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Blackjack - the game and basic strategy

Unlike roulette, for example, where luck is the major factor and - rather than actual skill - the player's 'ability' is measured purely on money management, blackjack is a thinker's game.

Blackjack - the game and basic strategy Although we have no more control over what cards will come next than we do over where the ball will land to rest on the roulette wheel, here we have an incredibly useful factor in the information provided by the cards we (and the dealer) are initially dealt. Combine this with the various betting options available at this stage, and the very real skill factor assumes just about as much importance as the luck.

Despite its apparent simplicity blackjack is nevertheless a fascinating game, and is therefore popular with internet players who opt for the online casino experience. Many players who approach these games with the opinion that gambling is generally down to luck (a negative attitude, perhaps but not, in the main, an unrealistic one) are bound to lose in the long-run, but these players will have fun, might get lucky and tend to move about the casino(s) from one game to another.

But it is the more serious player who runs the risk of losing more money. Unfortunately, where there is an outlet for players to use their skill through making accurate decisions, there is also plenty of scope for us to make mistakes, which is why no casino operator will lose any sleep over the accumulated results of blackjack.

Of course even if we have serious hopes of ending a session of online gambling with a profit, the time spent in front of the screen should be stress-free and relaxing (fun). After a hard day at work, or if we are simply looking to wind down, then the situation is not necessarily conducive to consistently making wise decisions literally every minute. And even if we are genuinely trying, to achieve a certain level of play requires a certain amount of effort and aforethought - and time. Thus the vast majority of players will, on average and after a sufficient period of play, come out at least slightly behind. The beauty of the game for the casino is that most of their would-be discerning customers believe they are playing according to logic and losing only because of the house edge, when the truth is that, collectively, incorrect play over many hands simply sends the money in the wrong direction. So many players are attracted to blackjack because of the near negligible house edge, but the way the game tends to be played considerably accentuates the casino's advantage. These articles are guides to online gambling and not a 'how to win' manual, and there is certainly nothing wrong in either playing these games for the thrill of it or trying out strategies in a game that involves little risk compared with almost all the others we are presented with (as long as this is done within sensible limits, of course). However, those of you who prefer to approach blackjack with a view to at least minimizing errors might consider some kind of strategy based on certain established fundamentals.

With so much literature and facts and figures on the subject so readily available it is not too difficult to find something that suits and, since we are talking about real money here, we would recommend putting some thought into the game rather than treating blackjack as a game of chance or attempt to reinvent the theory. Thanks in the main to computer simulation programs that have played out literally billions of hands, the correct strategies regarding the relationship between the player's cards and the dealer's up card (and doubling, splitting etc.) are now well documented. It pays to study these, but nowadays you can simply have the relevant tables in front of you (such information is even allowed in a B&M casino), while online gamblers can also take advantage of hints provided by the casino itself.

By using sound basic strategy alone we are able to significantly reduce the casino's edge to a fraction of a percent.

Blackjack Basic Strategy

The house edge in blackjack, 5.58 per cent, comes from a combination of two factors, the most important being the fact that with the player copying the dealer's 'forced' strategy (typically hitting a total below 17 and standing on the rest) the likelihood of this or that total being reached on either side of the table is (obviously) the same, but whenever the player busts he loses. This house advantage is tempered to some extent by the 3-2 odds paid on (uncontested) blackjack.

Fortunately for the player the otherwise significant house advantage begins to further fall thanks to the choices he is offered and that are not available to the dealer. For example just by electing to stand on any total between 12 and 17 when the dealer shows a low up card already reduces the 5.58 to 2.38, while introducing the facility to double on certain totals, split pairs, re-split and so on brings the player's disadvantage down to practically negligible levels.

Consequently, given these comparatively favorable circumstances for the player it seems appropriate to single out blackjack for further, albeit limited, consideration in terms of finding a sensible approach to playing online. This is where Basic Strategy comes into play, whereby the player uses a set of guidelines to help steer through the blackjack jungle, thus avoiding sometimes unlikely hazards that befall most players, including the well intentioned, independent yet - ultimately - consistent losers.

Don't forget that it is absolutely imperative to avoid drifting away from the basic strategy if we are to maintain an acceptably level playing field - experimenting or going against tried and tested practice to 'spice' up a playing session serves only to swing the balance very much back in the casino's favor.

Remember, too, that like any other casino game we should remember to adhere to general rules such as limiting and monitoring the bank-roll or the amount of time for a single session, stopping when tired and so on. But with blackjack requiring a certain level of concentration - at least if our chances of success are to be kept to a maximum - it makes sense to be extra vigilant. The effects of alcohol or tiredness, for example, are obviously going to make a bigger (negative) difference to blackjack results than would be the case playing the slots.


Published on 07/31/2007

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