No other casino game has the attraction of blackjack. It’s an easy game to learn how to play, there’s nothing to memorize, so it can also be the fastest way to win in the casino.
The first person to understand blackjack properly was the blackjack guru, Dr. Edward Thorp, a brilliant statistician and mathematician. His carefully written books completely changed the nature of blackjack gambling.
His great idea was to show that when the deck is low in 5’s, the player has a higher advantage than with any other card. He also discovered that when the deck has a shortage of 9’s, 10’s and aces, the player is at a disadvantage.
A shortage of 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5’s, 6’s, 7’s and 8’s, however, means the player actually gains an advantage.
When Dr. Thorp, Professor of Mathematics at the University of California, first published his strategy in 1962, the system was so successful that the Las Vegas casinos were forced to change their rules!
It can be tempting sometimes to ignore basic strategy but overall, it’s a disaster to forget the basics. Some experienced card counters may ignore basic strategy from time to time. That’s because the dedicated shuffle tracker or card counter develops a knack of knowing what card is coming next.
They will hit when basic strategy tells them to stand because they know there’s a low value card coming up.
Inexperienced players need plenty of practice to avoid mistakes; if you are in this category, it’s better that you always try to follow basic strategy because you can’t afford hunches.
The idea of basic strategy when playing blackjack is to gain an advantage over the house. If you know basic strategy, you can give yourself a much better chance of winning. It’s not just about what to do, it’s very much about what not to do.
Basic strategy suggests that there is one best action a player can take for every hand he receives versus every possible upcard the dealer may have. All winning systems are based on it, so it’s wise to become familiar with it.
A player playing close to perfect basic strategy is playing even with the house, often at less than a 1% disadvantage. You should look upon basic strategy as the optimum way to play your hand, if you are not counting cards. It’s a very precise discipline.
Just by keeping to the rules of basic blackjack, you can neutralize your disadvantage and considerably reduce the casino’s edge.
To understand basic strategy, computers were used to simulate millions of hands and work out the best possible play. Ultimately, it provides the player with a key to play in a mathematically correct way against the dealer’s upcard.
When you start playing any game of blackjack, the casino’s edge is at least 5.5 to 5.75%. This means over the long term, they cannot fail to win. The figure just quoted includes the 3-2 payoff for blackjacks you may get, so the house is in a strong position. The beauty of basic strategy is to show you a way to undermine the casino’s edge.
Correct hitting and standing, for example, decreases the house edge by as much as 3.25%. Correct doubling reduces it by a further 1.5%. Correct pair splitting reduces it yet again by 0.5%. Add these together and that seemingly insurmountable house advantage of around 5.75% has shrunk to 0.5%.
You can get this down even lower by playing in casinos with favorable rules such as single deck games, where the dealer must stand on soft 17, and where players are allowed to double down after pair splitting. Here, the player has the edge! (This has been calculated at up to 0.1%.)
If you’re playing online blackjack, one of the best ways to start learning is to spend some time playing for fun instead of real money. What many people don’t appreciate is that playing casino games “for fun”, i.e. without spending any money on bets, is almost as exciting as the real thing. By getting plenty of practice first, you will do better when you begin playing for real money.
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