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A Guide to Understanding Blackjack

You might be a keen gambler, or perhaps you just love the thrill of the game every once in a while. Either way, blackjack is a brilliant casino game for everyone to learn to play, and there is nothing better than when you finally learn the skills and can show off to everyone.

This game is played in casinos online and offline, unlike some other casino games you play against the dealer and not the other players.

When you play blackjack, you use a traditional deck of cards, or multiple traditional decks. This means 52 cards, with the 4 suits; clubs, diamonds, spades, and hearts.

Most people will understand the basic workings of a deck of cards, with each of the four suits having 13 cards from Ace to King. Remember that the Ace is considered to be both ‘1’ and also the highest card in the deck. Having a basic understanding of a traditional deck of cards already has you halfway to understanding blackjack.

Regardless if you play blackjack online, or in a land-based casino, the workings are the same. Online gambling is becoming ever more popular, with more people now seeking out their blackjack fix online, click here to try it yourself and find out what the hype is with online gambling.

Scoring in blackjack

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So, with the most basic understanding of a deck of cards, the next thing is understanding the scoring. When it comes to blackjack, the suits only matter in rare variations of this game, but for the most part it is the card and not the suit that matters. In single deck blackjack, there will only be four of each card in a deck.

The score of your hand is based on the rankings of the cards you have, cards 2-10 are all worth their number, face cards (jack, king, queen) are all worth 10 points, and ace is worth 1 point or 11.

How you score is just some basic math, adding the value of all the cards in your hand. If you have the higher hand between yourself and the dealer, you win.

There is a catch however, if your hand has 22 or more, then this is a dead hand/ bust and is an automatic loss.

The house edge in blackjack

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If you’ve ever been to a casino, online or land-based, you will be aware that all casino games have a built-in edge for the house. Blackjack also has this. However, if you can learn how to play well, then this game can really have the lowest house edge in the whole casino.

The house edge will always be shown as a percentage, this is the percentage of every bet that the casino mathematically predicts it will get to keep. The number can be as high as 40% for some games, such as keno, one of the games with the highest edge, or as low as 0.5% for games like blackjack.

Another way to look at this is in terms of loss per hour. This is how a casino will predict and plan their floor. A good example of this would be at the roulette table, which usually has a house edge of 5.26% and will often have a minimum bet of $5. If you were to bet $5 on roulette per hour and there was a spin every minute then this is $300, and the house edge is 5.26%, which gives the house $15.78. This can be calculated as your expected hourly loss.

Blackjack’s house edge is more often around 0.5%, however, every casino and table is different, so they may have different options to their games that could raise or lower the house edge. A common way in which casinos heighten the house edge is when they use more decks. It is rare that a casino will only use one deck now, and the more decks they use the higher the house edge is.

The basics

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With all this knowledge, let’s consider the basics of the game.

Blackjack is played at a table which can seat 7 players on one side and the dealer on the other side. There may be a sign-up or a print on the table that will usually include things such as; ‘blackjack pays 3 to 2’, ‘Dealer must hit soft 17’, ‘Insurance pays 2 to1’, ‘$5 minimum, $500 maximum’.

When it says it pays 3 to 2 this means  if you hit blackjack your bet is paid off at 3 to 2 (a third) so if you bet $40 then you would be paid back $60. Remember, blackjack is a 2 card hand that totals at 21.

If it says that the Dealer must hit a soft 17 then this means that in a blackjack game the dealer must play his hand in a certain way. Standing on a hard 17 and sitting at 16 or lower. This can raise the casino’s edge by a good 0.2%.

Insurance is an optional side bet on whether the dealer has blackjack. It’s a bit of a sucker bet, and the house edge is high. Dealers will encourage this, but it is best to skip it. While it may sound like a good idea, you can lose the bet. If the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, then you will lose your insurance bet, and you may also lose your main hand at a chance greater than 50%. It’s just not worth it.

When a sign or the table reads the minimum and maximum, this just refers to the minimum and maximum bets you can place at this table. It is very rare to find anywhere where you can bet anything lower than $5, although you may be able to play $1 per hand in some places, most of the time if this is an option then it is online.

Remember the dealer is who you are playing against in blackjack, and in this game you use chips and not cash, buy the chips from your dealer and lay your money on the table. Be cautious with your bets and avoid insurance bets.

About Ronald Ford

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