Kelly's Blackjack Tips

The Blackjack MythLet's start with a fact, casinos are not in the business of giving away money. Almost everyone that plays blackjack is familiar with the basic strategy table listed below, ie hit on 16 stand on 17. If it worked everyone would be winning and the casinos wouldn't have blackjack tables, AT ALL. Many players believe that if a player sitting at their table doesn't follow the table, it decreases their advantage. This is not true. There may be times when a player sitting at third base hits his 16 when the dealer is showing a 5 and this player ends up busting and the dealer ends up with a good hand whereas if this player did not take the hit the dealer would have busted and everyone at the table would have won. People tend to remember these bad incidences but in reality these kinds of actions have just as much chance of helping the other players as hurting them. So shut the fuck up.  
Blackjack  Rules of the GameObject of the GameThe player attempts to beat the house, represented by the dealer, by obtaining a hand total that is equal to or less than 21 so that his total is higher than the dealer's.
Card Values
Number of Players
Number of Decks
Blackjacks
The Deal
Player's Action
If the player wants another card, he can inform the dealer for a hit. In a face up game where the players do not touch the cards, the player does this by scratching the surface of the felt with his finger(s). In a face down game where the players hold their initial two cards, the player would use his cards to scratch the felt. The player may take as many hits as he wants as long as he doesn't "bust".
A player may double the amount of his initial bet after looking at his first two cards. This is referred to as doubling down and once this is done the player receives one additional card only. In face up games the player informs the dealer that he wishes to double down by placing an additional bet equal to his initial bet in the betting circle and announce "double down". In a face down game the player would also turn his first two cards over. The dealer would then deal one card to the player (face up in a face up game, face down in a face down game) and then move on to the next hand. Many casinos place restrictions on when a player may double down. Some casinos only allow doubling down on hand values of 10 or 11, some do not allow doubling down on soft hands, some do not allow doubling down after splitting. The less restrictions placed on doubling down, the more advantageous it is for the players. If a player's initial two cards are identical in value, he may split them by betting an amount equal to his original bet on the second card. He then draws additional cards on each of the split pairs, playing each hand (from his right to his left) in turn. Most casinos place a limit on the number of times a hand may be split, usually from 1 to 3. When aces are split, a player is normally permitted to draw only one additional card on each ace. Some casinos allow the player to surrender his first two cards. When a player surrenders his hand, he immediately gives up half his bet without playing his hand out. On early surrender, the player gives up half his bet regardless of whether the dealer has a blackjack or not. On late surrender if the dealer has a blackjack the player loses his entire bet.
Busting
Push

Basic Strategy TableThe basic strategy table shows the most common play, the first column represents the player's hand total or hand composition. The top section of the table represents hard hands, the middle section represents soft hands, and the last section represents pairs. The top row of each table represents the dealer's exposed card. The range of the player's hand values for the hard hands starts at 8 and ends at 16 because it is always best to hit a value below 8 and stand on a value above 16. If the house rules allow surrender, you should surrender 15 versus a dealer's 10 and surrender 16 versus a dealer's 9, 10, and ace. It should also be noted that a player should never make an insurance bet.
Maximize your winnings at BlackjackA skilled player can actually gain an advantage over the casinos playing blackjack under most house rules. Here is how:
Make sure you know the rules of the game before you sit down to play. Although the basic rules for playing blackjack are the same, there are slight variations between different casinos. The rules that govern blackjack play are known as the house rules.
Statistically speaking, there exists only one best action a player can take for each of the possible hands he can receive versus each possible upcard the dealer may have. This set of actions is known as the Basic Strategy. It is very important for the player to become very familiar with the basic strategy bacause all winning systems are based on it. Also, a player playing perfect basic strategy is playing very close to even with the house, usually at less than a 1% disadvantage and in some cases may even be playing at a slight advantage if the house rules are favorable. You should review the basic strategy tables that corresponds to the playing conditions that you plan to play under. The number of decks used in a game and the house rules have a slight effect on the basic strategy.
Even the best blackjack players in the world go through losing periods. It's a statistical fact and there is nothing a player can do to avoid them. Many good players are not familiar with this "element of ruin" and make bets that are much too large in proportion to their total bankroll then they should. Inevitably they will lose their entire bankroll, even if they make all the correct playing decisions, and wonder what went wrong. A wise player will always leave room for a certain amount of ruin. A good rule of thumb is to use a betting unit that is 1/100 of your total bankroll. For example, if you have a bankroll of $1000, your betting unit would be $10. If you are playing with a 1.5% advantage over the house, there will only be about a 5% chance that you will lose your entire bankroll. As you increase your bet size, you increase your chances of winning more money but at the same time you increase your chance of losing your entire bankroll. Conversely, if you decrease your bet size, you decrease your expected winnings but at the same time you decrease your chance of losing your entire bankroll.
Most people who play blackjack do not go beyond basic strategy. For the serious player, however, there are ways to increase your advantage over the basic strategy player. It has been proven that by counting cards you can gain an additional edge and actually maintain an advantage over the casinos. There are many different counting systems, however, and generally speaking, the more complex it is, the more of an advantage it gives the player. But it does not have to be complex in order for you to gain an advantage over the house, and you should note that it only takes one or two mistakes in every 100 hands played to cancel out your advantage. Therefore it is much better to play a simple system perfectly than it is to play a complex system almost perfectly. A very simple count definition that works is to assign the value of 1 to the cards 2, 3, 4, 5, 6; assign the value of 0 to the cards 7, 8, 9; and assign the value of 1 to the cards 10, Ace. This is called the HILO system. With these values assigned to the cards, by keeping a running count as the dealer deals the cards out, you can determine when the deck is favorable and when it is unfavorable. To keep the running count you only need to keep track of one number. When the cards are shuffled the running count should be reset to 0. As the dealer deals cards you add the count value of the card to the running count. If, for example, the dealer deals a 7, 10, 2, 5, 9 using the count definition mentioned above the running count would be: 0 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 0 = 1. When the running count is a positive number it means that the remaining cards are more favorable then average for the player. A negative number would mean that they are less favorable then average.
Once you have learned how to keep the running count and can do it fast enough to keep up with the dealer, it is time for you to learn how to calculate the true count. The true count is the running count divided by the number of decks of undealt cards left. The true count gives a better indication of how favorable or unfavorable the remaining cards are than the running count and only needs to be calculated when you want to perform some action (such as betting) based on it. Since it would require too much counting to keep track of the number of cards that have been dealt, the best way to estimate the number of decks that remain is to estimate the number of decks in the discard stack and subtract this number from the total number of decks used in the game. Usually an estimation within 1/2 to 1/4 deck is accurate enough to produce good results. The more decks used in the game the less accurate this estimate needs to be.
The single factor that a player can do with the count that yields him the biggest advantage is to base his bet size on it. As the true count goes up, so should your bet size. As the true count goes down, your bet size should also go down. Over the long run you're going to lose more hands then you win, therefore in order to make money at this game you must bet more money when you have a higher expectancy of winning. Your maximum bet should be at least three times that of your minimum bet. The greater the range is between your maximum bet and your minimum bet the bigger your expected winnings will be, however casino pit bosses know that the game of blackjack can be beaten using this technique and you may get some casino "heat" if your betting range gets too big. Casino heat can come in many forms. The first thing that usually happens is that the pit bosses start watching you. If it looks to them that you are counting cards and varying your bet size on this count they may take a number of actions. They may change dealers, tell the dealer to deal faster, tell the dealer to shuffle more frequently, and you may even get barred from the casino.
You should know that you can gain an advantage over the house without doing this, however the people who either make a living playing this game or many people who use this game to enhance their income use the count to adjust their playing strategy to gain an additional edge. Although the basic playing strategy defines the best possible action to take for each possible situation when all you know is your hand and the dealer's upcard, if you know additional information it may be beneficial for you to make some deviations from this strategy. If, for example, you are counting cards and you are dealt a 15 versus the dealer's 2. There is only one card left to be dealt and your count is 2. This tells you that both the dealer's hole card and the remaining undealt card have to be 2  6 (if the count definition used is the HILO). Basic strategy dictates that you stand, but since you know that it is impossible to bust, you hit. This is an extreme example but it demonstrates how the count may be used to alter your playing strategy.
This is a very important point, but obviously cannot be done if there are no other casinos nearby. The reason that this is so important lies in the fact that the house rules dictate what your advantage is. The better the house rules are, the more money you can expect to win in the long run. Also, there is a great disparity of house rules between the casinos, even between casinos next door to each other. One way of putting this concept into perspective is to think of playing blackjack as an investment. You want to find the casino which has the best chance of the highest return on the money you risk.
This goes back to the fact that you can maintain only a slight edge over the house and it doesn't take many mistakes to lose that edge. As fatigue sets in, players tend to make more mistakes. This may happen without you even knowing it.
The reason most casinos offer free drinks to the gamblers is because they know that it can adversely affect their judgment. Drink coffee or some other nonalcoholic drink.  
More Blackjack Myths, Facts, and Playing Suggestions  

