Blackjack Tips, Basic Blackjack Strategy and Card Counting

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Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games for two reasons:

  1. It is extremely easy to learn and master.
  2. It is one of those casino games in which the house edge can be seriously reduced.

The question is obvious: exactly how can you reduce the house edge in blackjack?

First of all, you can do it by learning and applying basic strategy. Basic strategy comes in the shape of charts, which tell you what action(s) you need to take, based on your hand value, and on the value of the card the dealer has showing.

In this respect, you get three separate charts, one for regular hands, one for soft hands and one for pairs. Basic strategy for regular hands tells you to stand whatever the dealer throws at you, when you have totals between 17-20, and hit regardless of the dealer’s cards when you have a total between 5-8. Another sample basic strategy call is the following: if you have a total of 16, you should stand if the dealer’s card is anything between 2-6, and hit if he has 7-8. You should surrender (if the rules allow it) for 9,10 and A. If you can’t surrender, hit.

There are recommendations like these for soft hands as well (when you have an A, and some other card, they say you have a soft hand, because whatever card comes up next, it can’t bust you).

When you have a pair of aces, you should split, because that way, you’ll create two soft hands for yourself.

As efficient as basic strategy may be, it still won’t take the house edge away completely. In order to further improve on your odds, you need to exploit rules that favor players. In some casinos, the dealer stands on a soft 17, and in some casinos, blackjack is paid for 2 to 1. Make sure you know where you’re playing, as these small edges can make the difference you’re looking for, in the long-run.

Composition-based strategy is meant to further chip away at the house-edge. When using this strategy, players will not only consider their totals against the dealer’s visible card, but they’ll also pay attention to what cards make that total up. While it is indeed more efficient than simple basic strategy, composition-based play provides only a tiny long-term edge.

Card counting is used by proficient blackjack players to turn the casino’s edge around. It is not as difficult as you may think, in fact, the most simple card counting method goes like this: assign different values to the cards as follows: 2-7 is +1, 8-9 is 0 and 10-A is -1. If the dealer uses a single deck (which is not going to happen at any real casino, except for a select ones in Downtown Las Vegas) you’ll be able to create an advantage for yourself simply by keeping a sum in mind. Whenever a low card leaves the deck, you add +1 to that sum, whenever a high card does, you subtract one (-1). The higher the sum you’re tracking, the bolder your betting should be, because a deck which contains more high cards than low ones, favors the player.

Naturally, casinos use multiple decks to make card counting more difficult, and for that reason, you’ll need to adopt more complicated card counting strategies (Holland Casino and several other established casinos around the world, mostly in Europe, use automated card shuffling machines that shuffle the cards during each hand. This makes card counting virtually impossible as the cards that are dealt are completely random all the time).