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Smarter Bet Guide to Blackjack
by Basil Nestor
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Strategy is the key to success at the blackjack table; that's a mathematical fact, and you can count on these expert, easy-to-learn tactics to make you a victor. Here's the deal: everything begins with the basic rules, and they're laid out on these pages with smart little “factoid” tips. Go through blackjack economics, which explain why cards fall the way they do, and what makes a good (and a sucker) bet. Easy-to-follow tables suggest strategies for splitting pairs and soft hands and provide dozens of other statistics and card probabilities.
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Blackjack: Basic Rules and Strategies

Are you brand new to blackjack? Then this guide is for you. It’s an overview of how blackjack is played.

If you’ve played blackjack before, this guide is probably for you, too (soBasil NestorBasil Nestor is the author of the new Playboy Complete Guide to Casino Gambling. This wonderful book teaches players how to avoid sucker bets and win more when playing gambling games.  He is also the author of The Smarter Bet Guide series for video poker, slots, craps, and many other books about gambling.  Basil's website is  don’t go skipping ahead just yet). Blackjack has some rule variations that are often unknown to casual players, and these rules can have a tremendous impact on your long-term profitability. If you’re at all unfamiliar with blackjack terms such as "basic blackjack strategy," "natural," "surrender (see blackjack surrender)," "hole card," "soft hand," or "insurance (see blackjack insurance)," then you should stick around because we cover all of that and much more in the next few pages.

But first the essentials.

Blackjack is About 21

Blackjack is all about the number 21.

The game uses one or more decks of standard playing cards. The suits of the cards have no significance; only their rank is of importance. Card ranked 2 through 10 are counted at their number value. Jacks, queens, and kings are counted as 10. Aces can be 1 or 11, as the player requires.

Each player competes with the dealer to build a hand that has a point total closer to 21 but not over that amount. The initial hand is two cards. If it’s a combination of 10 and an ace, 21, it’s called blackjack or a natural; the hand will either win or be tied, but it cannot lose.

Obviously, a hand with a lower total does not have this status, so a player can ask for additional cards in an attempt to get closer to 21. Receiving an additional card is called a hit. Refusing an additional card is a stand. Players who exceed 21 automatically lose. This is called a bust or a break. When all the players have finished hitting, standing, and sometimes busting, it’s the dealer’s turn to complete her hand. The rules of the game require her to hit a 16 or less and stand on 17 or more (there is one minor exception to this involving an ace and 6 that we’ll cover later).

And finally, the dealer compares her hand with each player’s hand.

  • If neither hand busts, the highest total wins.
  • If neither hand busts, and they are tied, then it’s a push. There is no winner and no money changes hands.
  • If the player busts, then that’s it. The player loses and the dealer’s hand is of no consequence.
  • If the dealer busts and the player has not busted, the player wins.

A player’s natural earns 3:2. That means a ten-dollar bet wins fifteen additional dollars. All other winning bets are paid 1:1 (except insurance, an option we’ll cover in the next section).

It all sounds fairly equitable, but it’s not. The casino has an advantage because players must complete their hands first. Thus a player will lose with a bust even when the dealer busts, too. The casino’s entire profit in the game depends on this order of play. But happily for us, there are strategies to reduce and eliminate the casino’s built-in edge.

The preceding material is just a sample of what you'll find in Basil Nestor's Smarter Bet Guide to Blackjack.

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