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Blackjack or 21

Blackjack Strategy

Part of the key to Blackjack strategy is to understand where the house and the dealer have their odds advantage over the average player. It lies in the fact that the dealer plays last and collects when the players break 21, WHETHER OR NOT the dealer goes bust! There is no push when both go broke. This means that the good strategist will avoid as much as possible the prospect of going over 21 especially when the dealer is most likely to go over 21 himself.

This means the player looks out for situations when the dealer has a turned up card between two and six. This should influence how the player plays because in this case there is a very good chance that the current score in the dealer's hand is between 12 and sixteen. If so, the additional card the dealer must take has a very good chance of busting the dealer. The player should refrain from taking a card that could send his or her score over 21, and simply wait to see what happens with the dealer's hand.

This situation also presents an opportunity for doubling the player's bet if his initial two cards total 9, 10 or 11. In this case it is fairly good odds that the additional card will give him a hard score for the dealer to beat, but even if the card turns out to be a low one, there is still the chance that the dealer will go over 21. It is here that the player is somewhat compensated for the dealer's advantage of dealing to himself last. Giving up the opportunity to double in this situation is to give additional weight to the long term odds of the house. Splitting, when the opportunity arises should also be employed in similar circumstances.

But knowing when to split is a bit more complicated. It is usually a bad idea to split two ten-point cards. It is a very good idea to split aces. Split 2s and 3s when the dealer's turned up card is less than 8. Don't split 4s unless the dealer is showing a 5 or 6. Do NOT split 5s. This, however, might be a good opportunity to double down (see above paragraph). 6s should be split with the dealer showing 6 or less. 7s should be split with the dealer showing 7 or less. 8s should be split in every circumstance. 9s should be split in all cases except when the dealer shows 7,10, or Ace. You can see that you shouldn't split 9s on a dealer 7 because you already have a hand better than 17. The odds are already in your favor.

When the dealer is showing a 7,8,9,10, or A, the player should take some risk of going bust in order to beat the likely good hand. The easiest way to judge what to do in this circumstance is to pretend that the turned down card is a 10. (The odds are more than 30% that this is the case.) At minimum risk, try to beat that score. If you have a score of 17 or higher to begin with, the risk is too great. If you have sixteen or less it is usually best to take another card. Generally, "stand pat" on 17 or higher.

Insurance is almost always a bad idea because, in the long-haul, the player will end up losing more often than not. (Remember, there is only a slightly more than 30% chance that the turned down card is a 10-pointer.) Some people think it is the thing to do if the player has a "blackjack". It will guarantee that the "blackjack" will win even money - but not get the 3:2 payout. In truth, because of the 30% odds that the dealer has a "blackjack", in the long run, this too is giving up money.

"Surrender" is often not offered by casinos, but when it is an option, there are times when it is good to take advantage of it. The circumstance would be when the player is dealt a 15 and the dealer is showing a 10, or the player is dealt a 16 and the dealer is showing a 9,10, or A. This doesn't happen often, but often enough to slant the odds just a bit more.

In spite of all the strategies above, the house will continue to hold a slight advantage. Remember, the casinos would not be allowing players to play a game in which they consistently lost money. Nevertheless, some believe that there is one more thing that the player can do to finally tilt the game in favor of the player. This strategy is called card counting and is described in our next section.

Next Page: Card Counting in Blackjack


Remember blackjack is a gambling game. Players should never gamble more than they can afford to lose.

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