- Card Values
- Order of Play and Playing Options
- Optimal Strategy
- Card Counting
- Recommended Books
- Other Websites
The North American game of Blackjack, also known as 21, has been one of the most popular casino games of the last hundred years and has spread throughout the world. In the 21st century it has been overtaken in popularity by Slots (), but it remains one of the most popular casino card games and is available in almost all casinos both on and offline.
Blackjack is a casino banked game, meaning that players compete against the house rather than each other. The objective is to get a hand total of closer to 21 than the dealer without going over 21 (busting).
热血传奇sfAt the start of a Blackjack game, the players and the dealer receive two cards each. The players' cards are normally dealt face up, while the dealer has one face down (called the hole card) and one face up. The best possible Blackjack hand is an opening deal of an ace with any ten-point card.
The house advantage of this game is derived from several rules that favour the dealer. The most significant of these is that the player must act before the dealer, allowing the player to bust and lose their bet before the dealer plays.
Players should be aware that there is another card game called Black Jack in the UK which is an entirely different card game, effectively the same as Crazy Eights.
Note. Gambling can be dangerously addictive. You can find information and advice on our Responsible Gambling page.
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Blackjack is played with a standard international deck of cards with the Jokers removed, leaving 52 cards. Originally the game was played with a single deck. However, as a counter measure to card counting, casinos introduced multi-deck games, based on the false assumption that if there were more cards in play it would be harder for the card counter to keep track of them all. As a result, Blackjack is now usually offered in either single deck, double deck, 4 deck, 6 deck or 8 deck variants. It should be noted that there are exceptions in online casinos where far larger numbers of decks can be used than would be practical to manage offline.
Aside from the cards, the game requires a table, chips, a discard tray, cut card and a shoe.
热血传奇sfAfter the dealer has shuffled a player will be selected at random and asked to take the cut card – a coloured plastic card matching the playing cards in size – and place it at a random position within stack of cards. The dealer will then move the cards above the cut card to the back of the stack. This technique is intended to demonstrate to the players that the dealer cannot have rigged the deck. The cut card is then reinserted into the stack of cards by the dealer at a pre-defined position and when this card is reached this indicates the final deal of the game before the cards are shuffled.
Where multiple decks are used, after the shuffle the cards will be placed into a dispenser called a shoe. This piece of equipment has two purposes: to hold large stacks of cards in multi-deck games and make the practice of hole carding (cheating by catching a glimpse of the dealer’s hole card) more difficult. In fact hole carding is not illegal in the vast majority of jurisdictions. If the dealer is poorly trained or sloppy enough to fail to protect their down card from being seen by a player at the table this is not the player's fault and the player is not obliged to look away to prevent themselves seeing the down card. If however the player uses any form of device, for instance a metal lighter to observe the reflection in, or an accomplice off table signals the information to them, this is cheating. Hole carding is only legal where the player can see the card naturally from one of the player positions at the table.
When playing Blackjack the numeral cards 2 to 10 have their face values, Jacks, Queens and Kings are valued at 10, and Aces can have a value of either 1 or 11. The Ace is always valued at 11 unless that would result in the hand going over 21, in which case it is valued as 1.
Any hand with an Ace valued as 11 is called a ‘soft’ hand. All other hands are ‘hard’ hands.
A starting hand of a 10 valued card and an Ace is called a Blackjack or natural and beats all hands other than another Blackjack. If both the player and dealer have Blackjack, the result is a push热血传奇sf (tie): neither the player nor the bank wins and the bet is returned to the player.
Order of Play and Playing Options.
热血传奇sf It should be noted that even playing perfect Basic Strategy for the rule set in play, the player will still usually be at a disadvantage.
热血传奇sfCard Counting provides the player a mathematically provable opportunity to gain an advantage over the house. It must be understood that this does not guarantee that the player will win. Just as a regular player may win though good luck despite playing at a disadvantage, it is perfectly possible for the Card Counter to lose through an extended period of bad luck even though playing with a small advantage over the House.
The basic premise of Card Counting is that mathematically speaking, low cards on average are beneficial to the dealer while high cards favour the player. There are many subtle reasons for this but the most significant are:
- A player who receives a Blackjack (a ten value card and an Ace – two high cards) is paid one and a half times their bet. The dealer however only receives the player’s bet when dealt a Blackjack.
- While the player can stop taking additional cards at any time, rules require the dealer to continue drawing cards until they reach a total of 17. The player can choose whether or not to take an additional card on a total of 16 whereas the dealer has to take one. In this situation small cards are less likely to cause the dealer to bust are thus favour the dealer, while big cards cause the dealer to bust more often and favour the player.
- The majority of situations where it is correct of the player to double are starting hands that would be made very strong by the addition of a ten value card or an Ace. Therefore, doubling becomes more favourable when there are more ten value cards and Aces left in the deck.
热血传奇sf So the Card Counter looks for times when there are more high cards left to be played than a regular deck would have. Rather than trying to remember each card that has been played, the Card Counter will usually use a ratio system that offsets cards that are good for the player against cards that are good for the dealer.
The most commonly used Card Counting system is the HiLo count, which values cards as follows:
|High cards: 10, J, Q, K, A:||-1|
|Medium cards: 7, 8, 9:||0|
|Low cards: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6:||+1|
To keep track the player starts at zero, adds one to the total every time a low card is played and subtracts one from the total when a high card is played. This is called the ‘Running Count’. It may seem counter-intuitive to subtract one for high value cards that are good for the player, but a high card that has been played is one less high card that is left to be played. Where the Running Count is positive the player knows that there are more player favourable cards remaining to be played.
热血传奇sf When kept correctly the Running Count will start at 0 and, if all the cards were to be played out, would end at 0. This is because there are an equal number of high cards and low cards. The HiLo count is therefore referred to as a ‘Balanced Counting System’.
Card Counting systems are generally not impeded by the addition of multiple decks to the game. At any rate multiple decks do not make it significantly more difficult for the Card Counter to keep track of the Running Count, since the Card Counter only needs to keep track of a single number, the Running Count. However many decks are used, the count begins at zero and would end at zero if there were no cards left, so no changes need to be made to the counting process.
热血传奇sfWhere multiple decks do make a difference is in how much impact a positive Running Count has to the player advantage. If the Running Count is +10 and there are two decks remaining to play, this means there are an extra 5 player favourable cards in each deck. If there are 5 decks remaining to be played there are only 2 extra player favourable cards in each deck. The higher the concentration of extra player favourable cards the stronger the player’s advantage. To estimate the strength of the player advantage the Running count therefore needs to be divided by the number of decks remaining to be played. This figure is called the True Count.
热血传奇sfWith the True Count the player has a consistent measure of how many extra player favourable cards are contained within the cards remaining to be dealt. The player can use this information to vary their bet and playing strategy. Deviations from Basic Strategy are far less important than placing big bets when the True Count is high and low bets (or preferably nothing) when the True count is low or negative.
It is important to note that sizing your bet correctly is critical to your long term success as a card counter. This requires substantial additional knowledge that is beyond the scope of this article. Instead we refer interested readers to the books listed below for an insight into this complex aspect of card counting.
While Card Counting is legal in most jurisdictions, for obvious reasons casinos do not like players that can consistently beat them. They therefore employ counter measures and any players they identify as Card Counters will be asked to leave the casino. The most common method used to identify Card Counters is to watch for a large bet spread (difference between the minimum and maximum bet a player uses) and to see whether large bets correlate with player favourable counts. Card Counters have developed several methods to help them avoid detection. The two most common are:
- Wonging / Back Counting. Named after Blackjack author Stanford Wong, this is the practice of watching the cards being played and only sitting down to play when there is a player favourable count. This practice reduces the bet spread the player uses as they only place bets in player favourable situations but casinos are now well aware of this strategy and watch out for players hanging around a table and not playing. The method is still useful, but not without its problems.
- Team Play. This involves several trained Card Counters working together. Most commonly there would be several 'Spotters' sitting at different tables keeping track of the count and either back counting or playing minimum bets. When a table reaches a positive count the Spotter would signal to the 'Big Player' who would come over and bet big during the player favourable count. This allows both players to make very little variation in their bets. Casinos are aware of this strategy and watch for groups of players working together.
There are several variations on team play designed to be employed in different situations and to different effects. These are covered more fully in the reading resources detailed below.
热血传奇sfSuccessful Card Counting is generally only profitable in land based casinos, not in online games. The strategy relies on the game having a "memory" in that cards are dealt from the cards remaining after previous rounds have been played. Online Blackjack games are dealt by computer and normally use a random number generator to shuffle the whole deck after every round of play. Games of this sort are not countable.
热血传奇sfThere are some Live Blackjack games online, which are played over a video feed with a human dealer. These could technically be counted but there are several significant disadvantages that make this difficult or not worth the player's time:
- Games of this type are very slow to play. A slow game means less money made.
- The games generally offer poor "penetration". This means that the decks are shuffled early, not allowing enough cards to be dealt out for many player favourable situations to develop. (The most favourable situations for the player tend to occur further into the shoe.)
- The casino's software records every player bet and all the cards dealt. This makes it relatively easy for a casino to employ software to track the count and watch for players raising their bet or only playing when the count is favourable.
热血传奇sfFor the above reasons Card Counting has not become commonplace online.
热血传奇sf There is a great deal more to card counting successfully than we can reasonable cover here. Many books have been written on this subject and we will recommend some of the better ones below:
热血传奇sf – One of the foremost mathematicians in the Blackjack field, Schlesinger successfully compares the strength of various counting systems in different conditions.
热血传奇sf – One of the most easily accessible authors on the subject of Blackjack, Snyder still provides everything you need to know to start on your journey.
– A good book covering everything from Basic Strategy, through several counting systems and on to advanced techniques and team play.
热血传奇sf – Discussion of various card counting systems and strategies to avoid being detected. Includes discussion of some strategies that unlike card counting, may not be legal. As such we would strongly advise user caution and research before engaging some of the strategies discussed.
– One of the best discussions of how to play successfully long term without being detected.
热血传奇sf – Credited as being the first published unbalanced counting system (system that did not require a True Count conversion).
热血传奇sf – An old book now but written by a man famous for popularising the concepts of team play. This book covers several counting systems alongside some advanced techniques.
– This book covers Basic Strategy, a variety of counting systems, money management and team play.
热血传奇sf – One of the definitive books on the topic, the act of waiting for a favourable deck before sitting down to play is to this day referred to as ‘Wonging’.
– A autobiographical account of a small number of players implementing modernised team play strategies. Very useful insight into how team play can still be effective.
– A lot of space is devoted to how to become a better player and debunking myths surrounding gambling, but this book also has a good treatment of the basics of card counting.
– Peter Griffin was one of the most widely respected gambling mathematicians of all time. This book is maths heavy but very informative.
There are other good books on this subject but the above are the ones we feel any player should ensure they are familiar with before considering trying to win money by Card Counting.
Sites for blackjack rules, information and analysis
热血传奇sfHere are some other useful websites with rules and information about Blackjack (21).
ThePogg.com provides a Guide with rules, advice and casino reviews. The Basic Strategy section includes a comprehensive calculator that can generate the optimal basic strategy for almost any rule combination alongside a fairness calculator to check your results.
was formerly run by Kenneth R Smith but has now been acquired by an affiliate advertisement network. The forums on this site still contain a wealth of information and discussion on the various aspects of card counting.
is an unusual free Web-based Blackjack book providing an analysis of Blackjack and Card Counting illustrated by 139 charts. The author Norm Wattenberger also publishes the site, which points out some short-cuts that will more likely cost you money than make a profit, runs Blackjack The Forum and publishes Casino Verite Blackjack Card Counting training software..
Wizard of Odds has a large section with information on the game, its variants and strategy. They provide a with which you can practice card counting.
热血传奇sf James Yates has written a page , which explains Harvey Dubner's Blackjack card counting system.
needs little explanation. A well detailed and referenced information source on Blackjack.