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Blackjack is a very popular game, whether you are playing online live dealer blackjack or in a brick and mortar casino. It has one of the best percentages of return out of all the games.
It is easy to play, and once you have mastered a few basic strategies, it can be loads of fun.
Just follow some simple guidelines and jump onto a live dealer blackjack table for a new and exciting experience.
Blackjack & Online Blackjack History
No one is really sure of where the game of blackjack came from, but it is believed to have evolved from the game chemin de fer (baccarat).
One thing that we do know for sure though is that the modern version of blackjack originated in France in the 1700s, where it was known as “vingt-et-un” or “twenty-one”.
It has been played in North America since the 1800s but did not gain popularity over Poker and Craps in the “wild west” until they offered a 10 to 1 payout on a hand that consisted of an ace of spades and a jack of spades.
This is where blackjack got its name, and while this rule has become obsolete, the name stuck and remains to this day.
Sometime during the 1950s, a team of mathematicians, lead by R. Baldwin, published a paper which showed that the house advantage could be reduced by using a probability and statistics formula.
A few years after that, Professor Thorpe expanded those findings and published a paper called “Beat the Dealer” in 1962. Blackjack players began using this system and much to the distress of the casino owners, they were winning.
Because of this, casino managers changed the rules to regain their house advantage. Unfortunately, this change also created such a disadvantage for the players that many just stopped playing altogether.
The loss of revenue that the casinos incurred greatly outweighed whatever advantages that they created in the new rules, so they were forced to forgo those new rules and return to the original game.
In the 1960’s and 1970s, an IBM employee named Julian Braun ran hours of simulated Blackjack games through their mainframe computers.
He is credited for devising what is called “basic strategy”, which consists of a set of rules that most experts recommend for every Blackjack player and many online casinos.
By following these “basic strategy” rules, the house edge is lowered to 1% or less in most casinos, depending on the house rules and the number of decks used in the game.
Blackjack hasn’t changed much since the 1960s, with the widest variations revealed in the house rules that have been established in the different casinos throughout the world.
When you apply the basic strategies of when to hit or stand, you can come very close to evening the odds that normally favour the house in almost every casino.
The game of blackjack (or Twenty-One) has been around since the 18th century. It has been derived from Vingt-un, which was a French game that was popular in the court of Louis XV.
It has remained popular through the centuries, and this popularity has spread virtually throughout the world.
Blackjack is a game in which the player competes against the dealer. Each player sits in a seat at a semi-circle table which has five playing positions.
Wagers are placed on circles in front of each player before the hand is dealt. Some games are dealt from a single deck of cards, but most deal multiple decks of cards from a container called a shoe.
Most shoes are made up of 4 to 8 decks of cards, depending on the casino. The shoe is reshuffled after approximately half of the cards have been dealt.
Rule of the game: To get a hand higher than the dealer without going over 21.
If the face value of the cards is a Blackjack (Ace and a face card), or if the dealer’s cards are lower than yours, then you win.
Winning and Losing at Live Blackjack
To win, you must beat the dealer’s hand without going over 21. If the first two cards total 21 (which is a blackjack), and the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack, then you win right away.
You lose if your hand “busts”, or if the dealer has a hand that is less than 21 but greater than yours.
If you stand on any hand of 21 or less and the dealer “busts”, then you win.
If you and the dealer tie, then you “push” and neither of you wins.
Beating the dealer always pays out even money, with the exception of a blackjack, which normally pays out 3 to 2.
When to Hit and When to Stand
The rules change on hitting or standing based on many variables. One of these variables is whether the hands dealt are hard hands or soft hands.
A hard hand is one that does not have an ace; i.e., the players total is the sum of the cards. The principles here are pretty straightforward and easy to follow.
If the dealer is showing a 2 or a 3, then you should hit on any total of 12. While this may seem a bit odd, you have to remember that the 2 and 3 are strong cards for the dealer.
The dealer is probably not going to bust on a 2 or a 3, whereas your 12 isn’t any better than a 16, which will not win unless the dealer does bust.
At anytime that the dealer is showing a card that makes breaking likely, you want to make sure that you don’t bust first. With this in mind, when the dealer is showing a 4, 5, or 6, you will never want to take a hit on a hand that could bust you with a single card (any total of 12 or up).
When the dealer is showing a 7 or higher, you must keep taking cards until you make at least a 17. The reason behind this is that the dealer will most likely have a total of 17 or higher when all is said and done. Even if you have a total of 15 or 16, you should still take a card to give yourself every chance to win.
Deciding when to hit or stand on a soft hand (a hand that has an ace in it that can either be counted as an 11 or 1) can be a little more complicated. For example, an Ace plus a 2 and a 3 is considered a soft hand, since it can have a value of either 16 or 6. However, an Ace plus a 2 and a 9 is not considered a soft hand, since counting the ace as an 11 will total 22.
Making a Stand
Knowing the degree of threat will help you to make good decisions on your next move. On a hard hand, or a hand without an ace in the first two cards, there are general rules which help in your decision on whether to hit or stand. It is always wisest to stand if you have a hard 17 or higher, no matter what the dealer is showing.
The basic strategy also calls for you to stand if your hand totals 13 to 16 and the dealer’s upcard is a 2 through a 6. The high number of 10’s in the deck gives you a better chance to bust if you decide to take a hit.
The same holds true for the dealer, who has a high probability of having a 10 as the hole-card. In this scenario, the dealer would have to draw another card, and the possibility of the dealer busting in this instance is quite high.
Basic strategy is different for soft hands. If your hand is an ace/7 combination, or soft eighteen, then you should stand if the dealer is showing a 2, 7, or 8, double down if the dealer is showing a 3 through a 6, or hit if the dealer shows a 9, 10, or ace.
You should always stand on a soft nineteen, with one exception, when the dealer is showing a 6. In this instance you are just taking the opportunity to increase your bet, anticipating that the dealer will draw a bust card.
With a soft 20 in your hand, always stand, no matter what the dealer is showing.
Taking a Hit
There are times that you are going to have to take a hit in order to beat the dealer, even though you know that you have a good chance to go over 21.
There are also times when taking a hit on your hand might seem counterproductive, however, it gives you the best option to beat the dealer.
Whenever you have a hand that totals 8 or less, you should always take a hit. It doesn’t matter what the dealer is showing in this instance since you can’t bust and you can only make your hand better.
Similarly, if you have a hand that totals 9 then you should take a hit if the dealer is showing a 2 or 7 through ace. Hit or double down when you have a hand that totals 10 and hit on a hand of 12 if the dealer has an upcard of 2, 3, or 7 through ace.
On soft hands, you should always take a hit or double down when you have an ace paired with a 2 through 6, regardless of what the dealer is showing. If you have a soft 18, then you should only take a hit if the dealer is showing a 9, 10, or ace.
Splitting Pairs in Blackjack
Another strategy that is used by the player as a method to offset the casino advantage is called splitting.
As a player, you can split any two identical cards in your original hand, such as two 8’s.
If you choose to split, then each of the cards is separated, face up.
Then simply place a bet equal to your original bet in front of your new hand of cards.
Each hand will then be played independently by either hitting or standing. You can win, lose, or bust on either or both hands.
This increases your potential for making more money, but, remember, that it also increases the likelihood to lose more.
You may be tempted to split your “pairs” into two hands automatically; however, this strategy will only work to your advantage on certain pairs and is also dependent on the dealers face-up card.
It is a good rule of thumb for you to almost never split 5’s or 10’s.
If you split 5’s, then you leave yourself open to ending up with a value of 15 on each hand and a higher probability of busting on the third card.
Keeping the 5’s will give you a good starting point of a solid 10.
This will give you a better chance of ending up with an 18 or higher after the second card, thus increasing the likelihood to beat the dealer.
As for splitting 10’s, I can’t think of any hand where this could be to your advantage. You already have a hand with a value of 20, which is almost always a winner.
Once you split 10’s, the chances of you getting an ace on either or both hands are pretty low.
Besides, in most casinos, if you split either 10’s or aces and end up with blackjack on one of your splits, then you only get paid even money.
You won’t get paid the higher payout for a natural blackjack, which is only paid on the first two cards.
The basic strategy recommends that you always split 8’s because together you have a hand with a sixteen value, which is rarely a winning hand.
By splitting these cards, you have a good chance of getting a solid 18 on either or both hands, thus changing a weak hand into a strong hand. The basic strategy also recommends that you split aces, no matter what the dealer is showing.
Since there is a higher concentration of cards with a value of 10 in the deck, you have a really good chance of ending up with a couple of hands worth 21.
Splitting pairs with face-value cards are largely dependent on the dealer’s cards and whether the game is being played with a single-deck or multiple decks of cards.
The following chart identifies the moves that basic strategy recommends splitting pairs.
Blackjack Surrender Rule
There are some casinos that offer their players the option to surrender their hand. However, this is only available to players if the dealer does not have a blackjack and before the player has taken a hit on their hand.
When surrendering a hand, you will only lose one half of your original bet. This is not offered in all casinos since it does give the players an advantage when the dealer is showing a strong hand against the weak player’s hand.
If you choose to surrender your hand, then you must tell the dealer, who will take your cards and half of your bet. Your round is then done, and you must wait until the rest of the players at the table complete their hands.
Keep in mind, if the dealer should happen to bust on this round, you will not be paid since you surrendered your hand. A good rule of thumb for surrendering is that it is only useful if your hand is weak (such as a 15 or 16) and the dealer’s hand is strong (with a face card of 10 or an ace).
Blackjack with Early Payout and Single Seat Blackjack
Some casinos offer what is called blackjack with early payout. This simply means that the casino pays based on the highest probability on the cards that are dealt with you based on basic blackjack strategy as if the cards were played out perfectly. This allows casinos to offer one seat for multiple online players at a table with live players in each of the other seats and a live dealer. This mode of playing allows several players to sit in one seat, with virtually no wait time to join the table.
The more traditional type of blackjack offered by casinos is called single seat blackjack. This mode of blackjack offers a seat for each player, who has control over the strategic play of the cards. While this form of blackjack can appeal to the more experienced player, be advised that there will most likely be a wait time to join the table.
Success in blackjack is a matter of mathematics, not intuition or guessing. Basic strategy was derived from a study that Julian Braun conducted with IBM computers running billions of blackjack combinations on an IBM computer.
The findings from these ones to eight-deck games resulting in fundamental system strategy tables, which is known as Basic Strategy. Using this strategy will actually reduce the casino advantage down to less than two per cent.
Another strategy for success in blackjack is a simplified card counting method, which gives you an additional advantage over the casino. This method of counting cards requires that you remember a single number rather than an exact list of cards being played. Be aware that all casinos frown on card counting, so if you are suspected of doing so, you may be escorted out the door of this casino.
Also, card counting becomes more difficult with multiple decks of cards and impossible in games that have shoes with continuous shuffling.
Basic Strategies in Live Blackjack
One of the biggest advantages of using Basic Strategy while playing blackjack is the elimination of exceptions, ambiguity, and options. If you decide to veer from this course, you will ultimately cost yourself money.
Remember that not all Blackjack games are equal. Some rules favour the house, and some rules favour the players. The basic strategies that are outlined here are based on the multi-deck shoes that are used in Casinos throughout the world.
The decision on whether to hit or stand should not be solely based on the total of the cards in your hand.
You should always consider the dealer’s “upcard” before deciding to hit, stand, double down, split, or surrender. For example, you have a total of 12, and the dealer has a 4, 5, or 6 showings.
The odds are better for you if you stand since the dealer must take a card on a 16 or lower. The dealer has a good chance to bust with this hand, and if the dealer busts, then you win as long as you don’t bust first.
Winning in blackjack is about comparing the potential of your hand against the threat of the dealers “upcard”. The greater the threat, the less likely you are to win that particular hand.
Basic strategy always takes the threat and potential into consideration. The following tables denote the Basic Strategy recommendations when using a single-deck or multiple decks of cards.