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Focus on Blackjack Play

10 Apr 2021

By John Marchel
If you play basic blackjack strategy the house will have a less than one percent advantage over you in the long run. By adapting a card-counting system a player can eliminate the casino’s edge altogether and gain a substantial advantage. Some systems are very easy to learn, while others are multi-level and difficult to master. When considering a blackjack counting system keep in mind that it is more important to play a simple strategy perfectly rather than a complicated one imperfectly.

When you go to the casino after first learning blackjack, try out your ability on the blackjack machines. Most of them are only 25 cents, so you can make a lot of mistakes without it costing you very much. This is a great way to practice basic strategy or even card counting. Most machines are single deck, and all the sounds and activity will help you to learn under the pressure of the real noises and distractions of an actual casino.

In my blackjack seminar we teach students not to split ten- value cards. The reason is very simple. We don’t want them to lose their bet. The mathematics is what usually convinces them not to make this particular move. Let’s say you get two tens and the dealer shows an 8 as their up card. The mathematical odds are almost 90 percent that you will win that specific hand. By splitting the 10s the odds drop to 60 - 40. You still have the advantage over the house but you have given up an extra 30 percent chance of winning, which is considerable. The game of blackjack is tough enough so don’t give away a sure winner when you have a 20.

Casino rules for the game of blackjack vary from casino to casino, from pit to pit and even from table to table. For example, on a single-deck game the casino might allow doubling on 10 and 11 only, while at the very next table with a shoe game they might allow doubling on any two cards. These different standards are known as the house rules.

You should check the placard at the table to be sure you know what the rules are for that table, pit and casino. Only play at those casinos that offer the best house rules for the player. Remember, the better the rules, the better your win-rate will be.

Aces can be counted as 1 or 11, player’s choice. To eliminate confusion during the heat of the action, try this technique. Always count the ace as a 1, add up all your cards and then add 10. For example, you have an ace, 3, ace, four. The math says you have 1+3+1+4=9. You would then add 10, for a total of 19. Using the 11 in your count will only confuse you. If you go over 21 after adding the 10, just drop it. This method of counting aces will accelerate totaling your hand and prevent the player from inadvertently hitting a soft 19, 20 or even a soft 21 by mistake.

We are always talking about the ‘good’ house rules in blackjack. But what are the good rules? Here they are, the best blackjack ones for the player. If you find a casino with these rules, it just won’t get any better: Single deck, dealer stays on all 17s, double down on any two cards, double down after split allowed, re-split aces and lastly surrender. You can find these great blackjack house rules in Las Vegas, on the strip, and in some other casinos around the country and the world. Look for them, play them, and your win-rate will greatly improve.


• It’s been reported that most blackjack dealers know less about the game than a player who has read a good book about blackjack and knows basic strategy.

• We hear a lot about blackjack card counters being barred in the 1970’s, 80’s and even today. In the 1850’s John J. Cozad was so adapt at faro he was barred from many clubs in both the East and West. To continue playing he was forced to use other names and disguises to gain admittance.

• The proper name for the game is “21”; the name “blackjack” was only added as slang in the early 1920’s.

• In some European casinos additional players are allowed to make bets on the seated blackjack players’ box. These additional players, four maximum, are forbidden to aid the seated player in any manner.

• The blackjack shoe was first introduced in Cuba in the early 1950’s. Young Cuban dealers who dealt cards all day long and got very skilled at handing them. When management suspected dealers were being too helpful to their friends, they introduced a dealing box known today as the shoe.

• Some people believe blackjack is as American as apple pie and baseball. The reason is the table is like a half of a pie and blackjack is said to have a first and third base.

• At one time (in the old days) insurance at blackjack in casinos could be taken for any size bet, even higher than the original bet.

• The first known blackjack player barred from playing the game was John Scarne. Ben (Bugsy) Siegel personally barred him from playing at the Flamingo in Las Vegas.

• From 1976 to 1997 Washington State allowed commercial card rooms to operate throughout the state. Those card rooms offered mostly poker and blackjack, and were player-backed instead of house-backed.

• Many casinos have a spot on its blackjack rating slips, which can be marked to indicate that a player knows blackjack basic strategy.

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at

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