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Blackjack Tips for Beginners

Author: Peter Falconer

Blackjack can be one of the most difficult casino games to play -- if you insist on playing on the "Expert" level.  A few simple tips, however, will allow you to increase your chance of walking away from the table as a winner.

The first is to keep in mind the following:

If you have 18 or under in your hand, you are probably going to lose.  If you have 19, you will most likely either win or tie.  If you have 20 or 21, you will probably win.  The key to all of that, of course, is the word "probably".  You can win with 12 in your hand or lose with 21.  Still, when deciding whether to take another card or not, keep those numbers in mind -- along with the single card you can see from the dealer's hand.

You will win if you have a higher total than the dealer without going over 21.  If you do bust (the term used for getting more than 21) you are going to lose no matter what the dealer gets.

If you have 11 or less, your decision is simple.  You take another card -- after all, you can not possibly bust no matter what you get.  At the worst, you hand will retain the same value (a 12, 13, 14, 15, or 16 will win or lose in any situation that even a 2 would).

If you have 17 or more, your decision is also simple.  Assuming you have not reached this total by including an ace, the chances of you busting are too high to risk taking another card.  It is better to let the dealer take his chances of either busting or winding up with a total equal to or lower than yours.

The difficult decision is what to do if you have 12 through 16.  Here, you have to take into consideration what you can see that the dealer has.  Keep in mind that if he winds up with 17 or more, he has to stick.  If he has less than 17 he has to take a hit (another car).  He has no choice in the matter.  Even if he sees that you have 21, if he gets 17 he can't take a card.  I won't get into all of the mathematics behind it, but if you see that the dealer has a 7 through 10 (or an ace) take a hit.  If he has anything else, stick -- and hope that he busts.

(Please note that the above assumes that you are not using an ace as an 11.  If you are, and it gives you 18 or less, consider it to be a 1 and take another card.)

When to split cards or double down

There will be times when it will be to your advantage to either split cards (if you have two cards of the same value) or to "double down" (double the size of your bet, knowing that you can only get one more card).  After you get some experience in playing blackjack you should look into the strategy of when to do this.  There is another article on this website which will give you more information about this.

Then, there are sucker bets.  These include "Insurance" and "Surrender".  It is true that an expert player will be able to recognize those rare cases where it is advantageous to accept them but over the long run anyone except an expert is certain to lose more than he will win with these bets.  When the dealer offers them, "just say no".

Some casinos, especially in Europe, offer various additional types of side bets.  In two words:  Avoid them.  Nobody, not even an expert, makes a profit on these.

One last tip:  Before playing blackjack for money, download a casino program which will allow you to play for free or try our free Blackjack games in our free games section. You are not going to make any money but you also won't lose.  Only after you become familiar with the game, and feel comfortable with it, should you start betting for real.