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Blackjack is one of the oldest and most popular casino games there is. It’s popularity may be due to the fact that it is one of the few casino games in which skill can dramatically improve a players odds. Originating from French card games in the 1800s, blackjack found popularity in the American west. Once gambling was legalized in Nevada in the 1930s, blackjack became of staple of the casino circuit.

How To Play Blackjack

The object of the game is to obtain a higher hand than the dealer with out going over 21. A blackjack table usually consists of a dealer on one side and space for up to 7 players on the other. Most blackjack games are played with multiple decks served from a special box, called a “shoe”, by the dealer.

All blackjack tables will have its rules posted as well as minimum and maximum wagers. When you sit down to play blackjack the first thing you’ll do is place your bet in the betting circle in front of you. When all bets have been placed, the dealer will deal the cards starting with the player furthest to his left. This is known as “first base”. The last player to receive cards is considered to be sitting on “third base”

There are many variations of blackjack. In a “Nevada” blackjack game players will receive their cards face down. If you receive cards face up, its known as a “London deal”.

Face cards are worth 10, aces can be 1 or 11 (which ever is most beneficial for the hand) and the rest of the deck is worth their face value.

After receiving your cards you may have a number of options. If you would like an additional card, you indicate this to the dealer to “hit” you by making a scratching gesture on the table. (casinos are noisy so hand signals are often used). If you do not want any further cards you must indicate to the dealer you’d like to “stand”. After all the players have either busted or stand, the dealer will play their hand. Usually, dealers must hit up to 16 and stand on 17 or higher.

“Blackjack” is made with a 10 card and an ace. You will automatically win, unless the dealer also has blackjack, then it’s a tie or “push” and you receive your bet back, but win nothing. If you win with a blackjack, most tables pay out your winnings 3 to 2. If you bet 10 dollars, you’ll receive $25.

During the game you will have a number of options:

Double Down - You may double your bet and receive only one more card.

Split Pairs - If you have a pair you may play each of the pair as a separate hand each with its own bets.

Insurance - If the dealer has an ace showing, the dealer may offer “insurance” against the dealer having blackjack. Players can place an additional bet. The dealer then checks for blackjack and if the dealer has blackjack you are paid 2 to 1 on that bet. However, unless you have blackjack you will lose your original bet.

Some tables will allow players to surrender. After the dealer checks for blackjack, you may give up your hand and receive half of your original bet back.

That’s it! Now you know how to play blackjack. Check out our strategies sections to discover a way to apply these rules and come out a winner!


Any good blackjack player will know how to use “basic strategy” to reduce the house odds. The strategy consists of a system of when to hit and when to stand. Follow these rules religiously and you’ll do plenty to increase your bankroll. You will lose a hand now and then, but stick to “basic strategy” and in the long run you’ll pull ahead.

Dealer's Up Card
  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T A
A,9 S S S S S S S S S S
A,8 S S S S S S S S S S
A,6 H D D D D H H H H H
A,5 H H D D D H H H H H
A,4 H H D D D H H H H H
A,3 H H H D D H H H H H
A,2 H H H D D H H H H H
S=stand, H=hit, D=double down
DS=double down if possible or stand

Betting Strategy

Knowing when to hit and stand is just the beginning. Knowing when and how much to bet will make the difference between taking a limo home or taking a taxi home.

One old and well known system is the “Martingale” system. The theory is simple. Start with a single bet. If you win bet the same amount again. If you lose, double your previous bet. The idea is that eventually you are bound to win. The problem with this system is that bets get very large very quickly. You’ll need a very large bankroll and the table’s maximum bet will stop your system in its tracks.

Many people increase their bets when they are on a winning streak. Many increase their bet when they are on a losing streak, thinking they are due for a win or trying to recover losses. The cold hard truth is that none of these strategies work without knowing what cards are coming next and to do this you’ll need to count cards.

Counting Cards

This is a sure fire way to reduce the house odds and give the player a much higher advantage. The basic premise involves assigning a value to a type of card and keep a running tally of the total value.

A common card counting technique assigns a +1 to a 2,3,4,5 and 6. -1 to 10, jack, queen king and ace and 7, 8, 9 get 0. As cards are played an discarded keep a running total of their values. If the count is positive, then there are a higher number of high value cards left in the deck, which is good for the player. This is your cue to start increasing your bets. What tips the odds in favor of the player is that blackjacks pay 3 to 2 and can substantially increase your winnings.

Card counters will usually look for London Deal games (games in which the cards are dealt face up) and will try to get into the “third base” seat. From here the player sees all cards that have come before him and is in more control over the fate of all the players at the table.


To play blackjack well, there are a number of rules and situations which you should be aware of that will affect the odds a any game of blackjack. Below is a sample of some of these and the resulting effect of player odds.

Rule Effect on Player Expectation
Two decks -0.32%
Four decks -0.48%
Six decks -0.54%
Eight decks -0.58%
Dealer hits soft 17 -0.20%
Double down only on 11 (no soft, no 10, no 9, no 8) -0.78%
Double down only on 10 or 11 (no soft, no 9, no 8) -0.26%
Double down only on 9, 10, 11 (no soft, no 8) -0.14%
No re-splitting of any pairs -0.03%
Dealer wins ties -9.00%
Natural pays 1 to 1 -2.32%
Natural pays 2 to 1 +2.32%
Double down on any number of cards +0.24%
Double down after splitting pairs +0.14%
Late surrender +0.06%
Early surrender +0.62%
Six-card winner +0.15%
Players 21 pushes dealer's 10-up Blackjack +0.16%
Re-splitting of aces +0.06%
Draw to split aces +0.14%