A Guide to the Rules of Blackjack
Before any cards are dealt, the player must wager. He does this by placing his bet in the designated space in front of his table position. The dealer then deals two cards to each of the players, and two to himself (one of the dealer’s cards is dealt face up and one is dealt facing down). Face cards (kings, queens and jacks) count as 10, ace counts as one or 11 (as the player chooses) and all other cards are counted at their face value.
If the player’s first two cards are an ace and a 10 or face card, he wins. However, if the dealer also has a blackjack, it is a standoff, as are all ties or pushes. A winning blackjack pays the player 3 to 2.
HIT or STAND
Hit means to draw another card (which the player signifies by scraping the table with his cards or a similar hand motion). Stand means no more cards (which the player signals by placing his cards under his wager or moving his hand in a horizontal direction. If the player hits and busts (goes over 21), he immediately turns his cards over and his wager is lost.
The player is allowed to double the bet on his first two cards and draw one additional card only to improve his hand.
If the first two cards a player is dealt are a pair, he may split them into two separate hands, bet the same amount on each and then play them separately. Aces receive only one additional card. After splitting, A-10 counts as 21 and not as blackjack.
If the dealer’s up card is an ace, the player may take insurance, a bet not exceeding one-half his original bet. If the dealer’s down card is a 10 or any face card, the player wins 2 to 1. Any other card means a win for the dealer.
Where permitted, a player may give up his first two cards and lose only one-half his original bet.
The dealer must draw on 16 and stand on 17. In some casinos, the dealer is required to draw on soft 17.
BSE = Basic Strategy Edge
H17 = Hit soft 17 (dealer must hit)
S17 = Stand on any 17 (dealer must stand)
DOA = Double On Any first two cards
D10 = Double on 10 or 11 only
DAS = Double After Splitting is allowed
RSA = Re-Splitting Aces is allowed
ESR = Early Surrender
LSR = Late Surrender
O/U = Over/Under 13 side bets are allowed
Blackjack Basic strategy
A playing strategy that is designed to minimize the house edge as much as possible without using techniques such as card counting, shuffle tracking, or dealer tells. Basic strategy is used as a foundation for card counting, but is also used by many non-counters.
Cards that are discarded without being dealt to the players. After the cards are shuffled by the dealer and cut by one of the players, one or more cards are ‘burned’ before any cards are dealt to the players.
After a ‘hit’, the player is said to ‘bust’ if the new card causes the player’s total to exceed 21.
A system for improving the player’s edge by assigning ‘weights’ to each card face and summing the card weights as each new card is turned face up. The ‘count’ indicates when the game is favorable for the player, so that the player can place larger bets and/or make changes in playing strategy.
A (usually colored plastic) card that is used to cut the cards after they have been shuffled by the dealer.
To double the initial bet and receive exactly one more card. The option to double is often allowed on the players first two cards only, although some casinos allow doubling after splitting a pair. Many Northern Nevada casinos allowing doubling only with a two-card total of 10 or 11. It is very rare to find games that allow doubling of hands that have more than two cards.
Double for less
To double down with less than 2X the original bet. Generally, when doubling is allowed, the player does not have to actually double his bet, but may increase it by any amount up to (but not more than) the original bet.
Surrender which is allowed even when the dealer has a natural. Very valuable to the player, but rarely offered by the casinos.
Taking insurance when holding a blackjack results in a net gain of one bet. Some casinos will allow the player to be paid without actually placing the insurance bet. This is called ‘taking even money’. (See ‘insurance’)
The first player at a table to act on his/her hand is said to be sitting at ‘first base’.
To bet the same amount on each successive hand.
Any hand that is not a soft hand.
Playing at a table that has no other players.
Drawing a new card to add to the player’s or dealer’s hand.
The dealer’s card that is placed face down.
A side bet, of up to 1/2 the original bet, that is offered when the dealer’s upcard is an ace. This bet pays 2:1 if the dealer has a natural 21. (Also see ‘even money’)
Surrender which is only allowed when the dealer does not have a natural. If the dealer has a natural 21 (blackjack), the player’s bet still loses in its entirety. If the dealer does not have a blackjack, the player loses half the bet and doesn’t play the rest of the hand.
A hand that totals 21 on the first two cards.
A rare bet that the first two player’s cards will total over 13, or under 13, when aces are counted as one.
Shuffling when the deck is favorable to the players, while avoiding a shuffle when the deck is unfavorable to the players.
A tie hand, the original bet is returned to the player.
A’box’ for holding the undealt cards, usually used in multi-deck games.
Any hand that includes an ace that can be counted as 11 without having the value of the hand exceed 21. It is always possible to draw one card to a soft hand without busting.
Hands that start with two cards of the same rank can be split to form two independent hands. This option is exercised by adding a new bet to the second hand, and these hands are played independently.
To place more than one bet before the cards are dealt.
To stop drawing cards.
Any hand that has a small chance of winning regardless of how the hand is played (usually 12 – 16).
The option to give back the player’s first two cards in exchange for a refund of 1/2 of the original bet (rarely allowed). Some hands, such as 16 vs. dealer’s 10, are so bad that surrender is less costly than playing the hand.
The last player at a table to act on his/her hand is said to be sitting at ‘third base’.
The dealer’s first card, dealt face up. The correct playing decision often involves some consideration of the dealer’s upcard.
What is the correct strategy for “multi action” blackjack?
Multi Action blackjack allows the player to place up to three bets simultaneously on the same blackjack hand. The player is dealt a single hand, and the three bets are played out against the same dealer upcard, but with different “drawn” cards for each bet. Many players feel nervous about hitting stiff hands against a high dealer’s upcard (7 or higher), since they will lose all three bets if they bust. However, basic strategy is COMPLETELY UNCHANGED for this game, and the correct strategy is no different than if the player had only a single bet at risk.
What is “Over/Under” Blackjack?
Caesar’s Tahoe introduced the Over-13 and Under-13 side bets that are allowed at some blackjack tables. These bets are based on the player’s total for the first two cards, when aces are counted as one. Over-13 bets win when the player’s cards total 14 or higher, while under-13 bets win when the player’s cards total 12 or under. Either bet will lose when the player’s total is exactly 13. These bets are placed at the same time as the blackjack bet, and usually the side bet can be no larger than the bet on the blackjack hand. Over/under games are usually dealt from a 6 or 8 deck shoe, and the player’s first two cards are always dealt face up. Although these are “sucker” bets for basic strategy players, with a house edge of 6% to 10%, special card counting strategies can be used to give the player a significant edge on these bets.
What is the counting strategy for Over/Under blackjack?
The card weights used for the Over/Under count are as follows: count +1 for Ace, 2, 3, and 4, and count -1 for tens and face cards. The deck becomes favourable for counts of +2 and above, and for counts -4 and below. Over-13 bets should be placed when the count is +3 and above. Under-13 bets should be placed when the count is -4 and below.
When playing Over/Under blackjack with this counting scheme, virtually all of the player’s profit comes from the over-13 and under-13 side bets. This counting scheme is very poor for playing the blackjack portion of the bet, and will only allow the player to play about even with the house on the blackjack bets. However, the over/under bets can be very profitable if the game has good penetration. A 6-deck over/under game with good penetration can give the player an advantage of 1.5% or more. Single deck over/under games with good penetration (very rare) can give the player an edge of over 4% when using the over/under count.
Snyder’s “Over/Under Report” discusses the over/under game in detail, and is available from RGE at an outrageous price.
Is Ken Uston dead?
Yes. He was found dead in a rented apartment in Paris, France, on September 19, 1987. The cause of death remains undetermined since an autopsy was not performed and the body was cremated. The local police found no evidence of foul play. Alcohol and drug abuse were strongly suspected by several people who knew Uston intimately. Reference: Stanley Roberts, “A Double Dose of Death”, Roberts’ Rules (column), _Gambling Times_, Jan./Feb., 1988, pp. 8, 41
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