Go-Gamble Blackjack Guide

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This ebook is written in HTML form and can be viewed by calling the file up on your browser, just like any other web page. Since this ebook contains hundreds of internet links, it is best viewed while you are online so that you can take full advantage of the information contained herein. For webTV users and others I have posted an online version: Click here for online version

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©2001 Jeff Konrad, All rights reserved.

Enjoy it in good health.
Good luck.


Blackjack is the most popular casino table game. This ebook is not intended to be the ultimate blackjack guide. Rather it is intended to help introduce the beginner to intermediate player to some of the finer points of the game and to be a resource guide to players of all levels.

Table of Contents

Blackjack Rules Blackjack History
Blackjack Definitions Basic Beginner Betting System
Blackjack Betting Systems and Money Management Advanced Blackjack Strategy
Blackjack: Social Aspects Blackjack Comps
Cheating Blackjack Links

Blackjack Rules

Blackjack has a standard, basic set of rules with some slight variations between areas and casinos. The variations are not really important to the beginner but are of vital importance to the experienced player.

Blackjack is played on a felt covered table with seats for a dealer on one side and up to seven players seated across from him. The seat on the dealer's left is the first one to be dealt a card and is called "first base". The last seat to be dealt, immediately to the dealer's right, is called "third base. A betting square is printed on the felt table in front of each player's seat. Immediately in front of the dealer is the chip tray. On the dealer's left is the deck or shoe and beside that should be the minimum/maximum bet sign. You must be at the table that fits your bankroll so the minimum/maximum bet sign must be read and followed by the player.

On the dealer's right is the money drop slot where all currency and tips (chips) are deposited. Next to the drop slot is the discard tray. Cards that are burned or have been used in play go here.

Before play begins the dealer shuffles the cards. The deck cut by one of the players with a colored marker card. The dealer places the decks in the show, draws the first one and 'burns'it by placing it in the discard tray. Before the deal, players place their bets into the betting box directly in front of their seat. You will often see players playing two or more hands simultaneously, taking up the appropriate betting boxes.

Players need not bet every hand. Often players sit out several hands if the dealer seems to be drawing good hands one after the other. Like other table games, many times blackjack seems to run in spurts either hot or cold. If the cards are running against the players it is acceptable, and advisable to sit out until the table warms up again. Continuing to bet when the cards are clearly running against you is a sure way to lose money. Do not be afraid or embarrassed to sit out a few hands and see how things pan out.

After the bets are placed the deal begins. The dealer deals out two cards, usually face up, one at a time to each player. If you are at a face up game DO NOT TOUCH THE CARDS.

The dealer deals himself one card down and one card up. The 'point' value of cards in blackjack is: face cards and the 10 = 10, aces = 1 or 11, all other cards = their numerical value. The numerical values of the cards are: (10, J, Q, K) = 10 ; (Ace) = 1 or 11 ; (other cards) = face value (3 = 3). Further play is now conducted using hand signals. The reason for this is that there can be no miscommunication between the dealer and the player. It also allows the security crew's cameras in the ceiling to completely monitor the game.

The basic hand motions to indicate if you want a card or not (hit or stay) are the same are the same at all casinos. If the cards were dealt face down and you want a hit, lightly flick the cards across the felt twice. If the cards were dealt face up, point at the cards with your index finger or scratch the felt with your fingertips. You may also want to nod your head yes while saying "hit" or "give me a card". In practice the dealer will quickly tune in on your particular way of signaling your desires. To indicate that you wish to stay with the hand you have, either slip your face down cards underneath your chips or move your hand, palm down, horizontally across the table a few inches above the felt if the hand is face up.

After the cards are dealt, the dealer must play out the hand according to a strict set of rules. Each player in turn is offered the opportunity to draw as many cards as he likes (until he goes over 21) or play the cards he was originally dealt (stay). If the dealer's hand is 16 or less, he must take a card. If the dealer's hand is 17 or more, he must stand. Some casinos require the dealer to draw a card on a soft 17 (ace, six). That's it.

The object of blackjack is very simple: "BEAT THE DEALER". That is, the player wins if he ends up with a total point count higher than that of the dealer but less than 22. If the player goes over 21, he loses. If the dealer goes over 21 (bust) the player wins.

The player can draw or stand without restriction until his total breaks 21, then the hand is over for that player and he loses. Should a player get a blackjack, an ace and a face card or 10 in the first two cards, the payoff is 1.5 times the original bet. If the player "beats the dealer" by drawing a higher point count without going over 21 he wins the amount of his wager. If the dealer goes bust and the player does not, the player wins the amount of his original wager.

In essence, blackjack is such a simple game that, if you understand this basic information, combined with the simple playing system provided here, you are ready to play. For more detailed information, click to advanced blackjack strategy.

Blackjack History

Blackjack originated in French casinos around 1700 and is probably descended from 'chemin de fer'. It was originally called 'vingt et un' (21 in English). It reached the United States in the 19th century.

Gambling was legal and popular all over the Western United States but by 1910 is was outlawed in Nevada and elsewhere. Blackjack and all the other casino games went underground until 1931 when Nevada legalized casino gambling. Blackjack soon became the most popular table game. In 1978 casino gambling came to Atlantic City and blackjack flourished in the glittering casinos that soon popped up on the Atlantic coast. Since then casino gambling has been legalized in Mississippi, Indiana, Michigan and elsewhere and Indian casinos are operating in almost every state. Overseas, blackjack in various forms is played in casinos in Canada, Europe, the Caribbean, Australia, all over Asia, and on the internet.

It was inevitable that players and even scholars would eventually turn their attention to blackjack in an attempt to whittle down, and maybe even reverse the house advantage. The first attempt at this occurred in 1956 in a paper written for the Journal of the American Statistical Journal.

Edward O. Thorp (sometimes called the Einstein of blackjack) published his bestseller 'Beat the Dealer' in 1963. This was really the first book that claimed the casino could be beaten at blackjack and showed the player how to do it. It was Thorp who first developed and advocated the 'basic strategy'. You can still buy this book at Amazon and many players claim it still has relevance to today's game.

Sanford Wong picked up the torch from Thorp and continues to be the guru of modern blackjack play. His book, Professional Blackjack, distills his extensive computer simulation work and is the bible for beginner and expert alike.

Blackjack Definitions

This is a list of general gambling terms with specific emphasis on blackjack terms.

Action: This is a general gambling term with several meanings. It can refer to the amount bet ($10 action, $25 action) or to how the table is running. For example a player might approach a dealer and ask, "How is the action?" In other words is the table running hot or cold for the players.

Cut Card: A solid piece of plastic the same shape and size as the playing cards. It is given to a player to cut the decks.

Bankroll: The amount of money a player has available for any particular betting session.

Black Chip: $100 chip.

Burn Card: When a new shoe is ready to be played the dealer draws the first card and puts it into the discard pile. He takes it out of play or 'burn's.

Bust: A hand goes 'bust' when it exceeds 21.

Cage: Also known as cash cage or cashier's cage. This is where all cash transactions take place and chips are redeemed for cash.

Comp or Comps: This is short for complimentary. The casino wants you to come back and, if you are a good enough customer (you gamble up to a certain standard). They will comp you with free food, rooms, show tickets and the like. Click here for more information.

Counter: A player who 'counts' cards.

Flat Bet: When the player bets the same amount on every hand.

Foreign Chip: A chip from a casino other than the one where you are playing. In Las Vegas many of the larger casinos will cash smaller denomination chips from other casinos as a favor to their customers but they are certainly not obligated to do so.

Green Chip: $25 chip.

Hard Hand: Any hand where the ace is counted as 1.

Hole Card: The card that the dealer holds, face down.

High Roller: Someone who bets large amounts.

Hit: The player requests another card, or a 'hit'.

House: The casino.

Low Roller: A small better.

Marker: An IOU or note granted to the player by the casino against a credit line.

Mechanic: Someone who can manipulate a deck of playing cards.

Pair: Two numerically identical cards, or two identical face cards.

Pat Hand: Any hand that does not require the player to draw a card.

Pit: The space inside the perimeter of a group of gaming tables.

Pit Boss: A casino employee who supervises a 'pit'.

Push: Both the dealer and the player have identical count hands.

Red Chip: $5 chip.

Settlement: The resolution of the bet. The dealer either collects the player's chips, pays the player or leaves the chips on the table in the case of a push.

Shill: A casino employee who sits in on games. Typically they have a large amount of chips in front of them giving players the idea that the table is hot and, in this way, it is thought that the shill attracts players.

Shoe: This is the shoe box shaped device that holds the up to eight decks used in blackjack. It allows the dealer to deal one card off the top quickly and efficiently.

Soft Hand: Any hand where the ace is counted as 11, or there is no ace.

Stand: The player stands when he decides to play with the hand he has drawn and not draw another card.

Toke: A tip to the dealer.

Tough Player: A smart player who can make money against the casino in the short run.

Whale: A high roller.

Basic Blackjack System for the Beginner

The following system was devised and written by Richard Cousins, noted Las Vegas gambling instructor. Read it over a few times, follow the simple instructions and you are 95% on your way to success at Blackjack. Click over to Richard's site at Gambling 4 Dummies.

What you are about to read about the game of Blackjack will revolutionize the way you think about gambling. What you are about to read about my teachings will deviate "big time" from what the "BOOK" tells you to do. You should understand that the book was written by professors who figured out things on computers for millions of hands. What people just don't get, is that the real game normally doesn't happen perfectly like a computer system. The strategies that they given to you, are for big risk takers. What I want you to understand about the way I teach is, gambling is the art of staying at the tables as long as you can till you hit a streak that breaks the bank. Remember please, I have counted cards and played Blackjack for years. What I have discovered about gambling is that it is a game of PATIENCE. You must only gamble with money that you can afford to lose, have the time to grind it out at the tables, including moving around, and know how to manage your money once that streak hits.

Let's start at the beginning. When you walk up to a table, survey the table. See if anyone is winning and people are happy. As much as I would like to believe that gambling is ALL skill, unfortunately luck has something to do with it. If you see some people are winning, and the table minimum is what you can afford, then sit down, get comfortable, and place your money down in a neutral spot and say "Hi (Dealer's name), may I have some change please." This will help you establish a rapport with the person that is going to give you money. Follow one of the most important rules of gambling, the GOLDEN RULE, "If a dealer EVER places money in front of you, pick it up!"

Our next step of Blackjack, is to understand the objective of the game. We are not trying to get closest to 21, rather we are simply trying to beat the dealer. You must also have a total understanding of how many cards per suit there are. There are four suits in a deck of cards. Hearts, Spades, Diamonds, and Clubs. Three are four cards per suit. 4 aces through 4 nines. When it comes to tens, the whole thing changes. There are four tens, four jacks, four queens, and four kings. There are four times as many 10 value cards, than there is of any one card in the entire deck. Now if you are a beginner, you must understand that there are four times as many 10 value cards in one deck, now times that by six decks. That is how many decks are normally used at a $5 dollar table. This is very important information that will effect the outcome of your game as we progress.

The next step is the most important stage of the game. Once a dealer starts to deal out the cards, you must take guessing out of the game, by creating a procedure called "CATEGORIZE." When you guess, the casinos immediately have a huge advantage over you. How do you think they build 1.5 BILLION dollar casinos left and right? Categorizing will tell you exactly what to do, no matter what anyone tells you.

There are three blackjack hands you have to know.

BASIC HAND- ANY HAND THAT IS BETWEEN 2-11 The reason I call this a basic hand, is because no matter what you do, you BASICALLY couldn't screw it up!

SMALL HAND- ANY HAND THAT IS BETWEEN 12-16 The reason we categorize it as SMALL is because if you hit it and you get one of those many face cards that are in the deck, you will go over and lose your money and be out of the game.

BIG HAND- ANY HAND THAT IS BETWEEN 17-21 The reason why we call it a big hand is due to the fact that if we try to take a hit at this point, there are so many cards in the deck that can take us out of the game.

When the cards are first dealt, you must start to immediately CATEGORIZE your hand and the dealers hand. The dealer will always show one card up and one card down. Based on some information that we learned about the cards, we must ALWAYS assume that the dealers down card is a TEN.




As the dealer begins to deal the hands, just go through the procedure of categorizing the dealer's hand and yours, and base your decisions on what I have told you. At times, some players have mentioned to me that they feel like dealers and other players they are pressuring them into making a decision. When it gets to be your turn to take a hit or stay and you need a second, take a sip of water, take a breath, and relax. Gambling is meant to be a form of enjoyment. The minute the fear of losing your money takes control over you, you are done. Play consistent Blackjack and you will do just fine.

If all you do is just hit or stay, the house still has a big advantage over you. The house will beat you 2 out of every 3 hands, and if you don't do something to alter the way your money is played, you are still going to lose, maybe not as fast, but you are still going to lose.

The first thing you as a player can do to lower the houses odds and raise yours, is a move called a double down. This is executed when you categorize the two hands and you have a BASIC hand and the dealer has a SMALL HAND. If your basic hand totals 10 of 11 on the first two cards, you can double down against the house. Once this scenario is apparent, you take an amount of money equivalent to your original bet, and place it directly next to your original bet. The minute you do this, there are going to be three things that start to happen:

1) You know that you have a huge advantage over the house because of the number of 10's there are in a six deck shoe.

2) The house actually lets you add more money to your original bet when you have this advantage.

3) When you double down against a small hand and only a small hand, you start to create two ways of winning and only one way of losing.

There is only one stipulation about doubling down. No matter what you get, you only receive one card and that's it. The reason you only double against a small hand is because if you get the big ten you were looking for, great, but if you don't, the dealer still has the possibility of getting one of those many tens and busting. This will give you 2 ways to win and 1 way to lose. This can be one of the biggest steps any player can take to lower the houses odds.

The other step you must take is a procedure called splitting. Any time you have two cards of like value, two 2's, 3's, 4's, 7's,8's or aces, and the dealer once again shows a small hand, you can take another amount of money equivalent to your original bet and invest it into the game. The dealer will move your cards apart from one another and the start to give you hits one hand at a time. Play each split hand individually. As you get each card dealt to you, recategorize the hand and apply the rules of the game to each hand. If you ever receive a hit that is another card like the one you just split, you can split it again up to four times. If you ever split and receive the second card and it totals 10 or 11, you can double down on that hand too. There are other double downs available, but we have to concede that we have to take our baby steps. Stay with the basics and everything will come to you in time.

The most important thing that is going to happen to you during these situations, is that other player at the table are going to tell you how to play the hand. Remember, categorize. If the dealer is showing a small hand, do it, but people are going to tell you a rule that isn't correct. It goes as follows: "Always split aces and eight's". This is the biggest crock of garbage I have ever heard. I don't know about you, but when the dealer is showing a big hand, a possible 20, the last thing that goes through my mind is add more money to my bet and limit myself to one card. Only against a small hand!!!!!!!! There are two other things you must understand about splitting. Never split 5's. When totaled together, you will see how they make a 10. This is a much better opportunity to double down than it is splitting up my 5's and get two poor 15's. And the biggest split you should never do is 9's and 10's! Remember the old adage, "If it's not broke, don't fix it."

Finally to complete your game, there is a little thing we call insurance. Never take insurance! It is the biggest sucker bet in the house. Yet at anytime you ever get a blackjack, and the dealer has an ace up, he will turn it to the side and ask, "Would anyone like insurance?" At this time you immediately speak up and say "EVEN MONEY." (AS ANY SKILLED BLACKJACK PLAYER WOULD KNOW, EVEN MONEY IS INSURANCE. IT IS JUST A SHORT CUT. WHAT I AM STRESSING TO THE MANY OF THOUSANDS WHOM PLAY THIS GAME FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES AND TO MAKE A QUICK BUCK, NEVER TAKE INSURANCE, BECAUSE IF THE DEALER DOESN'T HAVE A BLACKJACK, NOW YOU STILL HAVE TO BEAT A HAND THAT IS BIG, WHERE AS IN EVEN MONEY, YOU HAVE A GUARANTEED WIN AGAINST THE HOUSE. TAKE IT AND I WILL SHOW YOU WHY LATER.) The dealer will pay you exactly what your original bet is and the hand is over. Most people will try to tell you not to take even money, go for the big win, the odds are in your favor. That is when I speak up and say that this game is not about getting closest to 21, but it is about beating the dealer. If the dealer is willing and able to reach out and pay you immediately on a win without looking at his hand, didn't you just do exactly as you set out to do from the beginning? BEAT THE DEALER! Even money will boost your winning percentage 4%. Give me a gain like that and I will take it any day of the week. The extra amount of money that you are gambling for, wont make you or break you, but any time you can lock up money instantly without the houses say so, DO IT!

The last thing that I want to tell you is that dealers as a whole, make about $5.35 an hour. Their money is made when you tip them. Tipping the dealer is a good way to gain rapport with the person that handles the money. The biggest reason you place a bet for the dealers in front of your bet, is because if the dealer has a vested interest in the game, his tip, he will make sure you play the hand well so he can win his bet. The more often you tip, the more help you will receive from your dealer.

Good luck to all who took this class and if you enjoyed it, please go to the discussion forum and tell me and the others all about it.

Blackjack Betting Systems and Money Management

When playing a game where you are the underdog, betting systems have no affect on the eventual outcome of the game, you lose. Betting systems do affect the expected duration of the game. The probability of increasing a bankroll to a specified level is also affected.

If you are looking for fairness in games of chance, look elsewhere. Let us assume that you are playing a win/lose game like roulette (ignore the 0 and 00 for now) and you are playing the red/black. Let's say black comes up 5 times in a row. Our normal experience has taught us that red is 'due'.

Unfortunately games of chance are ruled by the laws of probability, not fairness or even common sense. The chance of that sixth sip coming up black (six in a row) is 50-50. In any game, from flipping a coin, to various casino games like roulette, blackjack, etc. the chances of a certain outcome remain the same no matter what has occurred previously. The roulette wheel HAS NO MEMORY. Every spin is an INDEPENDENT EVENT, specifically independent of everything that has happened before.

What does this have to do with blackjack betting systems and money management? Plenty. Using advanced strategy the player attempts to give himself a slight edge over the casino. Sometimes he can achieve this. But even if the player is able to ascertain that the remaining shoe is rich in face cards, for example, blackjack is a game of chance and there is certainly no guarantee that just because there are proportionally more 10's left in a shoe the player will draw one, or the dealer won't be able to improve his hand.

Betting Systems

Over the years various 'betting systems' have been developed. The ideal betting system would have a lot of money on the table when you have a winning hand and none when a losing hand is drawn. Easy to say, hard to do. Betting systems are either multiplicative, additive, or linear (flat bets) Most systems have you increase your bet when you win or (disastrously) increase your bets as you lose. They all have one thing in common: by themselves they don't work.

The Martingale System: One of the most popular systems, the martingale seems like a dream come true to the uninitiated. In the short run the player has a good chance of making a few dollars using this system. In the long run two things conspire to defeat you, the table betting limits, and your bankroll.

The basic martingale system requires an initial bet of, say, $2. If the player loses, he doubles his bet to $4. Another loss puts your net loss at $6 and requires you to be $8 to recoup your losses and show a profit. Let's say you lose five hands in a row. The sixth bet requires $64. You win $128 but you lost $124. Your net win is $4. Understand that you ended up having to put up $124 to win ONLY $4. If you can always be sure that you will never lose more than 6 in a row, take you $200 bankroll to Vegas and get rich.

Of course, we all know that many losing streaks run longer than 6 or 8 or 10 in a row. The martingale quickly runs into the table limits. If you started at a $2 table with a $500 upper limit you are finished after 9 losses in a row and you are down over $1000. It would take you another 500 winning hands to make up this loss. Basically, one losing streak will put you in a hole you will never be able to climb out of. This is not the way to fame and riches.

D’Alembert: In the eighteenth century, Jean le Rond d’Alembert reasoned that if a fair coin landed on one side for a long run, the odds increased of it landing on the other side. To take advantage of this theory he advocated increasing your bet if you lose and decreasing your bet if you win, both by a flat (fixed) amount. In practice you bet 1, lose, bet 2, lose, bet 3 lose, bet 4, win, bet 3 lose, etcetera. In practice this is another sure road to financial oblivion.

Anti-Martingale: This is simply the reverse of the Martingale. Instead of increasing your bets when you lose, you increase your bets when you win. The result is simply the reverse of the Martingale. As soon as you lose a bet (a statistical certainty) you have wiped out any winnings.

Anti-D’Alembert: Exactly the opposite of the D'Alembert system described above. You add a unit when you lose and subtract a unit when you win.

Money Mangement

The one thing these systems have in common is this: THEY DON'T WORK. In the short run they may be able to show some profits, but in the long run probability will rear its ugly head and ruin your best laid plans, and betting 'systems'.

This does not mean, however, that you shouldn't have a money management plan firmly in place before you even enter the casino. In fact, those without a plan are destined to simply lose all of the money they are willing to risk.

Believe it or not, most people enter the casino fully ready to spend (read lose) whatever amount of money they came in with, $200, $500, $1,000, whatever. If you do not want to be in the position of a player set up to lose you must have some kind of money management plan in place BEFORE YOU SIT DOWN TO PLAY. This is an important point for even the casual blackjack player.

Trip Bankroll: First, you have to decide how much money you are going to budget for your entire gambling trip. For illustrative purposes, assume that you have budgeted $1,000 for gambling at blackjack on a particular trip of 3 days.

Session Bankroll: With a $1,000 trip bankroll you would be wise to schedule five blackjack sessions with session bankrolls of $200 each.

Loss Limits: Loss limits are self limitations on losses. If you set them, and honor them, you will absolutely limit your losses when the cards are running against you. With a $200 session bankroll a typical loss limit might be $100. If you lose $100, you walk away.

Win Goals: This is the opposite of a loss limit and is designed to protect profits once they are achieved. A player with a $200 session bankroll would decide on a session win goal of between $50 and $200 at which point you take your profits and leave. Another win goal strategy is to simply decrease your loss limit if you are winning. For example, if a player starts with a $200 session bankroll and wins $100 (total now $300) he might pocket the original $200, effectively setting his loss limit for this session at $0. Alternatively, he might set aside $250, thereby insuring a profit of at least $50 and leaving open the possibility of even more profits.

The amounts used here are for a typical $1,000 trip bankroll. You will have to adjust the amounts according to the total you are willing to risk, the type of player you are (conservative or not).

Let Your Profits Run: Here is a betting method (this is not a system) that will limit your losses and let your profits run during winning streaks. Assume you are at a $10 minimum blackjack table. After a loss, revert to the minimum bet ($10). After a win, add one $5 unit to your bet. That is, after a win at $10, bet $15. After a second win in a row, bet $20. After three wins in a row, bet $25. Continue this method until you lose and then go back to the minimum. Using this method will minimize your losses while allowing you to run your profits during winning stretches. Using this method, you will net $65 after five wins in a row (followed by a loss with $35 wagered). Five losses in a row will net you a $50 loss.

Advanced Blackjack Play

Many books have been written on advanced blackjack strategy and a deep discussion of the subject is beyond the scope of this essay. We will hit the highlights and point you in the right direction if you wish to study the subject further.

Card Counting

This was one of the first methods used to try and get an edge in blackjack and was developed by Edwin Thorp. In his studies Dr. Thorp determined that when a deck (shoe) is low in fives the player derives an advantage. His card counting strategy, therefore, kept track of the number of fives remaining. Later he refined this strategy to include tens.

Since Thorp's first book, many other card counting systems have been developed. Organized gangs of players have even developed toe operated computers to keep track of which cards had been played. Needless to say, the casinos take a dim view of card counters and an even dimmer view of people who use electronic means to keep track of cards.

Today, there are many different card counting systems. They seek to track the presence in the balance of the shoe of cards valued 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 (it is advantageous to the player when there is a shortage of these cards in the shoe). The advantage between one system and another can be extremely slight (as low as .1%) and typically is of interest only to the most sophisticated player. Those interested in the more advanced systems should seek out the many books on blackjack offered on Amazon. For the purposes of this discussion a simple counting system will be presented.

The advanced strategy calls for two moves when the deck is favorable to the player: 1) increase the size of your bet, and 2) alter your strategy to take advantage of the distribution.

In essense the "Plus Minus Ponint Count System" is fairly simple. Values are assigned to the various cards as follows:

2,3,4,5,6 = +1
7,8,9 = 0
10,J,Q,K,A = -1

If you add up all the values you will note that the sum of a deck is zero. A good way to practise this system is to turn over a deck (or 6) of cards one at a time and keep track of the count.

Here is an example of how the system works.

First 12 cards dealt:

Card Dealt Count Running Total
3 +1 +1
8 0 +1
K -1 0
2 +1 +1
6 +1 +2
A -1 +1
4 +1 +2
8 0 +2
3 +1 +3
5 +1 +4
A -1 +3
Q -1 +2

At this point the player holds a slight (+2) advantage and may want to increase his bet somewhat. It would obviously be much easier to keep track of the cards in a face up blackjack game. You might also find it easier to keep track of the count between hand by using a small stack of chips.

You would alter your betting units according to the following table:

Bet Units Running Count
+1 or less
+2 or +3
+4 or +5
+6 or +7
+8 or more

Most games you will play are six deck games where the cards are dealt out of a shoe. You are better off, in these games, to try and estimate the number of decks remaining and use the following equation to come up with a 'true count': True Count=Running Count/Number of decks remaining We know there are 52 cards in a deck. You can try to keep track of the number of decks played by counting the total number of cards played (keep track of that figure using a small chip pile). Use the table above to adjust your bets accordingly.

It would be nice to say that this system is the end all to winning at blackjack. Unfortunately this is not the case. Although the counting technique is simple it is not that easy to master in the field. In addition the casinos are starting to introduce "continuous shuffle" machines that take the discards and integrate them IMMEDIATELY back into the 6 deck shoe. This effectively negates any advantage the player gleans from a counting system.

Blackjack: Social Aspects

As opposed to slots and other electronic casino games, blackjack is a social game that cannot take place unless there is some human interaction. At the most basic level, the game involves at least two people, the dealer and the player. On the other hand you might find yourself at a table with several other players all of different backgrounds and skill levels. Many are convinced that the social interaction that occurs at table games is one of the big attractions to these games. It is far more stimulating to actually talk to other human beings than to just punch buttons at a console.

No blackjack discussion would be complete without a mention of tipping or toking. Just like tipping outside the casino, many veteran players are firmly convinced that a few chips thrown the dealer's way go a long way to making the game more enjoyable. This is especially easy and important when you are winning. Toking the dealer by placing bets for him keeps him interested in the game and concerned about your welfare. Beginning players would be particularly well advised to tip the dealer in this way. Although they are not supposed to coach or help you, you will find a friendly dealer an invaluable ally in your search for casino profits.


Do casinos cheat in the administration of their blackjack games? I wouldn't say it never happens but in corporate casinos in well regulated environments like Nevada, Mississippi, and New Jersey it would be unproductive and unprofitable to do so. Dealers do make mistakes but the average casino has far too much to lose by engaging in such behavior. Casinos can make too much money on a 'straight' game to jeopardize their licenses in a rigged or crooked game.

However, the player should exercise caution when playing in an unregulated setting such as a cruise ship, Indian casinos, or private games. There are many, many ways for the house to gain an extraordinary advantage if they are so inclined.

The single deck game is the most susceptible to cheating. A skilled 'mechanic' acting as the dealer can virtually deal any card he wants from a hand held deck.

Shoe games can also be easily fixed. Simply removing several 10 count cards from the decks is one method. There are also devices that allow a dealer to see the next card in the shoe and deal the second card if he so desires.

No one would recommend cheating by players. You will get caught, prosecuted, banned, shunned, and maybe jailed. All in all, you won't have a lot of fun.

For educational purposes only, here is a presentation of some player cheating methods.

The most prevalent cheat is for your neighboring players or a passerby to quickly grab a chip or two from your pile. This actually happens!! Your best defense for this is to keep all your chips in front of you and do not let anyone get too close. The casinos help out by constantly taping all the action from many different camera angles.

Another cheating method is to mark cards. Players daub a small amount of special paint on a card, leaving a smudge visible only through special lenses. Another method involves palming a card and substituting a better one. Players playing two hands at once have been known to switch cards from one hand to another.

Finally, sophisticated cheating has entered the electronic age. Although banned outright by the casinos, players have been known to use electronic means to signal one another. In addition, teams of blackjack players (and individuals) have used toe operated computers to help them count cards. Needless to say the casinos frown on such activity and work strenuously to stamp it out.

Comps in Blackjack

Comps or complimentaries are the icing on the cake for the blackjack player. They are the goodies that casinos bestow on their best players to try and make them feel more welcome and get them to come back. Comps can range from free buffet passes and free rooms and show tickets on the low end to limos, 10,000 square foot comped suites and even sending private jets to fly the players in. Many players alter their play just to 'fool' the casino into thinking they are playing more than they really are. I strongly disagree with this strategy. Let us look at a few simple tips for the low to medium roller to use to get his share of casino comps.

1. Sign up for comps: You must let the casino know who you are so that it can reward you for your play. If you go to a blackjack table and buy two or three hundred dollars in chips, chances are the pit boss will spot you and ask you if you want to be rated. Say yes. A better strategy is to join the slot club. When you sit down at the table, place your player's card with your money when you buy into the game. The pit boss will take down your account number and write down your name on his rating card. There is a new electronic system that has slots at each player position at a blackjack table. The player inserts his card just like an ATM and the computer automatically tracks his time of play. If you encounter a casino with this system, use it.

2. Toke the dealer: Tipping the dealer in the manner discussed elsewhere will get you somewhere. The dealer will take far more interest in a customer who tips him. He will help make sure you get your share of comps and may intercede on your behalf with the pit boss.

3. Make friends: It always pays to make friends with the employees, especially the dealer, the casino host, and the pit boss who is ultimately rating you. Inquire about a host at the slot club booth or ask the dealer to summon one while you are playing. Introduce yourself in a friendly manner. Ask the host how much play is necessary to receive a meal or a room. Let them know you like the casino and would like to continue playing there. Learn the names of these key employees (most of them have name tags) and call them by name. Don't be afraid to engage the pit boss in friendly banter. If you are on the edge of getting a comp, how much he likes you may tip the balance.

4. Take breaks: Taking frequent short breaks will usually maintain your rating while allowing you to bet less. Get up out of your seat during shuffle breaks. Don't be afraid to leave the table just as the shuffle ends, come back when the shoe is half finished and flat bet small amounts until the next shoe.

5. Don't be a jerk: This goes with number 3. Casino employees are far less likely to reward boorish behaviour. Be a nice guy, it will get you further.

6. Ask for your comps: If you have made friends and have already asked the casino host how long you have to gamble to be eligible for comps, don't be afraid to ask for them before you reach the threshold. For example, if the host tells you that 3 hours of $10 play will get you a buffet, ask for it after 2 hours, and again after 2 and a half if they didn't give it to you at first.

Click here for access to a free ebook: Go-Gamble's Guide to Comps. It contains a much more extensive discussion on casino comps.

The serious blackjack player will appreciate the links provided below.

Blackjackinfo.com: Blackjack strategy engine that customizes play strategies according to the rules of the house. Good site for the experienced player.

Sunset Casino: Free casino gaming download, including blackjack. Play for fun and improve your game.

GoCee Blackjack Center: Good blackjack directory. Very comprehensive.

Blackjack Review Network: Lots of great information for the SERIOUS blackjack player.

All things blackjack: Excellent blackjack site with Henry Tamburin, advanced strategies, blackjack chat, expert answers your blackjack questions. Good site for the intermediate and up player.

BJ21: The best part of this site is reserved for paid members. Sanford Wong, the blackjack guru, is connected to this site. Some free pages.

Precision Blackjack: A sales site for "precision" blackjack system of play.

Blackjack Advice: Personal blackjack page. Good site for beginners.

Blackjack Center: This site covers strategies, card counting, betting systems, etc.

Blackjack Forum Library: Great archive of blackjack articles.

Blackjack University: Good learning site.

Blackjack FAQ : Basic blackjack questions and answers.

Professor Blackjack: Personal blackjack homepage.

BJ Math: This site explores advanced theories and mathematics behind blackjack.

Blackjack Australia: Explores the rules and strategies peculiar to blackjack as it is played in Australia.

Blackjack for Beginners and Experts: Betting systems and guides for players of all levels.

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©2001 Jeff Konrad, All rights reserved.