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Quatloos! > Quatloosia! > Quatloosian Guide to Gambling > Blackjack

Introduction to Blackjack


When most people think of a casino, they think of Blackjack, which is also known as "21". Blackjack is -- by far -- the most popular "table" game in the casino. People play Blackjack because it is easy to learn, and they feel they have some control over their destiny, i.e., by good play they can actually "beat" the casino. Indeed, more books have been written about Blackjack than any other casino game, and on a Friday or Saturday night it is often difficult to wedge into a seat at any of the relatively low-dollar Blackjack tables.

And in the background, there is a feeling that Blackjack is the game that the average person can play to really whack the casino for the big pile of gold. After all, it is well known that people "count cards" in Blackjack, and that the casinos are so worried about card counting that they take elaborate measures to prevent the practice, and even bar players for life from playing Blackjack in their casinos.

Even if you can't -- or won't -- count cards, there is a feeling that if you just learn the "basic game" that you can pretty much play the casino even long through the night. Long enough, that is, until the casino showers you with free comps.

Sounds good? Sure . . . but just look at all the scams we talk about on our website. They sound good too. The truth is something else entirely.

In the next few pages, we'll show you the casino odds, and how the casino employs some very subtle tactics to entice you to make bad bets. We'll show you the true "basic game" and discuss why probably less than 1/2 of 1% of Blackjack players know the "Basic Game" well enough to do any real damages. We'll even teach you how to count cards, but explain to you why it isn't the Big Advantage that it is made out to be (hint: The casinos actually love card counting because the aurora that Blackjack is beatable causes lots and lots of people to play and lose more than the card counters could ever hope to make).

And, in the end, we'll show you some practical tips and things which will give you a higher likelihood of holding your own against the casino at everyone's favorite game.

So, have a seat, put down a chip . . . and let's play Blackjack!

The Rules

The Rules for Blackjack are pretty simple.

Face cards (Kings, Queens, Jacks) are worth 10. Other cards are worth their stated value, except for the Ace, which can be worth either 1 or 11.

First, you make your bet by placing your chips in a round circle on the table in front of your seat. Once you have made this bet, you cannot take it back off the table. You can bet any amount you like, subject to the table minimums.

Second, you get a card face up, but the Dealer gets a card face down. Then you get another card face up, and the Dealer also gets another card, but this one is face up. So, you each have two cards, both of yours exposed for all to see, and the dealer with one exposed card and one card which is face down so you don't know what it is.

Next, you make a decision -- based upon your two cards and the one card of the Dealer which is showing -- whether or not you want another card. If so, you move your index finger towards you, and the Dealer gives you another card face up. You then get to decide whether to take another card, and so forth and so on. You can take as many cards as you want, until you move your hand right and left to signify no more cards (called "stay"), or until the face value of your cards exceeds 21 ("goes bust").

If you stop short of 21, then the Dealer flips over the face down card, exposing its value. If the total of the dealer's two cards does not reach 17, then the Dealer must take another card (and another and so forth) until the Dealer either reaches at least 17 or goes Bust by exceeding 21.

If you lose, the Dealer simply takes all the chips you have bet, and then you bet again and another hand is played. If you win, the Dealer returns to you your original bet plus an equal amount, i.e., if you bet $5 then you get $10 back, for a $5 profit to you.

Blackjack, 21 or Natural

If the first two cards you draw are an ace and a face card or a ten (and thus equal 21), then you have what is known as a "Blackjack". If the Dealer doesn't also have a Blackjack, then the Dealer will return to you your original bet plus 1 and 1/2 times your original bet, i.e., if you be $10 then you get $25 back, for a $15 profit.

If the dealer draws a Blackjack in two cards, then you automatically lose unless you too have a Blackjack (in which case you have a "Push", see below).


If after the Dealer had drawn (and not busted), and your hand equals that of the Dealer (for example, you both have 17), then the situation is known as a "Push". In a Push, you simply get your original bet back, and neither you nor the Dealer wins.


If you are dealt a "Pair", i.e., two "8" cards, almost every casino will allow you to "split" the hand by making two separate bets. To do this, you say "split" and put down an additional bet, equal to the original bet. With the two 8 cards, for example, you have a terrible hand at 16. However, you can split the two 8s and have a chance of having two good hands (or at least one good hand and one bad hand) as opposed to the terrible 16.

Knowing when to split pairs is critically important in playing the casino close. More on splitting is discussed on our Splitting, Doubling Down, and Surrender page.

Doubling Down

After you and the dealer have each received two cards, you have the option of doubling your bet by placing more chips on the table equal to your original bet. The dealer will then deal you one more card (and only one more card -- you can't ask for more cards).

Knowing when to double down is critically important in playing the casino close. More on splitting is discussed on our Splitting, Doubling Down, and Surrender page.


Some casinos will let you "surrender" after both you and the dealer have been dealt two cards, meaning that you get to take half your bet back off the table, and you lose the other half of your bet.

Knowing when to surrender is critically important in playing the casino close. More on splitting is discussed on our Splitting, Doubling Down, and Surrender page.


If the dealer is showing an ace, you will be asked if you desire "insurance". Insurance is sort of a side bet that the dealer's other card which is face down is not a face card or a 10.

Insurance is statistically a lousy bet (a/k/a a "Sucker Bet"), so don't ever buy insurance (unless you are counting cards and have kept a good "ace count").

Variations in Rules

Every casino has slightly different Blackjack rules. Before you play Blackjack at any casino, you should first ask one of the Blackjack supervisors or pit bosses for the Blackjack rules (they are positively glad to provide these to gamblers as they help prevent later misunderstandings about the rules.

Note that the variations in the rules can substantially impact your long term gambling return. A casino which allows you to double down after splitting is giving you slightly better odds than a casino which doesn't -- and that "slightly better" can be very important over the long haul.


There are three Cold Hard Truths about Blackjack that even experienced Blackjack players don't know, or are unwilling to come to grips with. These three Cold Hard Truths absolutely must be addressed if you expect to become a truly sophisticated Blackjack player:

The Cold Hard Truth About Blackjack #1
You probably do NOT understand the Basic Game,
even though you think you do.

Ask anybody who has ever played Blackjack if they understand the "Basic Game", and they will say Yes. Ask any of the "high rollers" (i.e., those who regularly get comp'd in advance by the casinos) if they understand the "Basic Game" and they will also say Yes.

The "Basic Game" is NOT simply knowing the rules and playing in a sensible fashion. It is instead knowing all the precise combinations of plays to make, and applying them with robotic consistency, without any heed to whether the cards seem "hot" or "cold" or any other factors.

While everybody claims to know the "Basic Game" probably only about one-half of one percent (less than 1 in 200 players) even understand that there is a mathematical "Basic Game" or play anything close to it.

And if you don't play the "Basic Game", then you shouldn't play Blackjack at all, because the odds are tremendously in the House's favor and you have very little chance of winning.

The Cold Hard Truth About Blackjack #2
Card counting is the greatest thing for the CASINO.


The Cold Hard Truth About Blackjack #3
If your play is too good, the CASINO will cheat against you.

Our Other Pages on Blackjack

Books on Blackjack

See our Gamblers' Reading Room for books on Blackjack.

Return to the Quatloosia! Guide to Casino Gambling

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