In specific, a blackjack gambler can learn to win by mastering basic strategy and card counting. These are two different bodies of knowledge, so I want to discuss each in its turn. Only through utilizing both can you be a winning 21 player. Let’s start with the foundation of good blackjack.
“Basic strategy” is a collection of suggested moves based on the mathematics of blackjack, tested by running computer simulations on billions of virtual hands. Each of your potential hand combinations is compared against all possible dealer hands and a best percentage play is suggested for each possibility. These moves are printed on blackjack basic strategy charts using a spreadsheet format.
Gamblers study these charts, comparing their hand against the dealer’s card to know what to should do in each situation. When a strategy table is memorized for any given set of 21 rules and a player can make the best move, this is called optimal play. The memorization work is not easy, but this gives you the best chance of winning without either counting cards or cheating–which are two different things.
A couple of things should be made clear about basic strategy. One, it cannot make you a winning blackjack player all by itself. Like most casino games, twenty-one gives the casino a house edge. If the numbers play out and you don’t get lucky, the casino is going to take your money. Optimal play assures the least amount of cash is lost, but don’t labour under the assumption you’ll be assured of winning big. You might ask why you should study these techniques, then. If you pick the right game of 21, basic strategy should get you close enough to a 100% expectation that being a card counters matters.
Another thing to remember is that each variant of 21 has entirely different odds. Even if you chance just one of the rules, you’ll face a slightly different set of probabilities and need a different strategy guide to play at an optimal level.
Once you play a game near 100%, card counting helps you gain a real advantage at 21. Don’t assume you have to be a mathematical genius to count cards. The math is simple. In fact, the characteristics of a good card counter needs are concentration, the ability to multitask, social skills, and perhaps a little bit of play acting ability. Basic maths skills are essential, but I’m talking quite basic.
The idea behind this technique is to keep track of when you have the advantage and when you don’t. High cards are good to have, while low cards are bad. So when a high card leaves the deck (is dealt), you count in the negative, in most cases -1. When a low card leaves the deck, this is a positive situation, so you count +1. When your total gets into the positives, you bet more. When your total goes into the negatives, you place the minimum bets.
A few things complicate matter. First, the casino doesn’t like card counters, because the practice gives the gambler the edge, not the casino. Therefore, casino management keeps an eye out for these people. Someone maxing out wagers when they have an advantage and betting the minimum when they don’t is likely to be noticed. This means you have to be stealthy about what you’re doing. Being stealthy doesn’t mean you sit quietly and calculate, because dealers, pit bosses, and security personnel are taught to spot these types, as well. To avoid notice, you’ll need to have conversations with dealers and players, appear to be a big better who doesn’t know a whole lot about the game, and otherwise be at the casino for the sake of enjoyment. It’s a complicated task, but also the only way to win at blackjack.
Learning how to select the proper table in the live casino or virtual room in an online casino is also important. Players need to know which rules give them the best odds. Playing at a table with fewer decks is important, but that isn’t as important as what happens on a natural 21. In most games of twenty-one, receiving a two-card or 10-ace “21” wins you a 3:2 payout. In some games, this only pays out 7:5, 6:5, or even 1:1. Avoid these games, because they turn even single-deck blackjack into a disaster. Another rule to spot is what the dealer does when holding a soft 17. If you find a game where the dealer has to stand instead of hit, this is a big advantage for you.
Read about the full list of game rules and find which ones are most advantageous to you. This helps you pick the optimal game for you. Of course, finding the best odds means you might have to memorize optimal play charts for multiple games. This is usually worth it, especially since many of the best variants are going to have similar suggestions.
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