Casino Gaming Institute

Live Blackjack

If you are new to the game of blackjack then one of the best ways to start out is by familiarizing yourself with the basic strategy of the game. Basic blackjack strategy charts can help make it easy to learn the basics of when to hit, when to stand, when to double down and when to split pairs in any situation.

Basic blackjack strategy charts are tables that list possible hand values on one axis and possible dealer up-card values on the other axis. Based on the value of your hand and the value of the dealer’s up-card you can easily determine which move you should make. Strategy charts are based upon a number of factors including the probability of the dealer busting or getting blackjack, the probability of the player busting or getting blackjack and a number of other factors.

You will see from looking at a basic chart that there are several hands that have easy and straightforward decisions that you should make every time. For instance, when you are dealt a hand worth a hard total of 17 through 21 (not including an Ace) you should always stand. On the other hand, when your hand is valued at 5, 6, 7 or 8 you should always hit. It doesn’t matter what up-card the dealer is showing, you should always stand or always hit in these instances.

Other decisions are not so black and white. For instance, when you have a hand with a value of 12 blackjack strategy charts will tell you to hit on everything except when the dealer is showing a 4, 5 or 6, in which case you should stand. The reason for this is that the dealer is likely to bust when he shows a 4, 5 or 6. By studying basic strategy charts you can learn the best decision to make in any hand of blackjack.

The above is a basic strategy table for 3 or more decks, dealer stands on soft 17, double on any 2 cards, double after split allowed, dealer peeks for blackjack and blackjack pays 3:2. Key:


This table could help when making decisions about the nest moves but it definitely does not guarantee the winning. The results depend on the general player’s knowledge and skills.


The Blackjack Strategy for Soft Hand

These hands are kind of fun because they can’t be busted with a one-card hit. The player can always just use the ace as a 1 instead.

But a lot of people are confused about soft hands because they don’t know what to do with the ace, and they tend to play soft hands conservatively. Generally, that’s a bad approach because soft hands represent a great chance to be aggressive with your play and to take advantage of some good doubling opportunities.

That’s why the fourth rule can and should be expanded. It states, “If you have a soft 13 (ace/2) through a soft 17 (ace/6), double against either a dealer’s 5 or 6; otherwise hit.” It should still apply to a soft 13 and soft 14 (ace/2 and ace/3), but for a soft 15 and soft 16 (ace/4 and ace/5) you can also double against a dealer’s 4. And if you happen to have a soft 17 (ace/6), then also double against a 3.

By now, I would guess you’re having a fit trying to remember that a soft 17 is an ace/6. For me, it was always easier to remember a soft-whatever hand as an ace combined with another card because that’s how you saw it dealt on the felt. So, as I was memorizing the rules, I would visualize the cards in my mind and would repeat to myself the following:

Ace/2 and ace/3 double against a 5 and 6; ace/4 and ace/5, double against 4 through 6; ace/6, double against 3 through 6; otherwise, hit.

The fifth rule goes like this: “If you have an ace/7 through ace/10, stand, except double an ace/7 against a dealer’s 3 through 6.” Okay, this rule needs some major revisions. First, we’re going to break it into two rules, so that we now have a total of ten blackjack rules; plus, we’re going to tweak that ace/7 (soft 18) part.

With an ace/7, most people simply stand. Their reasoning is, “Why mess with 18? It’s already a good hand, leave it alone.” Wrong. The only time you should stand with an ace/7 combination in your hand is against a dealer’s 2, 7 or 8.

When the dealer shows a 9, 10 or ace, you should take a hit. I know, I know, this is hard to do sometimes, especially when you consider that only three cards (3, 2 and ace) will help your hand, six cards (4 through 9) will hurt, and four ten values will leave you in the same position. But the math and the computer tell you this is the right thing to do. And years of experience playing blackjack tell me the same thing. Do it.

And the math also tells you to double an ace/7 against a 3 through 6. Yes, you double. Just like you do with an ace/6.

The proper play of a soft 18 is what separates the men from the boys, serious blackjack players from amateurs. And don’t let other players tell you otherwise. Every expert, every book written on the subject, every strategy chart will tell you the same thing: Double an ace/7 against a 3 through 6; stand against a 2, 7 or 8; hit against a 9, 10 or ace.

There is one exception when it comes to a single-deck game, but that involves a dealer’s ace, and remember, we’re still talking about 6-deck shoe games, so we’ll come to that exception later.

The last rule about standing with an ace/8 through ace/10 remains unchanged.

With a multiple-card soft 18, stand against a dealer’s 2 through 8; hit against a 9, 10 or ace.


Becoming a Blackjack Dealer

If you enjoy interacting with people you may find that a job as a blackjack dealer is a good choice for you. Blackjack dealers are responsible for running the game and making sure that all of the players have a good time. It is not an easy job but if you are good at it you can make a great deal of money, mainly through tips.

In general to become a blackjack dealer you will need to pass a course that will teach you the required skills. Most casinos will run their own schools or they will send new hires to a school that they work with. These courses generally run about two weeks. You can take a course if want before you go out looking for a job and having one may help you to get hired. However most casinos will hire the people they want and then send them to the school to learn to deal blackjack. They do this because personality is generally considered more important when hiring a dealer. Anybody can learn how to deal blackjack.

The reason that casinos usually hire based on personality is that a blackjack dealer will have an enormous amount of interaction with the public. For the casinos one of the most important thing is that the players have fun while they dump the casino chips back into the dealer’s tray. This is what will keep them coming back. Having a dealer who can keep the game fun is therefore critically important so an outgoing and friendly personality is critical. You are also going to have to deal with players who are upset; a lot of people get angry when they are losing. You need to be able to deal with this.

In most cases the base pay for a blackjack dealer will be quite low, usually around the minimum wage. However this amount can be greatly increased by tips. Most dealers make the bulk of their money in the form of types and a lot of them end up doing quite well. You will likely find that you have to work some very strange hours, casinos are open twenty four hours a day after all. You will also need to stay late if the casino is busy and there are not enough dealers. On the other hand if business is slow you will probably be sent home early so there are no guaranteed hours for a dealer.

In most cases a blackjack dealer is the entry level dealer position at the casino, mainly because it is such a simple game. If you do well at it you will likely be given a chance to learn to deal other games. Normally these other games will attract a higher pay rate because they are more complicated. They usually get better tips as well. Ultimately there are numerous other jobs that you can move into in the casino if you do well as a dealer.

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