Blackjack is often stated as being a game of skill. Most people don't
break this down and try to understand what it means. As mentioned on the
introductory pages of this site, blackjack is all about decisions. Those
decisions are directly mappable to either profit or loss. Ever since mathematicians
started looking seriously at the game (back as far as the fifties) there
has been no doubt that your decisions define your success, and as such,
there is a smart way to play.
For the same reasons it's not practical to determine a 'house edge' value
for blackjack, since it changes with each player, each time they go to
play. If you see a house edge quoted online for a particular set of game
characteristics (something that mentions a house edge number while stating
the number of decks in the shoe, and some other variables) it is most
likely referring to the approximate house edge you could attain if you
played with perfect strategy. What's perfect strategy? Are some blackjack
strategies better than other, if the edge is different for everyone? Let's
talk about that now. There are generally three types of blackjack strategy:
basic strategy (statistically based), bankroll management strategies (monetarily
based), and counting strategies (cheat, cheat, cheat based).
Basic blackjack strategies
Basic strategy in blackjack is often the heading of a page that has nothing
but a big chart on it, leaving many novices quite confused. That chart
is actually a map of decisions. Along the left column there are numbers
and letters written like this (A, 3), which needs to be read as Ace, 3.
These represent your initial two-card hand. Along the top of the chart
are single numbers and letters corresponding to the dealers up-card. If
you were to pick the Ace, 3 row, and follow it over to the right until
you reach the 8 column, you would see the letter H. That H means hit,
and this is logical because if the dealer is showing an 8 and all you
have is an Ace and a 4, of course you want to hit.
To read up on basic strategy and find a chart, visit the basic strategy
Bankroll management strategies
In my opinion, the best strategies (beyond utilizing basic strategy) are
those that concentrate on your bankroll. Bankroll management is probably
the one variable that gets forgotten too early as people develop their
personal blackjack strategies. As you can see on my blackjack
strategy page, I prefer a strategy that is completely bankroll oriented.
This is the only way to guarantee that you will either walk away a winner,
or walk away not too big a loser. You can't reasonably ask for more than
that, to Fat Tony, walkin' away well is what it's all about.
Card counting strategies
If you're up for something a little more sophisticated, and you think
you've found the casino to try it in, card counting strategies can be
deadly effective. Honestly though it's difficult to pull card counting
off properly anymore, in part because most casinos reshuffle the shoe
often, and that shoe has six or more decks in it. This was a much more
reasonable option back in the eighties when you could find a single deck
game they would burn through most of before shuffling again.
To learn some rudimentary counting based blackjack strategies check out
our dedicated card counting page. You
may also want to read up on common bad