appear from game to game, depending on where you are playing.


If you are navigating your way through Las Vegas, for example, you can walk from one casino to the next and you could find different rules. When you play online blackjack you will be usually have several different games made available to you by the casino and software provider. 


It is not uncommon for there to be blackjack rules variations regarding the option of doubling down. Some games allow players to double down on any two cards they are dealt initially, and this allows quite a bit of flexibility for exercising the option. However, other casinos and/or game variations may call for doubling down only on a two-card total of nine, 10 or 11. That would essentially eliminate the possibility of soft doubling; that is, doubling on a two-card combination that contains an Ace. 


Speaking of doubling down, there are also variations that concern the idea of splitting pairs. In some games, you could double down when you are hit to a split hand; other games prohibit it. And splitting pairs is permitted more liberally in the blackjack rules for some games than others. For instance, sometimes you can split a hand up even if it is not a pair, in the case of cards that have the same numerical value, like a Jack and a Queen, which both count for ten in blackjack. 


One powerful rule variation the player can take advantage of is that if surrender. It is not available everywhere, and if it is wisely utilized, it can help save a lot of money. A player, when dealt the first two cards from the dealer, can elect to hand in half the bet rather than play the hand out and likely lose. Basic strategy dictates that this is done only on certain occasions, when the player's hand is weak enough to warrant it. 


One of the most significant blackjack rules variations has a whole game built around it. We're talking about "double exposure," where the dealer, instead of having one card showing and the other "in the hole," shows both cards to the player. This would appear, on the surface, to be a tremendous advantage to the player. But there is a flip side to it as well. The player loses pushes (ties) with the dealer, and does not pick up many of the other options that might otherwise be considered beneficial. 


Often you'll find that when you are presented with a blackjack rules variation that allows you to do something, it will be counterbalanced by another variation that takes something away. That's the way blackjack is, and that is why it is such a challenge. The strategies may seem robotic to some, but it is truly a thinking man's casino game!


Five Keys to Blackjack Success


What does it take for a player to be able to win at blackjack? 


Well, when one discusses what the keys to success at the game are, there are so many things that can possibly be touched upon that it is hard to nail it down to just a few. However, most experts would agree that there is a short list of absolute prerequisites that no success story can be without, and not all of them have to do with blackjack strategy itself. 


Let's take a look at five keys to anyone having a chance to win at blackjack. 


1) You Have To Believe In What You Are Doing -- What this means is that when you undertake to play the casino game, you have to submit to the concept that there is a method to follow and that you have to adhere to it, without wavering. If you don't believe, you are going to fall victim to hunches, and when you do that, you are going to be vulnerable to losing sessions. The margin of error is not very great. 


2) Money Management - There is no question that you have to take care of your money and bet it wisely. Not having the wherewithal to wager in accordance with your bankroll, or to vary from a pre-determined wagering that is based on an advantage (if you're card counting, that is) will bring you down. 


3) The Right Strategy - Yes, this is where the blackjack strategy comes into play. If you are going to play according to a strategy, you need to find one that is effective. If it's a Basic Strategy, it needs to be mathematically correct. If it is a card counting, it has to be one that is strong enough to yield a long-run advantage for you. There are plenty of useless "systems" out there on the market, and they will cost you money over and above what you ever paid for them. 


4) Discipline - What we mean by this is not only that you have to resign yourself to playing within limits, but also that you will not fall victim to distractions that can affect your play. If you are in a land-based casino, it could be the cocktail waitress who comes and asks you if you want a drink, or the other players at the table who may be complaining about something. If you are playing in an online casino, it could be your kids making noise, or phone calls coming in. You will not win at blackjack if you are easily distracted. 


5) Work Ethic - No matter what kind of blackjack strategy or system you have, you're not going to get anywhere unless you are committed to learning it to the point where it can be executed to near-perfection. As we said, there is little margin for error at the blackjack table. If you are a card counter, for example, and you make just a couple of mistakes an hour, your advantage can go right out the window. You need to understand that it takes practice, and decide whether you want to put in the time. 

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