An Overview of Blackjack Strategy
An Introduction to Blackjack
Before we get to discussing about blackjack strategy, it would be prudent to give a brief introduction to the game itself. Blackjack, also called 21, is one of the most popular games at casinos, both traditional as well as online. The game is not just purely about luck; you need to have some basic skill and a utilitarian grasp at least of math to be able to win.
Winning at blackjack, or rather ensuring that you do not lose too frequently is possible with proper knowledge of blackjack strategy. Knowing the different strategies is important as they help you to come up with ways of beating the house advantage. How does it achieve this? Basically, a blackjack policy that works helps lower the advantage that the casino enjoys over its players. In some cases the house advantage falls drastically, plunging to a measly 1% from 7-8%.
With this brief introduction to the game, we are now ready to discuss and learn about blackjack strategy.
An Introduction to Blackjack Strategy
As mentioned earlier, strategy plays a crucial role in determining your fate at blackjack. Lack of knowledge about strategies in blackjack is one of the surest ways of ending up losing more than you win. There are a few different strategies you can adopt while playing blackjack. These are:
•Blackjack basic strategy •Card counting •Tournament strategy •Strategy based on composition •Strategy that uses techniques like shuffle tracking
In this article, we will discuss the first three strategies.
Basic Blackjack Strategy
Basic blackjack strategy is what you need to learn first before you go on to pick up any other strategies or techniques, as the name speaks for itself. This strategy involves math in the form of values and systems in a chart that gives you, on the basis of probability, the different play options available for each blackjack scenario. You have basic strategy for both single and multiple deck blackjack.
To put basic blackjack strategy into practice you should know how to use the basic strategy charts. These are charts that are easily available and many casinos allow you to consult them during play. The chart itself is simple in terms of representation – the left vertical column is your hand and the top horizontal one is the dealer’s. All you need is to map the two values for each hand to get an accurate idea of how to handle a hand correctly.
Basic blackjack strategy tells you the different actions to take during the course of a game. These actions are represented as abbreviated terms in the strategy charts. H stands for ‘hit’, S means ‘stand’, D stands for ‘double if allowed, else hit’, while the expansion for Ds is slightly different and refers to ‘double if allowed, else stand.’ The abbreviation P stands for ‘split’, H/P stands for ‘split if you can double after split, else hit’, H/R stands for ‘surrender if possible, else hit’, P/R stands for ‘surrender if allowed, else split’, and S/R stands for ‘surrender if allowed, else stand.’
To use basic blackjack strategy, you need to know it thoroughly so you do not have to keep referring to it each time, as that is amateurish and, more importantly, can be a distraction.
Blackjack Card Counting
Another important strategy to move on to, once you have learned thoroughly the basic blackjack strategy, is card counting. Card counting has a very important place in blackjack as it allows you to predict when you actually have an edge over the house. Simply put, you list out the rate of occurrence of high cards versus the low cards in a hand.
Ideally, if you are counting cards, you would want to have more high cards compared to the low cards in the card deck, as that gives you a very good chance of ending up with a 21 or at least somewhere quite close to it. Not only that, it also means the dealer is not safe from going bust.
Card counting is not easy; it requires practice and also skill, not to mention a very sharp eye and some basic knowledge of math. Card counting can be traced back to the year 1962 when Dr. Edward O. Thorp brought out Beat the Dealer, a massively popular book that listed out all the things involved in card counting. However, Thorp was not the pioneer of card counting, though he certainly was one of the first to write about this system.
Others who had earlier used such a system before Thorp wrote about it included Joe Bernstein and Jesse Marcum. A rudimentary card-counting system came into being as early as 1957, five years before Thorp’s book, thanks to the efforts of four people – Herbert Maisel, James McDermott, Wilbert Canteny, and Roger Baldwin. Together called The Four Horsemen, these men used just ordinary technology, in the form of mechanical calculators, to create the system.
As mentioned earlier, you do not have to be a mathematical genius to figure out card counting and how it works. Basically the counter attributes a specific value to each card as it appears in the game, ranging from +1 to -1 with the zero thrown in between. The +1 value is for cards valued between 2 and 6, the 0 value is for cards between 7 and 9, and the -1 is for the 10 and the picture cards, i.e. 10 through A.
There are different kinds of card counting systems in use today. Some of the most prominent and effectively used are:
•KO Count •Hi-Opt I Count •Hi-Opt II Count •Hi-Lo Count
You must understand that card counting is not easy; it never is, and it will take you a while to get used to the technique you need to adopt for a specific game.
Blackjack Tournament Strategy
The strategy you would adopt while playing in a blackjack tournament is very different from the ones that you regularly employ. Basically, this difference arises out of the fact that the way you play tournament blackjack is different from how you play the regular online blackjack game.
The major difference that you see between tournament blackjack strategy and the other strategies you use in games is that you play against the other players in a tournament, not against the casino. Besides, there is a difference in the overlay as well.
Tournament blackjack strategy is designed to enable you to play strongly and build a strong foundation so you can press for a win. Basically, it teaches you to up your game and take chances if you are trailing the others.
Another system, which constitutes an effective blackjack strategy, is the Contrarian Strategy, a strategy that brought very good results for Ken Smith. Per this strategy, you need to bet the opposite of what your opponent throws at you.
So with the knowledge of the rules of Blackjack and perfect Blackjack strategy played right, can cut the house odds considerably.