How to play Blackjack

You're probably wondering why I am posting this, when this site is for MMO's and RPG's, right?  Well the otherday, I was trying out Fallen Earth, and popped into one of their "casinos" to check it out.  They had some slot machines (don't play them) and blackjack.  So I went ahead and played and doubled my money.  Worked out well for me, and I had some more chips (the currency in FE).  So I began to think of all the mmo's out there, which also have games inside the games, and am now going to share with you, a playing strategy, I came up with after 2 years of dealing blackjack in Las Vegas casinos.  I dealt a total of 10 years, and dealt blackjack, craps, roulette, and poker as a dealer, so have an extensive knowledge of each game.  Of these games, the house advantage is about 4% in Blackjack, 1.5% in Craps (on some bets), astronomical in Roulette, and about 1-5% in Poker... of course in Poker the house gets a take of the pot.

First off, let me explain something about my playing strategy... you can play like this in casinos, it works.  It also pisses off a ton of people, who always refer to "the book".  The Book, is a playing strategy thats similar to mine, but written with some differences that make it safer to play.  To explain my playing strategy, let me start by telling you most simply what blackjack is.  Blackjack is a game played with up to 7 players who bet against the dealer.  The player tries to get closest to 21, without going over, yet still beating the dealer.

In all, there are 13 different cards in a Blackjack deck.  They are the Ace, which counts as either 1 or 11, and you can play it as either. There are also the 2-10, jack, queen, and king.  The J, Q, K count as 10, and represent 10.  In all there are 4 cards of the 13, which count as 10.  Thats about 1/3 of the cards in the deck.  Sometimes in Blackjack, the 2, is refered to the dealer's ace.  This is because when the dealer has a 2 up, the chance of having a 10 underneath AND getting another 10 to pust is very difficult, there's about a 1/10 chance of that happening.  More often, the dealer will make a hand with a 2 up.  I am telling you this now, as this will play into my strategy, which you will see.

When the dealer is showing a 7 or higher, you want to assume that the dealer is going to have a hand they can stand on. This means you want to hit till your cards equal 17 or more. 

If the dealer is showing an Ace up, there is a 1/3 chance the dealer will get Blackjack, which is an Ace and any 10 (10, J, Q, K).  The dealer will always ask for insurance.  Knowing that there is about a 1/3 chance he will have blackjack, you shouldn't insure your bet, ever! 

If the dealer is showing a 2-6 up, we assume the dealer has a 10 underneath and and try not to bust ourself or get into situations where we can bust - which is to go over 21.

Special circumstances...

  • If you have a 12 or 13 and the dealer is showing a 2 up, you should hit once.
  • If the dealer is showing a 3 up, and you have 12, you should hit once.
  • If you have a pair of Aces... should should hit them.  Never spit them!  The chance that you will make 2 winning hands is about 25% of the time.  More likely then not, you will push, and only a 25% chance to win.  Hitting them, gives you a better chance to make a hand.
  • If you have a pair of 8s.  Split them when the dealer is showing a 2-8.  Do not split if the dealer is showing a 9, 10, J, Q, K, Ace.
  • If you have a pair of 9's... Stay.  Do not split them under any circumstances.
  • If you have a pair of 10, J, Q, K, or any combination... Stay.  UNLESS, the dealer has a 3, 4, 5, or 6 up.  Then you should split them, and take only one card on each.  Do not resplit them, as you are able to do, if you get another 10, J, Q, K.
  • Do not split any other pair.
  • Double Down, on 10 or 11 - but only when the dealer is showing a 3-9.  If the dealer is showing 2, any 10, or an Ace, you don't want to risk the double.
  • If the dealer is showing 2 - 6, and you have a pair of Aces, you can double down on them (remember, don't split them).

You would be surprised how many players have gotten up from the table I have played at.  Unfortunately, this information is against "the book" and it goes against how others play.

About tipping...

If you plan to play in a real casino, with a real dealer... tip the dealer.  The dealer relies on your tips to make money those cheap ass casinos only give them minimum wage.  If you think tipping $1 while you are betting $100 is good, piss off!  Every 3rd winning hand, you should tip the dealer 10% of what you bet on the average.  You can ask the dealer if they want to play it or bet it, or you can make the decision for them... but if you bet for them and then split or double, make sure to bet more for them too.

Here are the most common lies we heard as dealers...

  1. I tip when I win
  2. I tip when I am done playing

When someone says either of the above, we know you are lying and will never tip us, so don't bother saying it.  Sadly, as a group, Chinese and Hawaiian's tip the worst, if at all.

My next post will be betting strategies, be sure to read that, before you start playing using the above method. 

3 Responses to How to play Blackjack

  1. TomRiddle says:

    That takes me back…

    When I was growing up my dad was always going on about John Scarne whom he saw when Scarne was doing his what you need to know about gambling performances for the military in WWII.

    So I like many boys wanted to be a magician and had the scarne books at the house plus the card mechanic, even Ricky Jay’s first book

    Besides the card manipulation Scarne was known for his correct figuring of the odds in gambling..and in his books he explained them to the public, he also worked for casinos and if I recall correctly brought about the modern multi deck and dealing from the shoe(?) in blackjack

    They keep bringing up legislation to allow casino gambling where I live, and the thought of trying to clear 50 bucks (after travel, meals, tip)a day is always kinda been a dream of mine, it’s not much but would alleviate most of my financial woes…

    anyway does seat placement affect these strategies, I only really heeded 3 things from the Scarne books

    leave table if you lose table 3 times in a row
    if possible find multiple open seats next to each other
    if possible get the seat closest to dealer, if I recall that was called third base and on my only casino trip, got a compliment from a stranger when we both left the table at the same time that I had done a great job playing third base ….

  2. TomRiddle says:

    I remember more, that my dad said Scarnes fingernails (the underneath) were lightly roughened or grooved so he could pick a card up with the friction of the nail and flesh

    in scarnes books much of his magic or gambling exposes were performed in front of card mechanics, professional gamblers and mobsters, including Al Capone, Meyer Lansky and the like

    the only (so far) actual foofage I can find of John Scarne is:

    edit 4 I just found this description of scarne doing the cut the aces for the first time in front of a political/picnic crowd and some guy named Arnold Rothstein

    wow guess its nice having so much time as I’ve spent a few hours now tripping down memory lane…

    Most people say the cutting aces was his best effect bear in mind in the 20’s and 30’s betting by cutting cards was very popular and being able to cut aces with any deck under intense scrutiny was an achievement

    my dad said Scarnes fingers were so attuned to the cards that he could always know EXACTLY how many cards he had cut, and just like a tennis pro sses the ball like a volleyball Scarne could rifflr cut the deck see the ace and feel how many cards it was

    this version seems pretty much like the original was described to me

    from my reading of the books three tricks stand out more to me..

    the card in the wallet

    the spectator opened the deck he had brought

    the spectator picked a card, signed it returned it to the deck

    Scarne took the deck shuffled it scaled one card (threw it like a boomarang and caught it back in the deck (the deck being upside down)

    he showed the one reversed card in the deck with a few flourishes then put the deck on the table in front of him and IMMEDIATELY

    reached into his jacket removing a wallet with 6 rubber bands around it

    three down the side

    three across the top

    he had THE SPECTATOR open the wallet and there was the signed card

    some wallet tricks

    I’d like to see that version

    anyway Scarne did a lot for magic and gambling his scarne cut taught to servicemen helped defeat and card sharps prepared deck changing the top bottom and middle

  3. Spitt says:

    Third base can make a difference, especially if you are counting cards. It gives you the opportunity to see the cards as people split, double down, and bust on a single or a double deck, and to see all the cards in a shoe game. If you are dealing with decks that come out of a machine either individually or as a single deck size (but are more then single decks), then likely counting cards won’t make a difference, as the newer machines constantly shuffle and will make counting them impossible.

    When people split aces, at least 85% of the time, they are going to break even, or push. They will normally get one high card, and one low card. It can be a more effective strategy to only split aces against a dealer’s 3-6, and hoping for a bust.
    By doubling down instead of splitting and then only against a 2-6, we gain a win advantage. With a 2 or 12 in the hand, we need a 5-9 to be dealt (which is 5/13 cards) to get a decent hand. If you don’t double them, and after hitting do not get a 5-9, we can hit it again without the worry of busing, and try again.

    I have known a few mechanic dealers. One was in a California Casino, where he would give big tippers blackjacks more often. Since in California most casinos allow dealers to keep their own tips, he was a popular dealer. One was in a casino in Laughlin, where the dealers shared tokes on each shift, he would also help big tippers to win more often.
    As dealers, we learn a lot of tricks, which can allow players to win or lose. You don’t have to be a mechanic to make them win or lose either, which is the funny part.

    The rule to get up after 3 losing hands, doesn’t really apply any more. The rule was made as a defense to card mechanics, which were more prevalent back in the day. However the things to watch out for, are the players who don’t play steadily, and will make you lose (though great to have on shoe games). Also if you are winning a lot, and the casino switches a dealer on you in anywhere from 10-35 minutes into the previous one’s deal. Dealers will deal on any given table for either 40 mins or 1 hour. So anything less then 40 mins, is suspicious.

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