How to play Blackjack
The Basic Rules of Blackjack
Basic Strategy for Blackjack
Play Blackjack in New Zealand
FAQ Online Blackjack
Will playing blackjack give the player the 'best' odds?
Yes it will! Like all games, it depends on the player's skill and the rules of the specific game. But unlike most casino games, if it uses Las Vegas Strip rules and allows for doubling down after splitting, the player actually is a slight favorite, assuming they use the ‘correct' strategy.
What are "Las Vegas Strip rules" then?
The Vegas rules refer to games that are common to downtown Las Vegas. What it means in this case is that doubling down is allowed on any two cards, the dealer hits on soft-17, and also allows for resplits and insurance. What you can't do is resplit aces or double after splitting.
What is the 'correct' strategy you were talking about?
For this set of rules, there's only one ‘correct' strategy. All casinos don't offer offer the same rules, though; the strategy is slightly different from game to game. For starting out, there are several books out there, like Theory of Blackjackand Basic Blackjack.
What about other players? Do they impact my success?
Nope! What the other players at the table are doing has no impact on the way you ought to be playing. Bad players help as much as they hurt.
Why in the world should I buy insurance, or 'even money'?
You shouldn't, if you're playing by strategy. If you're counting cards, you'd know when this bet is profitable. If in an insurance situation, take your chances. You're 60% likely to win the hand anyway, so it's not worth taking the even money.
What's the worst play people often make?
Putting aside foolish plays, it's taking an 8-8 or 7-7 hand and standing. You lose 70% of the time when you stand on those hands. Best practices would have you split them and take your chances.
Aren't single-deck games better than multi-deck games?
Sort of. Multi-deck games do indeed give the house a slight advantage over single-deck games, but at the same time, single-deck games more commonly give the house an inherent advantage in the rules.
If blackjack is more favorable than other casino games, why are you not making multiple millions instead of writing about it?
Even if it's possible to play to a slight advantage, that doesn't mean the money will roll in. Blackjack has three factors you control: your skill, your bankroll, and your risk. Even a highly skilled player with a big bankroll can only make small, steady gains without risking losing a great deal.
Don't casinos still ban counters?
They do. Skilled blackjack is cat and mouse, and casinos have the right to be rid of those who hurt their bottom line.
Should I be worried about cheating?
Only if you're playing off the main floors. It's easier to rig single-deck games. Stay alert, and leave the table if something's funny.
Let's say I count cards. How much can I win then?
Even if you're counting cards, it's possible they don't come up your way. It's based on skill level, bankroll, and the level of risk, but it also factors in the rules of the game you're playing. The best card counters still only gain around a 1% advantage over the house.
Isn't card counting illegal?
No, but it isn't easy to do it like in the movies.
Well what's the 'best' card-counting system?
There really isn't a ‘best' way, really. For shoe deck games, all systems perform within tiny percentages of each other. For single deck games though, a multi-level count with an ace side-count shows significant improvement over other counts. Even a simple count of high cards and low cards can increase your chances, though.
So when should you count cards?
Games in which you know when to take insurance and when to stand on a 16 versus a dealer showing 10.
Why do casinos still offer blackjack when you can beat it?
The losses from successful card counters are insignificant compared to mistakes, bad counters, and bad players.
Is card counting the only way to beat the game?
Most holes get filled though because casinos like making money, but you can still find opportunities. Terms you might want to look up include: flashing, peeking, hole carding, next carding, front loading, shuffle tracking, side bets, mistakes, new games, tells, comps, coupons, loss rebates, and many others.
How should you evaluate a blackjack game?
If you're a card counter, look for fast games. If you're a strategy player, look for a single deck game with the best rules. If you're a gambler, look for casinos with comp policies, single deck games, and few options.
What books should I read before I start?
The Bible of Blackjack is Edward Thorp's Beat the Dealer. It's a little outdated, but vital. Griffin's Theory of Blackjack is also a must-read.
I want to learn how.
Read those books! Learn perfect basic strategy, and keep your bets small. Be skeptical of advice claiming better than 1.5%. Be disciplined and patient.
So what's the 'secret'?
Balancing knowledge, skill, bankroll, and risk. The big secret is staying dedicated to the game. Don't just focus on blackjack; be alert for other opportunities.
Where are the 'best' games?
You can find the best games in Stanford Wong's Current Blackjack News newsletter.