Before you make your way to Las Vegas we recommend you pack some fancy clothes for a night out at one of our fantastic restaurants followed by some cocktails at a thumping nightclub. Also be sure to pack your sense of wonder before you take in a famous Las Vegas show, and take some time to learn how to win at blackjack in Vegas.
Next up on our ongoing “how to play” gaming video series: blackjack. It’s often the go-to game for beginner Las Vegas gamblers because basic blackjack strategies are easy to learn. In blackjack, players attempt to reach a score of 21—without exceeding it—before the dealer hits 17. You can win if you don’t bust and your total is higher than the dealer cards. Hitting exactly 21 can mean even bigger winnings. KLIKQQ
One ace and one 10 card or jack card automatically mean 21, so remember that going into the game. Watch for more information and tips, plus when to hit, split, hold and fold.
Remember, learning how to win at blackjack only works if KLIKQQ visit one of our Caesars properties:
Caesars Palace Table Games Table Games at the Cromwell Flamingo Las Vegas Table Games Harrah’s Las Vegas Table Games Table Games At The LINQ Paris Las Vegas Table Games Table Games At The Rio Rules Blackjack is played with one or more standard 52-card decks, with each denomination assigned a point value. The cards 2 through 10 are worth their face value. Kings, queens, and jacks are each worth 10, and aces may be used as either 1 or 11. The object for the player is to draw cards totaling closer to 21, without going over, than the dealer’s cards.
The best total of all is a two-card 21, or a blackjack. Blackjack pays 3-2—that is, a two-card 21 on a $5 bet will win $7.50 instead of the usual $5 even-money payoff on other winning hands. However, if the dealer also has a two-card 21, the hand pushes, or ties, and you just get your original bet back. But if the dealer goes on to draw 21 in three or more cards, your blackjack is still a winner with its 3-2 payoff.
The game is usually played at an arc-shaped table with places for up to seven players on the outside and for the dealer on the inside. At one corner of the table is a rectangular placard that tells the minimum and maximum bets at that table, as well as giving variations in common rules. For example, the sign might say, “BLACKJACK. $5 to $2,000. Split any pair three times. Double on any two cards.” That means the minimum bet at this table is $5 and the maximum is $2,000. Pairs may be split according to the rules described below, and if more matching cards are dealt, the pairs may be split up to three times for a total of four hands. The player may double the original bet (double down) and receive just one more card on any two-card total.
Most games today use four, six, or eight decks. After being shuffled, the cards are placed in a receptacle called a shoe, from which the dealer can slide out one card at a time. Single- or double-deck games, most common in Nevada, but also popular in Mississippi and some other markets, may be dealt from the dealer’s hand.
Play begins when you place a bet by stacking a chip or chips in the betting square on the table directly in front of you. After all bets have been placed, each player and the dealer are given two cards. In a shoe game, all player cards are dealt faceup, and the players are not permitted to touch their cards. In a single- or double-deck game dealt from the hand, cards are dealt facedown and players may pick them up with one hand. Either way, one of the dealer’s cards is turned faceup so the players can see it.
Once the cards have been dealt, players decide in turn how to play out their hands. After all players have finished, the dealer plays according to set rules: The dealer must draw more cards to any total of 16 or less and must stand on any total of 17 or more. In some casinos, the dealer will also draw to “soft” 17 — a 17 including an ace or aces that could also be counted as a 7. The most common soft 17 is ace-6, but several other totals, such as ace-3-3 or ace-4-2, on up to ace-ace-ace-ace-ace-ace-ace in a multiple deck game, are soft 17s.
Hit: If you hit, you take another card or cards in hopes of getting closer to 21. If the player’s total exceeds 21 after hitting, the player is said to “bust” and loses the bet. In shoe games, the player signals a hit by pointing to his cards or scratching or waving toward himself. In facedown games, the player signals a hit by scratching the table with the cards. Verbal calls to hit are not accepted — signals are used for the benefit of the security cameras above the table, so a taped record is on hand to settle any potential disputes.
Stand: If you stand, you elect to draw no more cards in hopes that the current total will beat the dealer. Signal a stand by holding a flattened palm over your cards in a faceup game or by sliding your cards under your bet in a facedown game.
Double down: You may elect to double your original bet and receive only one more card regardless of its denomination. Some casinos restrict doubling down to hands in which your first two cards total 10 or 11. Others allow you to double on any two cards. Double down by taking a chip or chips equal to the amount of your original bet and placing them next to your bet. In a facedown game, at this point you also need to turn your original two cards faceup.
Split: If your first two cards are of the same denomination, you may elect to make a second bet equal to your first and split the pair, using each card as the first card in a separate hand. For example, if you are dealt two 8s, you may slide a second bet equal to the first to your betting box. The dealer will separate the 8s, then put a second card on the first 8. You play that hand out in normal fashion until you either stand or bust; then the dealer puts a second card on the second 8, and you play that hand out.
Insurance: If the dealer’s faceup card is an ace, you may take “insurance,” which essentially is a bet that the dealer has a 10-value card down to complete a blackjack. Insurance, which may be taken for half the original bet, pays 2-1 if the dealer has blackjack. The net effect is that if you win the insurance bet and lose the hand, you come out even. For example, the player has 18 with a $10 bet down. The dealer has an ace up. The player takes a $5 insurance bet. If the dealer has blackjack, the player loses the $10 bet on the hand but wins $10 with the 2-1 payoff on the $5 insurance bet.
Many dealers will advise players to take insurance if the player has a blackjack. This can be done by simply calling out, “Even money” — because if the dealer does have blackjack, the player gets a payoff equal to the player’s bet instead of the 3-2 normally paid on blackjack.
These are the steps involved: Player bets $10 and draws a blackjack. Dealer has an ace up. Player makes a $5 insurance bet. Dealer has blackjack. The player’s blackjack ties the dealer’s, so no money changes hands on the original bet. But the $5 insurance bet wins $10 on the 2-1 payoff — the same as if the original $10 bet had won an even-money payoff.
As it happens, dealers who suggest this play are giving bad advice. Insurance would be an even bet if the dealer showing an ace completed a blackjack one-third (33.3 percent) of the time. But only 30.8 percent of cards have 10-values. Taking insurance is a bad percentage play, no matter what the player total, unless the player is a card counter who knows that an unusually large concentration of 10-value cards remains to be played.
Variations Not all blackjack games are created equal. Some variations in the rules are good for the player, and some are bad. The shifts in the house edge may look small, but they make large differences in a game in which the total house edge is less than 1 percent against a basic strategy player. Here are some common variations and their effect on the house advantage:
Double downs after splitting pairs permitted: A very good rule for the player, it cuts the house advantage by 0.13 percent. In areas where several casinos are within reasonable distance, the player should choose games in which doubling after splits is allowed.
Resplitting of aces permitted: At most casinos, the player who splits aces receives only one more card on each ace. But if the player receives another ace, some casinos allow the resulting pair to be resplit. This option cuts the house edge by 0.03 percent. It is rare to find a game that goes even further by allowing the player to draw more than one card to a split ace, an option that cuts the house edge by 0.14 percent.
Early surrender: When the dealer’s faceup card is an ace, the dealer checks to see if the down-card is a 10 to complete a blackjack before proceeding with play. If the house allows the player to surrender half the original bet instead of playing the hand before the dealer checks for blackjack, that is early surrender. A great rule for the player, and one that is rarely found, early surrender cuts the house edge by 0.624 percent. Surrender can easily be misused by beginners who haven’t mastered basic strategy.
Late surrender: Found more often than early surrender, but still not commonplace, late surrender allows the player to give up half the bet rather than playing the hand after the dealer checks for blackjack. This decreases the house edge by 0.07 percent in a multiple-deck game, 0.02 percent in a single-deck game.
Double-downs limited to hard 11 and hard 10: Some casinos do not allow the player to double on totals of less than 10 or on soft hands. The net is a 0.28-percent increase in the house edge.
Dealer hits soft 17: If, instead of standing on all 17s, the dealer hits hands including an ace or aces that can be totaled as either 7 or 17, the house edge is increased by 0.2 percent.
Blackjack pays 6-5: Common on single-deck games on the Las Vegas Strip, this game is a bankroll breaker for players. For example, a two-card 21 pays only $6 for a $5 bet instead of the usual $7.50, which adds 1.4 percent edge to the house—more than the usual house edge against the basic strategy of seasoned players in nearly all games with the normal 3-2 return.
Now that you know how to play, let’s explore some of the finer points of the game. In the next section, you will learn the etiquette and strategy of blackjack.
Counting Cards Some players seem to think counting cards means memorizing every card as it is played. If card counting were that difficult, nobody would have thought it was practical, even in the days when the basic game was single-deck with all the cards dealt out. And that kind of system certainly would have disappeared with the advent of the four-, six-, and eight-deck games that are common today. Others think counting cards is a license to print money — just memorize a counting system and go start winning. It’s not that easy.
What counters do is take advantage of the constantly changing odds in blackjack. In roulette or craps, the odds are mathematically fixed to be the same on every spin of the wheel or roll of the dice. In blackjack, the odds turn in favor of the player when an unusually large number of 10-value cards remain to be played. When the deck is rich in 10s, the player gets more blackjacks. So does the dealer, but players collect 3-2 on blackjacks while the dealer does not. In double-down situations, the percentage of the desirable 10-value cards for the player to hit is greater, and when the dealer’s faceup card is a “stiff,” or 2 through 6, it’s even more likely than usual that the dealer will bust.
Counters make no attempt to keep track of every card in the deck. They simply track the concentration of 10s and aces. When the deck is favorable to the player, they increase their bets. When the deck is favorable to the dealer, they decrease their bets.
The counting is done with a plus-and-minus system. Players who feel they are ready to tackle blackjack on an expert level might want to seek out the more complex variations suggested in the many blackjack books on the market. The most powerful systems track aces as well as 10s.
The most common counting system simply assigns a value of plus-one to 3s, 4s, 5s, and 6s and minus-one to 10s, jacks, queens, and kings. All other cards are treated as neutral. Every time a 3 through 6 is dealt, add one to the count. Every time a 10-value card is dealt, subtract one. The total is called the running count. For example, if ten 3s through 6s have been played and only four 10s, the running count is plus-six. This needs to be normalized to the number of decks in the game, which is done by dividing by the approximate number of decks remaining in the shoe or in the dealer’s hand. In a six-deck game, if the running count is plus-six and about three decks are left in the shoe, divide plus-six by three to get a “true count” of plus-two.
The final step is to adjust the bet to the count. In this simple version, if your beginning bet is one unit of $5, when the true count reaches plus-2, bet $10; at plus-4, bet $15, and at plus-6, bet $20.
A few words of warning: Because you are increasing your bet whenever the deck is favorable, playing with a counting system requires a much larger bankroll than betting the same amount every hand — flat betting. You may be perfectly comfortable buying 10 bets’ worth of chips — $10 at a $1 table or $50 at a $5 table — when flat-betting, but figure on at least 30 bets’ worth when counting cards.
Card counters, just like any basic strategy player, lose more hands than they win no matter how good they are. They hope to more than make it up by winning larger bets in favorable situations. But sometimes the favorable situations just don’t come — it’s possible to count down six-deck shoe after six-deck shoe without ever coming across a really favorable situation. And even on positive counts, sometimes the cards just turn the wrong way. There are no guarantees, not even for those who know the count and know what to do.
Finally, if the casino thinks you’re counting cards, it can take measures. Nowhere in the country is card-counting illegal, but in Nevada the courts have held that the casinos are private clubs entitled to enforce their own rules, and the casinos can bar counters from playing. In other states, players can’t be barred, but the casinos can increase the percentage of cards cut out of play to render the count less accurate. They can also take measures to make the player uncomfortable — such as having a supervisor behind the table stare directly at the player while another supervisor stands at the player’s shoulder from behind. If you’re going to attempt to count cards, learn at home first. Deal cards to yourself or practice on a computer. Keep practicing until you’re accurate every time, without moving your lips, with no brow-furrowing concentration, and without giving any other telltale signs of counting. Limit the size of your bets to a one-to-eight-unit range. A larger range will spark the casino’s suspicions. And limit the length of your sessions. Don’t play more than one hour in one place when counting cards.
If you wanted to increase you bet but do not count cards, you follow these guidelines:
A $5 bettor could begin a simple progression by increasing the bet to $10 after two wins in a row. After winning two consecutive hands at the $10 level, the player would increase to $15, and so on. After any loss, the player brings the bet back down to its original level.
The progression kicks in after two consecutive wins, so that the player never loses money on any sequence that begins with a win. If, after two $5 wins, the player loses the $10 bet, he is even. A third consecutive win guarantees a profit for the sequence.
Winnings can mount fast. If a player betting a flat $5 a hand wins six hands in a row, winnings total $30. The progression bettor has won two hands at $5, two at $10, and two at $15 for $60.
However, the system has two major problems. The progression usually ends with a loss on the largest bet in the sequence. And in any sequence that starts with two wins but shows a loss on the third hand, the progression bettor is worse off than the flat bettor. The progression bettor would be even after two $5 wins and a $10 loss; the flat bettor would show a $5 profit after two wins and a $5 loss. And a two-wins-and-a-loss sequence happens a lot more often than six consecutive wins.
Blackjack is a great game for casino novices. It is more engaging that a slot machine, but is much less complex than poker. Still, blackjack can be a favorite of card players at all experience levels. Now that you have the tools you need to become a better player, it’s time to hit the tables.
Originally Published: May 12, 2021
Blackjack FAQ How do you win blackjack? The object for the player is to draw cards totaling closer to 21, without going over, than the dealer’s cards. How do you play blackjack? After all bets have been placed, each player and the dealer are given two cards. Once the cards have been dealt, players decide in turn how to play out their hands. After all players have finished, the dealer plays according to set rules: The dealer must draw more cards to any total of 16 or less and must stand on any total of 17 or more. Is blackjack easy to play? Blackjack is a great game for casino novices. Pkv games It is more engaging than a slot machine, but is much less complex than poker. How popular is blackjack? Blackjack is by far the most popular casino table game in the United States, with more players than craps, roulette, and baccarat combined. Is blackjack just luck? Played well, blackjack becomes a game of skill in a casino full of games of chance. Studies of millions of computer-generated hands have yielded a strategy for when to hit, when to stand, when to double, when to split.