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If you want to be a true player for real, don’t ask Puff Daddy. Sit down at a blackjack table and go head-to-head with the dealer in this fast pace, action-packed game with inconceivable runs of good and bad luck . Players determine their own fate completely through how much they bet and if they should hit, stand, double-down or split.
The object of the game is to get cards totaling 21 or as close to it as possible without going over, and get a better total on the hand than the dealer. Cards 2-10 count as face value, face cards (jacks, queens and kings) count as 10, and aces are interchangeable as 1 or 11, whichever works better for your hand for each dealt card. Suits do not matter in blackjack. You are dealt two cards and the dealer has two cards but one card is face-up. The dealer’s only up-card is the only clue you have in what your next move should be.
“Soft” hands include an ace, so a 5 and an ace is a soft 16. If you ask for a hit from the dealer and the next card is a 6, your ace would then change from a value of 11 to 1 to avoid going over 21. This gives you a total of 7 and allows you to be dealt more cards. Hands without aces are “hard” hands, such as a 10 and a 7.
Very few casinos offer single-deck blackjack anymore. Most use a minimum of two decks, and many use six or eight decks for a larger house edge and to combat card counting. You want a deck with a high proportion of high cards so the dealer has a better chance of “busting” (going over 21). The dealer has the advantage with a high proportion of low cards because there is less chance of busting. A tie is called a “push.” Most tables pay out 1:1, so a $5 bet would earn you $5 but most casinos offer a larger payout for an ace-10 or ace-face card combination. “True blackjack” is the best hand and is an ace paired with a 10, jack, queen or king. Even if the dealer has three 7’s, you win with true blackjack.
The magic number in blackjack is a hard 17, where you stand (don’t get dealt any more cards). Most casinos require the dealer to stand on 17. Otherwise, if you have an ace and a 6 for a soft 17, you have more options. You could double-down (doubling your starting wager) in hope of drawing a 3 or 4 for a total of 20 or 21, or draw a 10 which would give you a solid 17. For soft hands, always hit or double-down when you have an ace paired with a 2-6, no matter what the dealer shows. If you hit three times and remain at or below 21, it is called a “5-card Charlie”. It can be tempting to split a pair (splitting them into two separate hands) but this is only smart for certain pairs. Basic strategy says you should never split 5’s or 10’s, but instead should split 8’s to avoid a bothersome 16.
General odds say the house has a 5% advantage in blackjack. But, by following basic strategies like the ones above, you can reduce that to as small as 0.5%. However, don’t expect to get rich overnight. Even the professionals who use basic strategy have a 1-2% long-term return and the average players lose around 3% as a return. The card-counters make up less than 1% of all players and even most of them lose in the long because of a lack of discipline.
- Learn the rules before you play and practice online for free before wagering any real money.
- Maintain your bankroll. Set loss limits and win goals.
- Drink in moderation or not at all. It can liven up a game, but it clouds your judgment.
- Keep your cool. Despite what it seems, the dealer isn’t the one to blame for your losses.
- Focus your attention on the dealer and their up-card, not others at the table.
- If you lose three consecutive hands, move to another table. No questions asked.
- When you start getting tired, pack up and move on or at least take a break and come back.