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Complete Guide to Playing Blackjack

If you have an interest in playing blackjack, you came to the right place! The American Casino Guide is your one-stop shop to learn all there is to know about blackjack. We have informative articles from blackjack experts, YouTube videos, and audio podcasts all about playing blackjack. 



How to Play Blackjack

Blackjack is the most popular casino game in America and one of the biggest reasons for that is its relatively simple rules that are familiar to most casino visitors. Blackjack also has a reputation as being "beatable" and although that is true in some cases, the vast majority of players will always be playing the game with the house having a slight edge over them. In this article, we are going to go over everything you need to know about how to play blackjack.

At most blackjack tables there are 7 boxes, or betting areas, on the table. This means that up to 7 people can play at that table and each player has their own box in front of them in which they. ll. place their bet. Now, before you take a seat at any blackjack table the first thing you should do is to take a look at the sign that. s sitting on each table because it will tell you the minimum amount that you must bet on each hand. If you're a $5 player you certainly wouldn't want to sit at a table that has a $25 minimum so, once again, be sure to look before you sit down.

Once you're at the table you'll need chips to play with and you get them by giving your cash to the dealer who will exchange it for an equal amount of chips. Be careful, however, that you don't put your cash down into one of the betting boxes because the dealer might think you're playing it all on the next hand!

After everyone has placed their bets in their respective boxes the dealer will deal out 2 cards to each player. He will also deal 2 cards to himself; one of those cards will be face up and the other face down. Now, if you've ever read any brochures in a casino they'll tell you that the object of the game of blackjack is to get a total of cards as close to 21 as possible, without going over 21. However, that really isn't the object of the game. The true object is to beat the dealer and you do that by getting a total closer to 21 than the dealer, or by having the dealer bust by drawing cards that total more than 21.

The one thing that's strange about blackjack is that the rules can be slightly different at each casino and this is the only game where this happens. If you play baccarat, roulette, or craps you'll find that the rules are virtually the same at every casino in the U.S. but that isn't the case with blackjack. For example, in Atlantic City all of the casinos use 6 or 8 decks of cards that are always dealt from a little rectangular box called a "shoe" and the cards are always dealt face up. In Las Vegas, some casinos will offer that same kind of game while others will offer games that use only 1 or 2 decks that are dealt directly from the dealer's hand and all of the cards will be dealt face down. 

To make it even stranger, some casinos in Las Vegas will offer both kinds of games in their casinos and the rules will probably change when you move from one table to another. There can also be other rules variations concerning doubling down and splitting of pairs but we'll talk about those later. For now, just be aware that different casinos can have different blackjack rules and some of those rules will be good for you while others will be bad for you. Hopefully, after reading this story you'll know the good rules from the bad ones and which tables are the best ones to play at.

For our purposes, we'll assume we're playing in a casino that uses 6 decks of cards that are dealt out of a shoe and all of the player's cards are dealt face up. By the way, whenever you play blackjack in a casino where the cards are dealt face up don't touch the cards. In that kind of game, the dealer is the only one who is allowed to touch the cards and if you do happen to touch them they'll give you a warning not to do it again - so, don't touch the cards!

Learn how to play blackjack, then take it a step further and learn how to win at blackjack! Discover the secrets to finding the best blackjack games, using the proper blackjack strategy chart, and taking advantage of casino comps. Learn how card counting works and hear the stories of successful card counting teams. Read interviews with blackjack experts that tell you the best tips for being a long-term winner at blackjack. 
 
Beginner's Guide to Blackjack
 

Blackjack Basics

Let’s start with the basics. What’s the point of the game? Most people will tell you, the object of the game is to get as close as you can to 21. This is in fact, incorrect. The object of blackjack is to beat the dealer. In a game of blackjack, you could be playing with other players, but you are playing against the dealer. 

How is the game played? There will be between 1 and 8 decks. The cards will have different values. Aces equal either a 1 or 11 points, tens and face cards equal 10 points each, and the rest of the numbers count as their own value. The dealer will hand out two cards to each player and to him/herself. You look at the value or your cards vs the value of the dealer’s cards. However, the catch is that you can only see one of the dealer’s cards. Because of this, you will need to guess how close the dealer is to 21 in order to gauge what your decisions will be. When it is your turn, you can make the following choices:

  • Hit - Player asks the dealer for another card or several more cards until the player is happy with the sum of their cards, or they exceed 21. When you exceed 21, you lose the round. 
  • Double - Player doubles their bet while asking for one more card. You can only ask for one additional card when you double. 
  • Split - If the player has two 10-point cards or any other pair, they can double their bet and split their hand into two hands, ultimately asking for two more cards. They now are playing two different hands. 
  • Stand - When a player is happy with their cards and does not want to change anything. 
  • Surrender -  Player forfeits, surrendering half of their wager but keeping the other half. 

After the cards are dealt the players must determine the total of their hand by adding the value of their two cards together. All of the cards are counted at their face value except for the picture cards - jack, queen, and king which all have a value of 10 - and the aces which can be counted as either 1 or 11. If you have an ace and any 10-value card you have a blackjack which is also called a natural and your hand is an automatic winner unless the dealer also has a blackjack in which case the hands are tied. A tie is also called a push and when that happens, its a standoff, and you neither win nor lose. All winning blackjacks are paid at 3-to-2, or one-and-a-half times your bet, so if you bet $5 and got a blackjack you would be paid $7.50. 

Insurance Bet

If the dealer has an ace as his upcard the first thing he'll do is ask if anyone wants to buy insurance. When you buy insurance, you're betting that the dealer has a blackjack by having a 10 as his face down card. To make an insurance bet you would place your bet in the area just above your betting box that says "insurance pays 2-to-1" and you're only allowed to make an insurance bet of up to one-half the amount of your original bet. So, if you originally bet $10 you could only bet a maximum of $5 as your insurance bet.

After all the insurance bets are made the dealer will check his face down card and if it's a 10 he'll turn it over and all of the insurance bets will be paid off at 2-to-1. If he doesn't. t have a 10 underneath, the dealer will then take away all of the losing insurance bets and the game will continue. By the way, according to basic strategy, insurance is a bad bet and you should never make an insurance bet.

If the dealer has a 10 as his up card the first thing he'll do is check to see if he has an ace underneath which would give him a blackjack. If he does have an ace he'll turn it face up and start collecting the losing bets that are out on the table. If he doesn't have an ace underneath, the game will continue. In some casinos, however, the dealer won't check his hole card until after all of the hands are played out.

Hitting and Standing

If the dealer doesn't have an ace or a 10 as his upcard the game continues and the dealer will start with the player to his immediate left to see if they want another card. If a player wants another card they indicate that with a hand signal by tapping or scratching the table with their finger to show they want another card. Taking a card is also known as hitting or taking a hit. If a player doesn't want another card they would just wave their hand palm down over their cards. Not taking another card is known as standing. The reason hand signals are used is because it eliminates any confusion on the part of the dealer as to exactly what the player wants and it also allows the security people to follow the game on the closed-circuit cameras that are hung from the ceiling throughout the casino.

Keep in mind that the hand signals will be slightly different if you're playing in a casino where the cards are dealt face down and you're allowed to pick them up. In that situation, a player would signal that they wanted another card by scratching the table with the edges of the two cards they're holding. If they didn't want another card, they would simply place their two cards under the bet in their box.

In either case, if a player draws another card, the value of that card is added to the total of the other cards and the player can continue to draw cards unless he gets a total of more than 21 in which case he busts and loses his bet.

When a player doesn't want any more cards or stands, the dealer then moves on to the next player and after all of the players are finished then it's the dealer turns to play. While each player can decide whether or not they want another card the dealer doesn't have that option and he must play by a fixed set of rules that require him to draw a card whenever his total is 16 or less and to stop when his total is 17 or more. If the dealer goes over 21 then he has busted and all of the players remaining in the game will be paid 1-to-1, or even money, on their bet.

If the dealer doesn't bust then each player's hand is compared to the dealer's. If the player's total is higher than the dealer's then they win and are paid even money. If the player's hand has a total that is lower than the dealer's hand then the player loses his bet. If the player and the dealer have the same total then it. s a tie, or a push and neither hand wins. After all of the bets have been paid off, or taken by the dealer, a new round begins and new hands are dealt to all of the players.

Double Down

When deciding how to play your hand there are also three other options available to you besides standing or hitting. The first is called doubling down and most casinos will allow a player to double their bet on their first two cards and draw only one more card. To do this you would place an amount equal to your original bet right next to it and then the dealer would give you one more card, sideways, to indicate that your bet was a double down.

To double down in a game where the cards are dealt face down you would turn up your original two cards and tell the dealer you wanted to double down. Then, after you double your bet, the dealer would give you one more card face down. Some casinos may have restrictions on this bet and may only allow you to double down if the total of your 2 cards is 10 or 11, but it's always to your advantage if they allow you to double down on any two cards.

Splitting in Blackjack

Another thing you can do is split your cards if you have a pair and then play each card as a separate hand. For example, if you had a pair of 8's you would place a bet equal to your original bet right next to it and tell the dealer you wanted to split your pair. The dealer would then separate your two 8's and give you one card on your first 8. Unlike doubling down, however, you are not limited to only getting one card and you can play your hand out normally. When you were finished with your first hand the dealer would then give you a card on your other 8 and you would play that handout.

Although I said that you weren't limited to just one card on your splits there is one instance where that will happen and that's when you split aces. Virtually all casinos will only give you one card on each ace when you split them. Also, if you get a 10-value card with your ace it will only count as 21 and not as a blackjack so you'll only get even money on that bet if you win. Besides splitting pairs you can also split all 10-value cards such as jack-king or 10-queen but it would be a very bad idea to do that because you would be breaking up a 20 which is a very strong hand and you should never split 10's. By the way, if you wanted to split a pair in a casino where the cards are dealt face down you would simply turn your original two cards face-up and then tell the dealer that you wanted to split them.

When Should Your Surrender?

The last option you have is not available in most casinos but you may come across it in a few Las Vegas Strip casinos and it's called surrender. With the surrender option, you're allowed to lose half of your bet if you decide you don't want to play out your hand after looking at your first 2 cards. Let's say you're dealt a 10 and a 6 for a total of 16 and the dealer has a 10 as his face-up card. A 16 is not a very strong hand, especially against a dealer's 10, so in this case, it would be a good idea to surrender your hand and when the dealer came to your cards you would say "surrender." The dealer would then take half of your bet and remove your cards.

Surrender is good for the player because in the long run you will lose less on the bad hands you're dealt and you should always try to play in a casino that offers the surrender option.

All right, we've covered the basics of how to play the game of blackjack and all of the possible options a player has, so the next question is how do you win? Well, the best way to win is to become a card counter, but for the average person that isn't always possible so let's start off by taking a look at basic blackjack strategy.

Computer studies have been done on the game of blackjack and millions of hands have been analyzed to come up with a basic formula for how to play your hand in any given situation. The main principle that these decisions are based on is the dealer's up card because remember that the dealer has no say in whether or not he takes a card - he must play by the rules that require him to draw a card until he has a total of 17 or more. Now, according to these computer calculations, the dealer will bust more often when his upcard is a 2,3,4,5 or 6 and he will complete more hands when his upcard is a 7,8,9,10-value card or an ace.

Take a look at the following chart that shows how each upcard affects the dealer's chance of busting:

Chance The Dealer's Up Card Will Bust

2

35%

3

38%

4

40%

5

43%

6

42%

7

26%

8

24%

9

23%

10

21%

Ace

11%

As you can see, the dealer will bust most often when he has a 5 or 6 as his upcard and he will bust the least amount, approximately 11% of the time, when his upcard is an ace. This means it's to your advantage to stand more often when the dealer's upcard is a 2 through 6 and hope that the dealer will draw cards that make him bust. It also means that when the dealer's upcard is a 7 through ace he will complete more of his hands and in that situation, you should draw cards until you have a total of 17 or more.


Blackjack Strategy

After you start playing online blackjack and learning the ropes, you will begin to develop your own strategy and learning how to win at blackjack. There are many factors involved in developing a blackjack strategy. Since this is a game of skill, it is important to try out different strategies and understand the logic and math behind each method. 

There are many different types of blackjack games, each having a different house edge. It is important to understand what the house edge is for the games you are interested in playing and what this means for you and your payouts. 

Different online blackjack variations will come with different rules. It is important to read up on the rules and the details pertaining to the games you want to play. Every element of the game will affect the house edge. Some variations of online blackjack will have the same name, however, each online casino will have its own rules for that particular game, meaning the house edge on one could be considerably higher than the house edge on another. Different software providers create these games differently so your outcome could vary greatly from one variation to another. 

There are blackjack strategy cards available online for different variations of blackjack games. Although these cards won’t tell you everything, they can still help a tremendous amount. 

Finally, make sure you have decided to register with a licensed and regulated online casino. You can trust the guaranteed payouts as long as the casino is one that can be trusted. Read our reviews on legal and trustworthy USA online casinos. 

Win or Lose, Basic Strategy is the Way to Go

By John Grochowski
Bob is an old blackjack-playing buddy, and he said he had a friend who wanted to meet me.

Wanted to grill me, was more like it. Bob’s pal Pete had read some things I’d written about blackjack basic strategy, and he wanted to challenge me on a few points.

“It’s all very interesting,” Pete said, “but in the real world of blackjack, with real cards, sometimes you just have to go by the way it feels.”

Bob snickered. He’s a basic strategy player from way back, and I later learned that he and Pete had been arguing over feel vs. probabilities for some time.

Those who play by feel and ignore basic strategy cost themselves money in the real world of blackjack, I pointed out.

“Not on every hand,” Pete countered.

No, I explained. Sometimes bad plays will be winners. But the good plays will win more often than the bad ones.

“But when they win, doesn’t that become a good play? The other day I had a pair of 10s, and the dealer had a 6 face up. You say splitting the 10s is a bad play, right?”

Right. Twenty is a stronger hand than 10. You’ll win more money by standing on 20s than you will by making a second wager and starting two hands with 10 each.

“Why?”

If you start with 10 against a 6, you’ll never take more than one more card, right? You’re not going to hit if the next card gives you 17 or better, and you’re not going to hit 12, 13, 14, 15 or 16 if the dealer has a 6, are you?

“I suppose not. I’d just wait for the dealer to bust.”

Of the 13 card denominations, only one, an Ace, will give you a better hand than the 20 you had before the split. Along with that 21 you’d get with an Ace, four cards --- 10, Jack, Queen or King --- would get you back to your 20.

“Sounds pretty good to me.”

But eight cards, the 2 through the 9, leave you with something less than 20. Nearly 62 percent of the time, you’ll go into a showdown with the dealer with a weaker hand than the one you had at the start. And that’s assuming you don’t do something silly like resplitting once a 10-value has brought you back up to a 20.

“But the dealer has a 6. I’m waiting for him to bust. He can bust just as well against my split as against a 20, can’t he?”

Sure he can. But how often do you think the dealer busts when he or she has a 6 face up?

“Oh, I don’t know. Two-thirds of the time?”

Try 42 percent of the time. On 58 percent of hands when the dealer has a 6 face up, he or she will make 17 or better and beat all your 12s through 16s, and some of your 17s and up.

“My 20s lose to dealer 21s sometimes.”

Sure, but 20 won’t lose as often as 17, 18 or 19 will.

“OK, but what about standing on 16 when the dealer has a 7 face up, or standing on 12 when the dealer has a 2 and you don’t want to take the dealer’s bust card?”

Sixteen against a dealer’s 7 is going to lose more than it wins no matter what you do, but it loses a little less than if you hit. So you play the odds and hit the 16, knowing that sometimes you’ll bust.

And you’ll win more often with 12 against 2 if you hit instead of standing. Sometimes you’ll take a card that would have busted the dealer if you hit, but your bankroll will be happier if you consistently anyway.

“But sometimes you’ll win two hands when you split 20. Sometimes you’ll win when you stand on 16 against 7. Sometimes you’ll win when you stand on 12 against 2. When it works, doesn’t it become a good play?”

Not in my book. You don’t know when the weaker play is going to win and when it’s not. Blackjack is a statistical game --- lots and lots of hands go into your overall result. And your overall results will be better when you make the plays that are more likely to win.

Bob finally chimed in. “I’ve been trying to tell him that. He still wants to change his play hand to hand.”

“I guess I should listen to you guys,” Pete said. “The reason Bob and I got into this in the first place was because I wanted to know why he wins more often than I do. But I want to win every hand, and you can’t do that unless you time the ‘bad’ plays right.”

Winning ‘em all is an impossible goal, I told him. The best you can do is make the plays that make you most likely to win, and take the good with the bad.

Pete shrugged. “There ought to be a way …”

John Grochowski writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column on gambling,
and is author of the "Casino Answer Book" series from Bonus Books.

Strategy for Hard Hands

Now let's show you how to play your hands by using the basic strategy and we'll start off with the hard hand strategy and by hard hand, I mean a 2-card total without an ace. A hand with an ace is known as a soft hand because the ace can be counted as either a 1 or an 11. So, if you had an ace-6 you would have a soft 17 hand and if you had a 10-6 you would have a hard 16 hand. Later on we. ll take a look at how to play soft hands, but for now, we'll concentrate on the hard hand totals. Oh yes, one more thing, the basic strategy I'm going to give you applies to casinos where they deal more than one deck at a time and the dealer stands on soft 17 which is the situation you'll find in the majority of casinos today. So, keep in mind that the strategy would be slightly different if you were playing against a single deck and it would also be slightly different if the dealer hit a soft 17.

Whenever your first 2 cards total 17 through 21, you should stand, no matter what the dealer's up card is.

If your cards total 16, you should stand if the dealer has a 2 through 6 as his upcard, otherwise, draw a card. By the way, 16 is the worst hand you can have because you will bust more often with 16 than with any other hand. So, if that's the case then why would you want to ever hit a 16? Well, once again, those computer studies have shown that you should hit a 16 when the dealer has 7 through ace as his upcard because, in the long run, you will lose less often. This means that yes, 16 is a terrible hand, but you should hit it because if you don't you will lose even more often than when you do take a card.

If your cards total 15, you should also stand if the dealer has a 2 through 6 as his upcard otherwise, draw cards until your total is 17 or more.

The same rules from 15 and 16 also apply if your cards total 14. Stand if the dealer has a 2 through 6, otherwise draw cards until your total is 17 or more. The same rules also apply if your cards total 13. Stand if the dealer has a 2 through 6, otherwise draw cards until your total is 17 or more.

When your cards total 12 you should only stand when the dealer has a 4,5 or 6 as his upcard - remember - those are his 3 weakest cards and he will bust more often with those cards, so you don't want to take a chance on busting yourself. If the dealer's upcard is a 2 or a 3, then you should take just one card and stop on your total of 13 or more. Finally, if the dealer has a 7 through ace as his upcard then you should draw cards until your total is 17 or more.

When your cards total 11 you would always want to hit it because you can't bust, but before you ask for a card you should consider making a double down bet. If the casino allows you to double down then you should do that if the dealer has anything but an ace as his upcard. After you double down the dealer would give you just one additional card on that hand. If the dealer's upcard is an ace then you shouldn't. t double down. Instead, you should hit the hand and continue to draw until your total is 17 or more. If the casino doesn't allow you to double down then you should just hit your hand and then, depending on your total, play it by the rules I gave you for the hands that totaled 12 through 21. So, if you had an 11 and the dealer had a 5 as his upcard, you should take a card. Then let's say you draw an ace which gives you a total of 12. Well, as I said before if you have a 12 against a dealer's 5 you should stand and that's how you should play that hand.

If your total is 10 you would, once again, want to double down unless the dealer showed an ace or a 10. If the dealer had an ace or a 10 as his upcard you should hit your hand and then use the standard rules for a hand valued at 12 through 21. So, if you had a 10 and the dealer had an 8 as his up card you would want to double down and take one more card. If you weren't allowed to double, then you would take a hit, and let's say you got a 4 for a total of 14. You should then continue to hit your hand until your total is 17 or more.

If your total is 9 you would want to double down whenever the dealer was showing a 3,4,5 or 6 as his upcard. If the dealer had a 2 as his upcard, or if he had a 7 through ace as his upcard, you should hit your hand and then use the standard playing rules as discussed before. So, let's say you had a 9 and the dealer had a 4 as his upcard you would want to double down and take one more card. If you weren't. t allowed to double then you should take a hit and let's say you got a 2 for a total of 11, you would then take another hit and let's say you got an ace. That would give you a total of 12 and, as mentioned previously, you should stand on 12 against a dealer. s 4.

Finally, if your total is 8 or less you should always take a card and then use the standard playing rules that we already discussed.

Strategy for Soft Hands

Now, let's take a look at how to play soft hands and remember a soft hand is any hand that contains an ace that can be counted as 1 or 11. For a soft hand of 19 or more, you should always stand.

For soft 18 against a 2,7 or 8 you should always stand. If the dealer shows a 9, 10 or an ace you should always take a hit and for a soft 18 against a 3,4,5 or 6 you should double down, but if the casino won't allow you to double, then you should just stand.

For soft 17 you should always take a hit, but if the casino allows you to double down, then you should double against a dealer's 3,4,5 or 6.

For soft 16 or a soft 15 you should always take a hit, but if the casino allows you to double down then you should double against a dealer's 4,5 or 6.

For soft 14 you should always take a hit, but if the casino allows you to double down then you should double against a dealer's 5 or 6.

Finally, for a soft 13 you should always take a hit, but if the casino allows you to double down then you should double against a dealer's 5 or 6.

The last thing we need to cover is surrender which, as mentioned before, isn't offered in many casinos, but it is an option that does work in your favor and if available, you should play in a casino that offers it. The surrender rules are very simple to remember and only apply to hard totals of 15 or 16. If you have a hard 16 you should surrender it whenever the dealer has a 9, 10 or ace as his upcard and if you have a hard 15 you should surrender it whenever the dealer has a 10 as his upcard. That's all there is to surrender.

Now that you know how to play the game and you have an understanding of the basic strategy let's take a quick look at how the rules variations can affect the game of blackjack. As I said before, various computer studies have been made on blackjack and these studies have shown that each rule change can either hurt or help the player by a certain amount. For example, a single-deck game where you can double on any first two cards (but not after splitting pairs), the dealer stands on soft 17 and no surrender is allowed has no advantage for the casino when using the basic strategy. That's right, in a game with those rules in effect the game is dead even and neither the casino nor the player has an edge!

Take a look at the following chart and you'll see how some rules changes can hurt you or help you as a player. Minus signs in front mean that the casino gains the edge by that particular amount while plus signs mean that you gain the edge by that amount.

RULES THAT HURT YOU RULES THAT HELP YOU

Two decks

-0.35%

Double after split

+0.13%

Four decks

-0.48%

Late surrender

+0.06%

Six decks

-0.54%

Resplit Aces

+0.14%

Eight decks

-0.58%

Double anytime

+0.20%

Dealer hits soft 17

-0.20%

No soft doubling

-0.14%

As you can see, it's always to your advantage to play against as few decks as possible. The house edge goes up substantially as you go from 1 deck to 2, but the change is less dramatic when you go from 2 to 4, or from 4 to 6, and it's barely noticeable when you go from 6 to 8. You can also see that you would prefer not to play in a casino where the dealer hits a soft 17 because that gives the dealer a slight edge. You would also want to play in a casino where you're allowed to double down on your soft hands or else you would be giving another added edge to the casino.

You can also see from these charts that you would want to play in a casino where you were allowed to double down after splitting cards and you would also want to play in a casino that offered surrender. The other two rules variations that help the player are somewhat rare but they were put in to show you how these rules change can affect your odds in the game. Some casinos will allow you to resplit aces again if you draw an ace to one of your original aces and this works to your advantage. Also, some casinos will allow you to double down on any number of cards rather than just the first two. In other words, if you got a 2- 4-3-2 as your first four cards you would then be allowed to double down on your total of 11 before receiving your 5th card. If they allow you to do this then, once again, you have a rule that works in your favor.

The point of showing you these charts is to help you understand that when you have a choice of places to play you should always choose the casino that offers the best rules. So, if you find a single-deck game with good rules you could be playing an even game by using the basic strategy or at worst be giving the casino an edge of less than one-half of 1%.

Card Counting 

Card counting increases your chances against the house, plain and simple! There are many systems to choose from, and the simplest is one of the most effective. This is a great topic, so we have a whole page devoted to it. Head over to our card counting page, where you'll find expert advice, interviews, and tutorials.

How to read the dealers upcard

Basic Blackjack Strategy - How To Read The Dealer's Upcards
 

Distractions

When Should You Split in Blackjack? 

Now, let's take a look at splitting pairs, but keep in mind that the rules for splitting will change slightly depending on whether or not the casino will allow you to double down after you split your cards. Most multiple deck games allow you to double down after splitting so that's the situation we'll cover first and then we'll go over the changes if you're not allowed to double down after splitting.

As noted earlier, when your first two cards are the same most casinos will allow you to split them and play them as two separate hands so let's go over the basic strategy rules on when you should do this.

The first thing you should remember is that you always split aces and 8's. The reason you split aces is obvious because if you get a 10 on either hand you'll have a perfect 21, but remember that you won't get paid for blackjack at 3-to-2, instead it will be counted as a regular 21 and you'll be paid at even money. If you have a pair of 8's you have 16 which is a terrible hand and you can always improve it by splitting your 8's and playing them as separate hands.

The next thing to remember about splitting pairs is that you never split 5's or 10's. Once again, the reasons should be rather obvious: you don't want to split 10's because 20 is a great hand and you don't want to split 5's because 10 is a great hand to draw to. Instead, you would want to double down on that 10, unless the dealer was showing a 10 or an ace as his upcard.

2's, 3's and 7's should only be split when the dealer is showing a 2 through 7 as his upcard. Split 4's only when the dealer has a 5 or 6 as his upcard (remember 5 and 6 are his weakest cards!), 6's should be split whenever the dealer is showing a 2 through 6 and finally, you should always split 9's unless the dealer is showing a 7, 10 or ace. The reason you don't want to split 9's against a 10 or an ace should be rather obvious, but the reason you don't want to split them against a 7 is in case the dealer has a 10 as his hole card because in that case, your 18 would beat out his 17.

If the casino will not allow you to double down after splitting then you should make the following three changes: For 2's and 3's only split them against a 4,5,6 or 7; never split 4's, and for a pair of 6's only split them against a 3,4,5 or 6. Everything else should be played the same.

The Five Most Misplayed Hands in Blackjack with Blackjack Expert Henry Tamburin

In this video, blackjack expert, Henry Tamburin, gives details on the five most misplayed hands. Some of the topics covered include: a pair of 9's against a 9 or 10, 16 against a 10; 12 against a 3, soft 18 against a 9 or 10; and a pair of 8's against a 10. Henry analyzes each hand and explains what the proper decision is for each situation.

The Five Most Misplayed Hands in Blackjack with Blackjack Expert Henry Tamburin 

How to Play 9 of The Most Misplayed Blackjack Hands

By John Grochowski

Blackjack players who learn basic strategy find that once they’re used to it, once they’ve really internalized whether to hit, stand, double down or split, it all feels natural.

There are exceptions. Some hands just don’t feel right. Players have let it be known that it just feels wrong to hit hard 16 vs. a dealer’s 7 or split 8s against a 10 even though they know it’s the correct basic strategy play.

Questions from readers have also made it clear they have qualms about hitting soft 18 against a 9, 10 or Ace or doubling down on soft 17 against a dealer’s 3 through 6.

Let’s take a look at each of those hands and the statistics behind what you see on the basic strategy chart. All figures assume a six-deck game in which the dealer hits soft 17 – the most common game in modern casinos.

Hard 16 Vs. 7

Some players who will hit 16 against higher cards have trouble with making the call against a 7, preferring the dealer take the chance to go bust.

Dealers do bust more often with 7 as an upcard than with higher cards, but it’s actually more important to hit your 16 against 7. That’s because when dealers start with 7, their average total on standing hands will be lower that with higher cards – a 10 down with a 7 leaves the dealer with 17, while a 10 down with a 10 brings 20. Because of that, when you do make a standing hand by hitting 16, you have a better chance of winning against a 7 than against a higher card.

If your 16 consists of 8-8. it’s best to split the pair. But if you have 10-6 or 9-7, the play is to hit, with these average results in a six-deck game in which the dealer hits soft 17:

  • 10-6 vs. 7 If you stand, your average loss is 47.6 cents per dollar wagered. If you hit, your average loss decreases to 40.9 cents. 
  • 9-7 vs. 7: Stand, and you lose an average of 48.1 cents per dollar wagered. Hit, and that decreases to 40.8 cents.

Note that no matter what you do with hard 16 vs. 7, it is a net loser. However, you lose less when you hit. That concept, playing to lose less, is important throughout basic strategy on weak hands.

Just to reinforce the initial point that potential gains are higher when the dealer has a 7, average losses for 9-7 vs. 10 are 53.7 cents if you stand and 53.5 if you hit. That’s the close-call hand, not 16 vs. 7.

8-8 VS. 10

If you’ve played much basic strategy blackjack, you’ve had this happen more times than you care to count. You make your second bet and get a 10 on top of each 8 for two 18s. Then the dealer flips up another 10 to make 20 and take your money.

It gives players the shudders, but making the extra bet is still a stronger play than leaving 8-8 as a hard 16.

Here are the numbers: If you stand, you lose an average of 53.7 cents per dollar wagered, and you reduce that slightly to 53.5 cents if you hit.

But if you split the pair, those losses decrease to 47.6 cents per dollar of your original wager. That’s not 47.6 cents of each wager, just the original bet.

So if you’re betting $10 and you stand, your average loss is $5.37. Hit, and the loss is $5.35. Split, and you have $20 at risk and will lose it all sometimes, but the average loss declines to $4.76.

Occasionally, you might find a table where late surrender is offered. Any time you surrender, you give up half your wager. So the average loss when surrendering is 50 cents per dollar wagered. That’s better than hitting or standing, but not as good as the best play. Split the pair.

ACE-6 vs. a 3, 4, 5 or 6

We’ve all had soft hands ruined by hitting. Sometimes you’ll draw a 6 to your Ace-7 to turn it into hard 13, and you’re at the dealer’s mercy with a hand that wins only with a dealer bust.

That’s not really much worse than leaving the hand as 17. A 17 also is a winner only of the dealer busts. If the dealer does not bust, the best a 17 can do is push.

And when the dealer has a 3, 4, 5 or 6, there is a chance to turn your Ace-7 into a profitable hand.

  • Ace-6 vs. 3: Stand, and you lose an average of 11.6 cents per dollar wagered. Hit, and that reverses to a win of 2.9 cents, and doubling down increases that average win to 5.7 cents per dollar of your original wager
  • Ace-6 vs. 4: Stand, and you lose an average of 7.6 cents per dollar wagered. Hit, and that reverses to a win of 6.2 cents, and doubling down increases that average win to 12.3 cents.
  • Ace-6 vs. 5: Stand, and you lose an average of 3.8 cents per dollar wagered. Hit, and that reverses to a win of 9.9 cents, and doubling down increases that average win to 19.7 cents.
  • Ace-6 vs. 6: Stand, and you lose an average of half a cent per dollar wagered. Hit, and that reverses to a win of 12.6 cents, and doubling down increases that average win to 25.2 cents.

Because you can’t hit a second time when you double down, there will be times when you lose a hand you might have won by hitting. But overall, your average profit is nearly double when you double down instead of hitting, and either option is far better than standing.

ACE-7 vs. 9, 10 or ACE

When the dealer starts with 9 or higher, his average finishing hand will be higher than the 18 you have with Ace-7.

There’s enough of a dealer edge at the start that on average, you will lose money on this hand. However, you can mitigate losses as follows:

  • Ace-7 vs. 9: Stand, and your average loss is 18.3 cents. Hit, and it drops to 9.8.
  • Ace-7 vs. 10: Stand, and your average loss is 18.0 cents. Hit, and it drops to 14.3.
  • Ace-7 vs. Ace: Stand, and your average loss is 22.5 cents. Hit, and it drops to 16.0.

This isn’t turning a loser into a winner, as in doubling on soft 17 vs. 3 through 6. Instead, it’s a matter of cutting your losses and conserving your bankroll to fight another hand.

Free Blackjack Strategy Charts 

Listed below is a link for blackjack strategy charts. You can print them out and take them with you to the casino so you know how to properly play your hand in any given situation. Good Luck!

Please Note - These charts are in a PDF format and you will need to use Acrobat Reader to print them out. If you don't already have that program installed on your computer you can visit Adobe's website and download it for free.

Get Acrobat Reader Free

Just go to - http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep.html Then, click on "Download."

Intermediate Blackjack Strategy

Become a Blackjack Expert: 3 Strategies
 

Blackjack Betting Systems

How to Win Blackjack

How to be a Long-Term Winner at Blackjack With Gambling Expert Henry Tamburin

American Casino Guide author, Steve Bourie, interviews blackjack expert, Henry Tamburin, for tips on how to be a long-term winner at blackjack. Topics covered include: finding the best games, mastering the best strategy, using an entry-level card counting system, having enough bankroll, and how to play discretely. 

How to be a Long-Term Winner at Blackjack With Gambling Expert Henry Tamburin 

How to win at blackjack (21) with gambling expert Michael "Wizard of Odds" Shackleford

Steve Bourie, the author of the American Casino Guide, interviews Michael "Wizard of Odds" Shackleford. They talk about how to play blackjack, also known as 21, and how to win at the game.

How to win at blackjack (21) with gambling expert Michael "Wizard of Odds" Shackleford 

Blackjack Tips

Eight Tips to Become a Winning Blackjack Player with Blackjack Expert Henry Tamburin

This is part one of a two-part video in which blackjack expert Henry Tamburin discusses eight tips to become a winning blackjack player. Topics covered include: scouting the tables to find the best games, learning basic strategy, using advanced techniques such as composition-dependent strategy, and having your play rated to earn comps.

Eight Tips to Become a Winning Blackjack Player: Part One - with Blackjack Expert Henry Tamburin 

This is part two of a two-part video in which blackjack expert Henry Tamburin discusses eight tips to become a winning blackjack player. Topics covered include: using gambling coupons, learning to bet properly, playing sensibly; plus avoiding alcohol, distractions, and side bets.

Eight Tips to Become a Winning Blackjack Player Part Two - with Blackjack Expert Henry Tamburin 

8 Things To Never Do At A Blackjack Table!

Steve and Matt Bourie, from the American Casino Guide, discuss 8 things to never do at a blackjack table. They explain why you should never do these eight things and, why they are bad. Topics covered include: sitting at a 6-to-5 table, playing with a continuous shuffling machine, handing your money directly to the dealer, touching the cards at a multi-deck game, touching your bet once the hand starts, giving verbal signals to the dealer, not using basic strategy, and being a jerk to other players or the dealer.

8 Things To Never Do At A Blackjack Table!
 

Top 10 Tips For Beginning Blackjack Players with Casino Gambling Expert Steve Bourie

In this video, American Casino Guide author, Steve Bourie, gives his top 10 Tips For Beginning Blackjack Players. This is part one of a two-part series with five tips in this part and another five tips in part two. Topics covered include: avoiding 6-to-5 blackjack games; don't play at tables that use a continuous shuffling machine; check the table minimum before sitting down; don't enter in the middle of a shoe game if it's not allowed, and don't hand your money directly to the dealer. 

Top 10 Tips For Beginning Blackjack Players - Part 1 - with Casino Gambling Expert Steve Bourie 

In the second video, Steve Bourie continues with his top 10 Tips For Beginning Blackjack Players. Topics covered include: don't touch your bet once the cards are being dealt; don't touch the cards if they are being dealt face up; when playing a "pitch" game, hold your cards in just one hand; use your hand to signal your playing decisions, and always use basic strategy.

Top 10 Tips For Beginning Blackjack Players - Part 2 - with Casino Gambling Expert Steve Bourie
 

Top 4 Tips to Win Blackjack

 
How to win at Blackjack - 4 Tips

We also have an educational YouTube channel with over 125 videos for you to learn to gamble.  If you are interested in blackjack, you can watch all of our blackjack videos in one convenient how to play blackjack playlist.

Who’s in Control When You Play Blackjack?

By Henry Tamburin

Have you ever wondered, “Who is in control” when you play blackjack in a casino? Is it you or the casino?

I know that most players sometimes feel the casino (a.k.a. the dealer) is controlling their destiny. I mean how many times can the same dealer draw that one and only card that beats your hand? However, believe it or not, you have a great say in your destiny at the blackjack tables.

First let’s look at what the casino controls when you play blackjack, then we’ll look at what we, as players, can control.

The Rules

This is no trivial point. Casinos in most gaming jurisdictions in the country are free to implement whatever rules they want at their blackjack tables. This includes the number of decks of cards, whether or not the dealer stands or hits on soft 17, whether or not surrender is offered or resplit of aces or multiple pair splits or double down after pair splitting, and so on. Yes, the casinos can control how much of an edge they want to have in blackjack by picking and choosing the different playing options they allow at their tables.

They even control how many cards they will allow being dealt from the dealing shoe by their policy on the placement of the cut card (which has a great effect on a card counter’s edge). They can make their blackjack games very tough to beat, even impossible to beat, or give players a competitive blackjack game.

The Betting Spread

Another not so trivial point. Casinos dictate for the most part what minimum and maximum bets they’ll allow at their tables. The maximum bet that is allowed in most casinos is far less than the casino’s total bankroll. Therefore, the casino controls the odds of having a lucky player “break the bank’ by having a bankroll that far exceeds the maximum bets they will allow at its blackjack tables. In fact, the “risk of ruin” for a casino is virtually nil.

Easy Credit

Casinos make it easy for players to get access to betting money. Playing on credit is relatively easy to establish. Lose all your cash? No problem there are plenty of ATM and “credit card to cash” machines conveniently located throughout a casino.

Exciting Atmosphere

The casinos engineer the environment in a casino to make it easy for a player to feel good about his losses. In this exciting, no holds barred, everything is fast-and-fun casino atmosphere it’s easy for a player to bet more, to spend more, and to lose more.
It seems like the cards are stacked pretty much in the casino’s favor when you play blackjack. However, the fact is that you have control over your destiny for the most part, and not the casino.

Minimize the Casino’s Edge

You control how much or how little the casino’s edge is against you by your playing and betting skill level. Just by learning the basic playing strategy, which is a set of rules that tell you when to hit, stand, double down, pair split, or surrender, you can reduce the casino’s edge to less than 1%. If you are selective and only play blackjack games with the best rules, you can cut the casino’s edge to a half a percent or less. Moreover, if you learn to increase your bets only when there is an excess of high-value cards vs. low-value cards in the remaining unplayed cards (i.e. learn a simple card counting technique like Speed Count), you can actually swing the edge in your favor.

Your Emotions

You control your emotions in the casino. Don’t let the exciting atmosphere lull you into playing above your means. Go easy on the ‘free drinks’ and learn to accept your losses. Even the best blackjack players in the world can’t win every session. Just stay focused on staying in control, and avoid the casino temptations that can quickly separate you from your money.

Credit

You control how much credit you want the casino to give you. If you can’t handle the credit, don’t get it. Don’t bet more than you can afford just to get a comp (believe it or not, many players have lost bundles playing longer and at higher betting levels just for the sake of a free meal). Play with money you can afford to lose should the worse happen and if you can’t afford to bet big, don’t! By all means, ask for your fair share of comps based on the betting level you feel comfortable with, but please don’t play longer, or bet higher, just to get one.

Gambler’s Ruin

You control the odds of losing your bankroll (Gambler’s Ruin) by how much you bet in relation to your playing bankroll and your playing skill level. When a player overbets in relation to his bankroll, he is doomed to lose. Card counters, for example,  take great pains not to overbet because even though they have the edge, they know that they could go days, weeks, and even months losing more money than they win at the blackjack tables. Never overbet and you’ll be in control of “Gambler’s Ruin.”

When you think about it, blackjack players have a lot of control over their destiny. More so than most other casino games because we get to make playing and betting decisions that directly affect the outcome. Players who discipline themselves to play in blackjack games with the more favorable rules using the basic playing strategy and a simple counting system will win a lot more money in their lifetime then the player who opts to play blackjack in “any old casino” using a seat-of-the-pants playing and betting strategy. Like I said, you can either play “in control” or let the casino control you. The choice is yours. And I trust you will make the right choice.


Henry Tamburin has been a respected casino gambling writer for the past 50 years. He is the author of the Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide and was editor of the Blackjack Insider newsletter. You can read his latest articles on blackjack, video poker, and his personal playing experiences at https://www.888casino.com/blog/writers/henry-tamburin
 
 

 

Blackjack Expert Henry Tamburin

The Five Biggest Blackjack Myths 

In this video, blackjack expert, Henry Tamburin, gives details on the five biggest blackjack myths. Topics covered include: the dealer always has a 10 as his hole card; after several consecutive losses you are due to win; progressive betting makes you win; always stand on 12 versus a dealer's 2; and taking even-money when dealt a  blackjack. Henry analyzes each situation and explains why the myths persist about these situations.

The Five Biggest Blackjack Myths with Blackjack Expert Henry Tamburin 

How to Play Four Non-Intuitive Blackjack Hands 

In this video, Blackjack expert Henry Tamburin discusses four confusing hands where a player's first thought may not be the correct way to play the hand properly. The hands discussed include: doubling 11 against a 10; splitting 8's against a 10; splitting 9's against a 9; and hitting soft 18 against a 9.

 
How to Play Four Non-Intuitive Blackjack Hands with Blackjack Expert Henry Tamburin 

Answers to Common Blackjack Questions 

American Casino Guide author, Steve Bourie, interviewed blackjack expert Henry Tamburin for this video that gives answers to some of the most common questions that players have about blackjack. Topics include: Are all blackjack games the same? What are good rules to look for? What are bad rules to avoid? What is a continuous shuffling machine? Does card counting really work? Is it good to be a progressive bettor? And much more!

Answers to Common Blackjack Questions with Blackjack Expert Henry Tamburin 

Blackjack - True or False?

By Henry Tamburin

Think you know blackjack? Try answering this true/false quiz. Give yourself one point for each correct answer. If you get 17-18 points, congratulations because you know your game well. If you get 16 or fewer points, better bone up before you play.

The edge the casino has in blackjack is the result of players not knowing how to play their hands correctly

False. The house has a built-in edge because if you bust and the dealer busts in the same round, you lose.

If you are dealt a 10-2 and the dealer shows a 10, and the casino allows you to surrender your hand, you should surrender your 12

False. You are better off playing out your 12 rather than surrender. 

You should always hit a hard 16 when the dealer shows a 10

False. If your 16 is made up of three or more cards, you should stand.

Bad players at the table will hurt you

False. How other players play their hands has no effect on your chances of winning or losing at blackjack in the long run. This is a popular misconception amongst players.

Progressive betting systems can overcome the house edge in blackjack

False. No betting system by itself can alter the house edge against a blackjack player. If anything a progressive betting system that has the player betting more will result in a higher average bet and a greater theoretical loss than just flat betting the same amount on every hand.

The house edge goes up when a casino uses a continuous shuffling machine (CSM)

False. The house edge actually is slightly lower when a continuous shuffling machine is used. The reason is that more tens and aces are dealt on average with a CSM compared to a normally shuffled shoe with a fixed shuffle point. More large cards favor the player which decreases the house edge slightly. However, casinos can deal about 20% more hands per hour with a CSM which results in a higher expected loss for players. This more than compensates for the slightly lower house edge.

A single deck game that pays 6-5 for a blackjack has the same house edge as a 6-deck game dealt from a shoe

False.  Paying only 6-5 on a blackjack increases the house edge by about 1.4%. Most 6-deck games have a house edge below 1%.

Because blackjack side bets have high payoffs they are a good bet

False. Most blackjack side bets like Royal Match, Pair Square, etc, have house edges greater than 2%. Just because the side bet may have an enticing high payoff does not make it a good bet.

In blackjack, the odds keep shifting as each card is removed from the shoe

True. That’s what makes blackjack different than other casino games. A skilled player that can keep track of the cards that have been played will know when the odds shift in his favor and bet more.

You always win even money when you insure your blackjack hand when the dealer shows an ace

True. In most casinos, the dealer will offer you “even money” before he even looks at his hole card. Most players accept the sure even money. Bad mistake. You are better off declining the even money because, in the long run, your average win will be greater than even money.

There is never an instance when you should double down an 11 when the dealer shows an ace

False. In single and double-deck games you should double 11 against an ace. Also in 6 and 8 deck games, you should double if the dealer hits soft 17.

When the rules specify that the dealer must hit soft 17 the house edge increases by about 0.2%

True. However, your best bet is to play where the rules specify the dealer must stand on all 17’s including soft 17.

Blackjack card counting is illegal

False. There is nothing illegal in using your head to keep track of cards that have been played at blackjack.

Casinos allow players to use basic strategy cards when they play

True. Which begs the question, why don’t more players bring the answers with them when they blackjack?

Most slot players are intimidated with blackjack because they are afraid of making a mistake which would cause another player to lose

True. And that’s unfortunate because the way you play your hand has no long term effect on the odds of other players winning or losing their hand.

You should always press your bets when the dealer is cold

False. It makes no difference how you bet because you can’t predict that she will stay “cold.”

Always hit an Ace-7 when the dealer shows a 10

True. A soft 18 just isn’t good enough to stand when the dealer shows a 10. You should hit.

Blackjack is your best casino game

True. Just by learning the basic playing strategy, you can play almost even with the house and by learning a simple card-counting system like Speed Count, you will have the edge on your side.

Henry Tamburin has been a respected casino gambling writer for the past 50 years. He is the author of the Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide and was editor of the Blackjack Insider newsletter. You can read his latest articles on blackjack, video poker, and his personal playing experiences at https://www.888casino.com/blog/writers/henry-tamburin

 

Max Rubin’s 2017 Blackjack Ball

Max Rubin’s 2017 Blackjack Ball
by Nicholas Colon

On a cool Saturday evening in late January, in the shadows of the most well-known Casinos in the world with the distant glow of the neon lights of the Las Vegas Strip in the background, the most elite professional gamblers in the world gather to attend the super-secretive Blackjack Ball. The gala is hosted by long time organizer and advantage gaming legend Max Rubin. Max spends countless hours in preparation, creating a magnificent soirée so that this profession’s elite can have a fantastic evening. Year after year Max’s efforts do not disappoint.

The evening starts with drinks and hors d’oeuvres, and this gives the guests (many whom have known each other, and played together) time to converse and about the past years happenings. Players in the caliber of Don Johnson, James Grosjean and Arnold Synder were all present. World class poker icon Phil Ivey even made an appearance.

After dinner, voting for the 2017 Blackjack Hall of fame inductee commenced. To no one’s great surprise Don Johnson was voted in to one of the most exclusive groups in all of gaming, the Blackjack Hall of Fame. Don is arguably the most famous blackjack player in the world. And his exploits reached legendary status when several years ago he whacked a few Atlantic City casinos for $15 million over a few week period while utilizing their loss rebate programs. This historic win elevated Don to the top tier of advantage players.

Next, the chore of crowning the 2017 world’s greatest blackjack player commenced. A series of 21 questions are given to the field of attendees. They are a combination of gaming probability theory questions and general gaming knowledge questions, and they are tough. The top 5 high scores proceed to the final table where a skills test determines the ultimate winner. The 2017 Grojean Cup took the form of a 15-liter bottle of Luc Belaire Rare Rose Champagne and was awarded to Anthony Curtis, publisher and owner of the Las Vegas Advisor website and president and CEO of the Huntington Press publishing house, which is the largest publisher in casino gaming related books in the world. Anthony is also the proprietor of the Gambling with an Edge website. It was fitting considering that Curtis has taken 2nd Place in 6 of the 20 previous competitions.

Anthony Curtis at the Ultimate Blackjack Tournament

Anthony Curtis at the Ultimate Blackjack Tournament photo courtesy Anthony Curtis

Anthony Curtis With the 2017 Grosjean Cup

Anthony Curtis with the 2017 Grosjean Cup

Close Up Of The 2017 Grosjean Cup

Close up of the 2016 Grosjean Cup

The 2017 Ball orbited largely around arguably the most influential man in advantage gaming, Edward O. Thorp. In 1962 Thorp published the classic text Beat the Dealer. It was the first book made widely available to the public that showed a firm mathematical approach to beating the game of 21. After this Thorp went on to make noteworthy contributions in Stock Market Analysis, where his original research helped launch the derivatives market.

Ed Thorp in 2015

Ed Thorp in 2015 photo courtesy of Ed Thorp

Ed Thorp at the 2017 Blackjack Ball

Ed Thorp at the 2017 Blackjack Ball photo courtesy of Nicholas Colon

In his new book A Man For All Markets, Thorp discusses his whirlwind life and gives a full and complete answer to the question: How did you do it? It’s a must read for anyone who wants a look into the mind of an out of the box thinker that has made a significant impacts on the world in so many areas.

The importance of Thorp's contributions can’t be ignored. And his original thesis provided the foundation for much of the work that followed. I was able to speak to a few of gaming’s most influential personalities about Thorp's contributions. Mike Shackelford is the creator of the Wizard of Odds website, the quintessential gaming probability site and he stated:

"It would be hard to understate the impact Ed Thorp had on the game of blackjack. He was the first to widely publish both a basic strategy, to get the odds almost break even, and how to beat the game by card counting. His book 'Beat the Dealer,' will go down in history as the quintessential book that changed the game."

Distinguished advantage gaming author, player, member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame and founder of Blackjack Forum Online, Arnold Snyder summed up Thorp’s impact on advantage play by saying:

"Had Thorp not arrived on the scene when he did, card counting would eventually have been discovered by others. As computers became smaller, more powerful, less expensive, and more easily accessible, it would have been inevitable. But the card counting revolution would likely have been delayed 10-15 years."

The black-tie setting of the Blackjack Ball is only one-half of the weekend's events. The second part is the after-party held at the home of Blackjack hall of famer and author of the classic book Gambling Wizards, Richard Munchkin, published by Huntington Press. Food, fun, and friends come together on the Sunday after the Ball to discuss game strategy, new tactics and techniques, and most importantly to trade war stories of this unique profession. The Munchkin after-party extends the opportunity for this elite field of players, all of whom are usually spread out all over the world, to get together and share stories of the past year's exploits.

The Munchkin after party gives Advantage Gaming’s most influential players time to get together in a relaxed setting, away from the Blackjack Ball’s black formal setting. It also extends the time that these players get to mingle with people who understand their unique mindset and those that share their unique drive to reverse engineer casino games for profit.

Munchkin’s party is in its second year and is fast becoming been a part of the Ball's weekend events. The game’s elites trade their slacks, blazers, and patent leather shoes for jeans and sneakers. The open house event extends from Sunday’s early afternoon to the late evening. There is a copiousness amount of respect for each other’s abilities. And a conversation with anyone of these people is a once in a lifetime opportunity, but having all of them together at one time is something very special.

Kudos to Max and Munchkin for having the foresight to put together this most awesome event so many years ago, and more importantly to keep it going. What started as a gathering of a dozen friends so many years ago, and has grown into a widely anticipated event where the gaming elite come together for a single weekend. It is a truly awesome affair.

As an 18-year veteran of the casino industry, Nicholas has been involved in all aspects of gaming, from advantage player/manager with the infamous M.I.T Blackjack teams, to a consultant to the “house” in the capacity of gaming mathematician and data scientist. Nicholas has been a visiting lecturer at DUKE, Clemson, and Michigan State Universities. He’s also a published author in the game-theory arena, with an emphasis on economic applications, and is a contributor to many casino gaming and financial sites and publications, including WizardofOdds.com, Forbes, and Bloomberg.

 

'BLACKJACK AND THE LAW' Wins Case for Casino

Gambling and the Law®: By Professor I. Rose Nelson

In one of the very first cases heard by the federal court in Las Vegas in 2011, Harrah’s (now renamed Caesars) once again won the right to kick out card-counters.  Roger L. Hunt, Chief U.S. District Judge for Nevada, based his decision, in part, on a book I co-authored in 1998, BLACKJACK AND THE LAW.

Unfortunately for all advantage players, Judge Hunt’s decision was correct.

A Los Angeles lawyer, Ernest J. Franceschi Jr., alleged that Harrah’s Entertainment falsely advertised that that all residents of California were welcome at its Nevada casinos.

Franceschi claimed that on five separate occasions between 2005 and 2006 he was “backroomed,” photographed and ejected.  Finally, he was permanently barred from “playing blackjack at multiple Nevada casinos, including Harrah's Las Vegas, Caesar's Palace, Paris Las Vegas, the Rio All-Suites Hotel, and Harrah's Reno.”

So, the gist of his claim was that Harrah’s casinos never really intended “to offer their services as advertised because they have an undisclosed policy and practice of barring ‘skillful’ blackjack players from playing blackjack...”

This is where advantage players and casino employees say, “I’m shocked! Shocked!”

In a somewhat surprising move, Judge Hunt dismissed the case for failure to state a claim, without Harrah’s even raising the issue.

Judge Hunt, who was born in Overton, Nevada in 1942 and apparently lived in Nevada nonstop, except for college and law school, understands the way casinos work.

Franceschi had originally filed the suit in California state court.  It is the normal practice of plaintiffs to file where they live, because it is easier and cheaper for them and more expensive for out-of-state defendants, and because state courts have the reputation of sometimes favoring locals over foreigners.  But Harrah’s lawyers knew all that, and got the case transferred to Nevada, since that is where most of the witnesses were and the events took place.

Still, the case involved claims under California statutes.  But Judge Hunt ruled that even under California law, a claim of false advertising or unfair competition will not stand if the actions of the defendant were legal.

So that is where my book comes in.  Do Nevada casinos have the right to exclude card-counters and other advantage players?

Citing BLACKJACK AND THE LAW Judge Hunt declared, “In addition, Nevada and California courts have long since established that the ‘right to exclude others’ is a ‘fundamental element of private property ownership.’  The same fundamental rights of private property ownership also extend to gaming establishments.”

As I explained in my book, Judge Hunt is right.  The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that that state had imposed so much regulation on every part of the casino business in Atlantic City that only the regulators could pass a rule excluding advantage players, which they never have done.  Nevada, on the other hand, has the old common law doctrine that a man’s home, or in this case, a corporation’s casino, is his castle, and the owner has the right to exclude anyone for any reason, or for no reason at all.  The sole exceptions are that you can’t discriminate on the basis of race, religion, etc.

I have to admit it feels great to be included in a decision by the Chief Federal Judge in Nevada.  I just wish it were one where the player won.

© 2011, I. Nelson Rose.  Prof. Rose is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on gambling law, and is a consultant and expert witness for governments, industry and players.  His latest books, INTERNET GAMING LAW (1st and 2nd editions), BLACKJACK AND THE LAW and GAMING LAW: CASES AND MATERIALS, are available through his website, www.GAMBLINGANDTHELAW.com.
 

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February, 2007 - Blackjack with Henry Tamburin

Steve interviews gaming author and blackjack newsletter publisher, Henry Tamburin. They discuss the new Speed Count system for counting cards; how rule changes affect a casino's mathematical advantage; how to find the best games, how to avoid the worst games; and how to get a FREE three-month subsciption to Henry's newsletter.

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June, 2010 - Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Blackjack with Henry Tamburin

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February 2014 - VIDEO PODCAST - Best Strategies for Blackjack, Craps & 2 More Games with Michael "Wizard of Odds" Shackleford

Michael Shackleford, who is also known as the "Wizard of Odds" and the author of "Gambling 102," gives a quick rundown on the best strategies for playing four popular casino games: Blackjack, Craps, Mississippi Stud and Sic Bo.

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