Game Guide

Unleash your inner strategist with this thrilling casino game! Blackjack isn't just a game of chance - it's a battle of wits. Mastering the basics and developing a solid strategy can tip the odds in your favor, whether you're playing at a physical casino or online. Card counting can give you an edge in traditional casinos, but it becomes more challenging online. Ready to dive in and conquer the house? Let’s start with the essentials and unlock the secrets to beating the odds!

Blackjack Rules
How to Play Blackjack as a Beginner


The goal of blackjack is to have a hand value as close to 21 as possible without exceeding it, and to beat the dealer's hand.

Card Values

  • Number cards (2-10): Face value
  • Face cards (J, Q, K): Value of 10
  • Aces: Value of 1 OR 11, whichever benefits the hand

Step-by-step Process

  1. Place Bets: Players place their bets before cards are dealt.
  2. Deal: Each player and the dealer receive two cards (only one of the dealer's cards is visible).
  3. Player's Turn: When the dealer signals your turn, you can:
    • Hit: Take another card.
    • Stand: Keep your current hand.
    • Double Down: Double your bet, take one more card.
    • Split: If the initial two cards are a pair, split them into two hands.
  4. Dealer's Turn: The dealer reveals their hidden card and must hit until reaching 17 or higher.
  5. Outcome: The hand closest to 21 without busting wins. If your hand exceeds 21, you bust and lose the bet. If the dealer busts, all remaining players win.


  • If your hand is closer to 21 than the dealer's, you win.
  • If the dealer's hand is closer, you lose.
  • If both hands tie, it’s a push, and your bet is returned.

House Rules Variations
in Blackjack

Dealer Standing on Soft 17

In some blackjack games, the dealer must stand on a soft 17 (a hand with an Ace counted as 11). This rule is advantageous for players because it limits the dealer's ability to improve their hand.

Resplitting Aces

Certain casinos allow players to resplit Aces if they draw another pair after an initial split. This rule can increase the chances of winning but varies between casinos.

Surrender Options

Surrender allows players to give up half their bet to exit a hand early. There are two types: early surrender (before the dealer checks for blackjack) and late surrender (after the dealer checks). This option helps minimize losses in unfavorable situations.

Understanding these house rule variations can help you refine your strategy and improve your overall performance in blackjack.

Blackjack Table

Blackjack table

The best tables use a single deck, allow doubling down without restrictions, permit resplitting, and offer a surrender option.

Betting Circles
Each player has a designated area to place their bets before the cards are dealt.

Dealer's Area
The dealer stands behind the table with a chip tray and two card slots, one for the hole card and one for the upcard.

Card Shoe
A device holding multiple decks of cards, making dealing easier and reducing the chance of card counting.

Insurance Line
A separate line where players can place insurance bets when the dealer’s upcard is an Ace.

Payout Information
The table typically displays rules like "Blackjack Pays 3 to 2" and "Insurance Pays 2 to 1."

Rule Indicators
Signs indicating specific house rules, such as "Dealer Must Stand on All 17" or "Dealer Hits Soft 17."

Understanding these elements helps players navigate the game more effectively.

2 Blackjack Game Strategies

Below are 2 Blackjack Strategies: EZ Strategy by Henry Tamburin and Lucky 13 Strategy by Frank Scoblete. Both are recommended and can be used for online games or land-based.

EZ Strategy
by Henry Tamburin

Player's Hand against Dealer Upcard

  • 12 to 16: Stand on 2-6, hit on 7-Ace
  • 17 to 21: Stand
  • 10 or 11: Double down on 2-9
  • Soft 13 to 17: Hit, except double down on 5, 6
  • Soft 18 to 21: Stand, except double down on soft 18 and 5, 6
  • 2,2; 3,3; 6,6; 7,7; 9,9: Split on 2-7; stand on 9,9 against 7
  • 8,8; Ace, Ace: Always split

Lucky 13 Strategy
by Frank Scoblete

  • Never take insurance.
  • Always split aces and eights.
  • Always stand on 17 or more.
  • Always hit 12-16 against a dealer 7 or more.
  • Always hit 12 against a dealer 2 or 3.
  • Always stand on 12 against a dealer 4-6.
  • Always stand on 13-16 against a dealer 2-6.
  • Always hit totals of 11 or less against all dealer upcards.
  • Always double on 11 against dealer 10 or lower.
  • Always double on 10 against dealer 9 or lower.
  • Always stand on A7, A8, A9 against all dealer upcards.
  • Always hit on A2, A3, A4, A5, A6 against all dealer upcards.

Advanced Strategies
Mastering Blackjack

Card Counting

Card counting is a technique where players keep track of the ratio of high to low cards remaining in the deck. This helps them make informed decisions on betting and playing based on the likelihood of favorable cards appearing.

It involves tracking the ratio of high cards (10s, face cards, and Aces) to low cards (2-6) in the deck. One popular method is the Hi-Lo system, where cards are assigned values:

  • 2-6: +1
  • 7-9: 0
  • 10-Ace: -1

Players keep a running count, increasing bets when the count is positive (indicating more high cards are left) and decreasing when it's negative.

MIT Card Counting Group and the Movie "21"

The MIT Blackjack Team was a group of students and former students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who used card counting techniques to win millions in casinos during the 1980s and 1990s. They operated as a highly organized team, employing mathematical strategies to gain an edge over the house.

Their exploits were the inspiration for the 2008 movie "21", which tells the story of a group of students trained to count cards and win big in Las Vegas, highlighting the tension and excitement of their high-stakes adventures.

Shuffle Tracking

Shuffle tracking involves observing the shuffle process to predict the distribution of cards. By tracking clumps of high and low cards, players can gain an edge in upcoming hands.

This technique requires careful observation and understanding of the shuffle process to estimate where high and low cards are likely to be.

Betting Systems

Betting systems like the Martingale or Paroli involve adjusting bet sizes based on previous outcomes. These systems help manage risk but do not alter the house edge.

Implementation Tips

  • Practice: Mastering these techniques takes extensive practice.
  • Stealth: Successful counters and trackers remain subtle to avoid detection by casinos, which may employ countermeasures like frequent shuffling or banning known counters.

By mastering these advanced techniques, players can reduce the house edge and increase their chances of winning, though it requires dedication, practice, and a thorough understanding of blackjack and casino operations.

Blackjack Tips
Errors & Corrections

Many players miss out on the low house edge or the chance to gain an edge in Blackjack due to common errors. Mistakes in decisions about hitting, standing, doubling down, and splitting pairs can be corrected to significantly reduce the house edge, sometimes to as low as 0.14%, for both multiple-deck and single-deck games. Ultimately, a player's success depends on their choices.

Below is a list of six common Blackjack errors, the correct actions, and the reasons for making smart choices. These recommendations are based on computer simulations of every player hand versus every dealer upcard. Pay attention to the math for better results!

Blackjack Errors
6 Most Common Mistakes

  1. Player Hand: 12

    • Dealer Upcard: 2 or 3
    • Correct Decision: Hit
    • If you have a hand of 12, about two-thirds of the cards that can come out are not going to bust you.
  2. Player Hand: 16

    • Dealer Upcard: 10
    • Correct Decision: Hit
    • The 16 is a losing hand no matter what you do but on two cards, you will lose slightly less if you hit than if you stand.
  3. Player Hand: A7

    • Dealer Upcard: 4-5-6
    • Correct Decision: Double
    • A hand of 18 is a losing hand in the long run. With the dealer in a weak position, you want to get more money on the table and take advantage of it.
  4. Player Hand: A7

    • Dealer Upcard: 10 or Ace
    • Correct Decision: Hit
    • Another loser 18, however since you cannot bust, you have a shot of improving your hand.
  5. Player Hand: 5:5

    • Dealer Upcard: 2-9
    • Correct Decision: Double
    • It's a given that you never split fives with a 10 in your hand. Go for the double because you have a very good chance of winning twice your bet.
  6. Player Hand: 20 or 21

    • Dealer Upcard: Ace
    • Correct Decision: No Insurance
    • Don't give the casino an advantage when you opt for insurance. When you have 2 ten-valued cards, the dealer is less likely to have blackjack. The house edge on insurance is at least 5%, so back away from this bet.

Make those smart choices and Play On!

Odds and Probabilities in Blackjack

Basic Hand Probabilities

  • Natural Blackjack (Ace + 10-value card): The chance of getting a natural blackjack is around 4.8%.
  • Bust Chances: The likelihood of busting increases with your hand total. For example, hitting on 12 has a lower risk of busting compared to hitting on 16.

Dealer Probabilities

  • Dealer Bust: The dealer is more likely to bust with a low upcard like a 6 compared to a high upcard like a 10.
  • Final Totals: Dealers usually end with a hand between 17 and 21, depending on house rules.

Decision-Based Odds

  • Hitting or Standing: Optimal decisions depend on the probabilities of improving your hand versus busting.
  • Doubling Down: Statistically advantageous when holding totals like 11 against a dealer’s low card.
  • Splitting Pairs: Recommended based on statistical improvement of your winning chances against the dealer’s upcard.

Understanding these odds and probabilities can enhance your decision-making and improve your overall strategy in blackjack.

Blackjack Glossary


21 wins
whoever comes closest to a total of 21 without going over wins. An ace is counted as a 1 or an 11. Face cards all count as 10. All other cards count as viewed.
blackjack or 21 is a game where the player's goal is to get closer than the dealer to 21 without going over. Blackjack pays 3 to 2 or $3 for every $2 bet.
is counted as 1 or 11 in blackjack.
blackjack provides the strategic player an advantage, however less than strategic play can increase the casino advantage to as high as 5%.
blackjack lingo for player to the right of the dealer receiving the last card. Also third base. A 'hot' spot to survey the action before your play.


Back Counter
a card counter lurking in the background checking out the deck and/or shoe for opportunities then biding his/her time to play when the count is positive.
player's bankroll or a team of players' bankroll.
Barber Pole
blackjack jargon for stack of chips consisting of a variety of colors.
Bet Sizing
strategy based on betting according to the advantage for a specific hand.
Bet spread
referring to a player's minimum and maximum bet.
Betting Handle
term for total money bet during a session of play.
Betting Limits
casino rules of minimum and maximum amounts allowed for one bet.
Betting True Count
based on value of cards by considering number of aces.
to bust or go over, the final count is over 21. If the dealer busts, you can say, "It's the player's lucky break."
Breaking Hand
card count of 12, 13, 14, 15, or 16 that will bust or go over 21 with one card. Also stiff hand.
dealer removes a small number (1-3) cards after the shuffle to be placed in the discard pile. Cards are also burned with the arrival of a new dealer.
Burn Cards
The number of cards, the casino discards at the beginning of a new shuffle.
total count is over 21. This is a losing hand even if the dealer also busts. All players whose count is less than 21 win if the dealer busts.
exchange money for chips.


blackjack jargon for methods used by skilled players to conceal their true gambling actions. Examples are disguises and performing like average gamblers. Camouflage is used by card counters extensively when playing blackjack.
Card Counting
strategy to allocate values to cards. Cards 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6=plus 1 and10, J, Q, K and Aces=minus 1 and 7, 8 and 9 are neutral at 0.As these cards are tracked during a session, a determination is made whether the remaining cards favor the player or dealer.
Card Sharp
expert card player.
area on the table layout where the player places a bet. Also betting circle or square.
sequence of cards that favors either the house or player.
blackjack game terms lingo referring to situation where winning cards have disappeared.
standard chip colors are $1=white. $5=red. $25=green. $100=black. $500=purple.
Color up
exchange smaller denominations to larger denominations resulting in a smaller stack of chips.
Count Down the Deck
memorizing cards already played to determine the remainder.
Cover the bet
casino takes a bet to play. Also known as book the action.
term for continuous shuffling machine. A machine that shuffles cards back into the deck(s) continuously rather than manually shuffling after deck(s) is finished. Disadvantage to card counters.
after shuffling, the deck is separated into two parts by a player at the table and then passed back to the dealer.
Cut Card
plastic colored card passed to the player to cut the deck. The dealer then places the cut card near the end of the shoe to indicate the last hand to be dealt.


short form for double after splits.
short form for double deck game or double down.
blackjack jargon for cards from previous play.
cards given to players during the game.
casino employee who deals and manages the game of blackjack.
the game of blackjack consists of the following player decisions, hitting, doubling down, standing, splitting, insurance and/or surrendering.
consists of 52 playing cards. When blackjack is played with more than one deck, the cards are called a pack.
blackjack game terms for the number 2 cards.
cards played since the last shuffle and placed in a discard tray.
short form lingo for double only any two cards, allows for doubling on any two cards.
short form for double after split, allows for doubling down after splitting a pair.
Double Deck
utilizing two decks in blackjack. Casinos may also use 4, 6 or 8 decks.
Double down/Doubling down
doubling the bet before being dealt one additional card. Blackjack rules for doubling down are that the player receives only one card after a DD decision. Player may bet up to his/her original bet, but not more and places this second bet behind the original bet. Some casinos allow DD only with a count of 10 or 11.
to receive additional card(s) to the 2 cards dealt originally. Also known as hit, draw card or hit card.
total monies bet in a casino or total value of money and/or markers cashed in by players.


Early Surrender
player loses 50% of bet if he/she decides to surrender after being dealt the first two cards.
Even Money
refers to taking insurance on a blackjack hand when dealer shows an ace.Player is paid even money on his/her blackjack whether dealer has hit blackjack or not.


Face Card
term for jacks, queens, and kings that have a value of 10 each in blackjack.
Face Down
blackjack game where first card is dealt up and second card is face down.
Face Up
blackjack game where both cards are dealt face up.
First Base
blackjack lingo for player to the left of the dealer and the first person to receive cards. Also first baseman.
Five-card Charlie
blackjack jargon for 5-card blackjack that totals 21 or less. Rare but very sweet hand.
Flat Bettor
player who wagers the same amount consistently.
Front Loading
a peek at the dealer's hole card that may determine strategy for the next hand.


a round of play. Also cards held by the player and/or dealer.
Hard Hand
those hands that do not contain an ace or a hand where the ace is valued at 1 are hard hands as there is only one value. What you see on your two cards is your total count, example=9 + 8 = 17. Opposite of soft hands.
Hard Total
blackjack lingo for count of those hands that do not contain an ace or a hand where the ace is valued at only 1.
Heads Up
blackjack jargon for player against the dealer with no other participants.
dealt additional card(s) to the 2 cards dealt originally. Also known as draw, draw card or hit card. The decision to hit is indicated by a sweeping motion on the felt by the player or tapping the felt in a face up game.
Hole Card
dealer's card dealt face down.
House Advantage/ House Edge
refers to the casino % advantage vs. the player.

I - L

when dealer's up card is an ace, there will be a call for insurance. If you make an insurance bet that the dealer has blackjack, this wager is placed on the insurance line displayed on the felt. If the dealer has blackjack, you win the insurance bet; however, your original bet is lost. If there is no blackjack, you lose the insurance bet. The insurance bet is not recommended.
Late Surrender
player loses 50% of bet if he/she decides to surrender after seeing the dealer's up card.

M - N

Multiple Decks
more than one deck is in play here. 4 or more decks played in a game. They are always dealt face up.
also known as a blackjack, a natural occurs when the first two cards dealt are an ace and a card with a value of 10 for 21. Pays 3 to 2.
blackjack lingo for $5 chip.
No Hole Card
blackjack version where the dealer does not receive a second card until all the players have completed their hands.


blackjack lingo for face cards—Jack, Queen and King.
two cards of the same value, example=pair of tens.
Pat Hand
blackjack hand that has a value of hard 17 or better and does not require a hit.
cards played into the shoe before shuffling occurs. This is a factor to consider for card counters.
Perfect Pairs
blackjack jargon for side bet that pays for mixed pair, colored pair, and perfect pair after the initial deal.
card spots indicating the value of the card.
Pitch Game
term for tossing or pitching cards to players by the dealer. This occurs with single or double deck games dealt face down.
Play All
blackjack players who stay to play during the ups and downs of the game. Also refers to multiple deck games.
Playing Conditions
casino options offered to players. The many options including double down rules, early/late surrender and splitting can vary widely between land-based casino and online games worldwide.
blackjack strategy games term for shuffling of multi-deck games. Occurs with the insertion of a cut card marking the place that all decks will be re-shuffled. The group of cards behind the cut card are not used to play, but rather placed in the discard tray along with other discards when the cut-card is reached. This group of unplayed cards are named a plug or otherwise plugging the deck.
Point Count
blackjack jargon for the net value of the card count after a hand is completed.
Preferential Shuffling
term for player advantage when remaining cards are shuffled.
increase betting, usually by at least 50% after a winning hand.
Progression Betting
blackjack strategy for betting based on previous hand(s). Positive progression is raising or pressing the bet after a win while negative progression is raising the bet after a loss.
Push or Tie
occurs when both dealer and player have the same count neither of which is 21. The player's bet is returned. No money is exchanged because you neither win nor lose.


Rainbow Bet
wagering with several colors/denomination of playing chips.
Red Chip
blackjack lingo for $5 chip.
splitting pairs yet again. A dream hand if Aces show up.
short form for resplit aces with no limit. Some casinos have rules for RSA.
occurs when all players have completed their blackjack hands.
Running Count
total points from card-counting method beginning with first hand dealt after new shuffle and updated after each hand.


short form for dealer stands on all 17's.
design of holder, either wood or heavy plastic, of up to 8 decks in play.
blending the cards before dealing to players.
Side Bet
additional bet along with the primary bet.
Single or Double Decks
Only one or two decks played in a game. The first two cards are dealt face down.
Soft Hand
a hand that includes an ace in the first two cards dealt. It has two values, depending on whether you use the ace as a 1 or an 11. Therefore, a 5 and an ace could be 6 or 16. A 10 will turn a soft hand into a hard hand.
Soft Double
doubling down when one card is an ace.
Spanish 21
blackjack version where the 4-ten cards are removed.
Split/Splitting Pairs
splitting a matched pair to play separately. The extra bet is placed on one of the split cards. If a third like card is dealt=JJJ, then that too can be split based on casino rules.
Splitting Aces
when you split aces, you receive only 1 additional card for each hand. However, based on casino rules you may split a third ace if dealt.
blackjack strategy games term for passing info to a playing partner after eyeing the dealer's hole card. An illegal form of cheating.
Stand and Stay
player decision not to draw additional cards/hits.
Standoff, Tie or Push
occurs when both dealer and player have the same count neither of which is 21. The player's bet is returned.
term for a player who increases his/her bets to recoup losses.
Stiff/Stiff Hand
card count of 12, 13, 14, 15, or 16 that will bust or go over 21 with one card. A 15 or 16 are considered the two worst hands you can get, unless the 16 is two 8s, then you can split them. Also breaking hand.
string of wins or losses.
choose surrender after receiving first two cards and you lose only 50% of the bet.

T - Z

Team Play
several players who utilize one bankroll and are skillful blackjack players.
blackjack lingo for signals in the form of gestures or attitude expressed by the dealer that may provide useful strategies as to the value of their hole card.
Third Base/Third Baseman
blackjack jargon for player to the right of the dealer receiving the last card. Also, see anchor.
tip to the dealer. Are you a 'George or Tom?'
Twenty-One or 21
term for the game of blackjack.
Up Card
dealt face up, this is the dealer's first card.