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Blackjack: A Beatable Game

Blackjack is the most popular casino table game, with about 10 percent of all casino gamblers making it their preferred game. Blackjack makes a fortune for the casinos for several reasons. It’s a relatively fast game that requires players to know the correct strategy for the play of their hands against the dealer’s up-card, a card that can be seen by the players.

How Blackjack Is Played

The best hand in blackjack is a two-card 21. This is a natural, also called a blackjack, and beats every other hand, although the player and the dealer can tie (push) if both have blackjacks. However, the player does not have to get a 21 to win.

Card Values

  • Jack, queen, and king count as 10
  • Aces count as 1 or 11
  • All other cards are face value
  • Card suits are irrelevant (except in bonus games, which are usually rip-offs for the player)

Soft Hands and Hard Hands

Any hand that counts the ace as 11 is known as a soft hand; ace-6 is a soft 17, and ace-3-3 is also a soft 17. A hard hand is any hand that either does not contain an ace or, if it does, the ace counts as 1; 10-8 and 5-ace-10-2 are hard-18 hands. Soft hands are played differently than hard hands.


When a player is dealt an ace and a 10-value card (10, jack, queen, or king) as his fi rst two cards, it is called a “blackjack” or “natural” and generally is paid one and a half times the original bet, meaning a 3-to-2 payoff. It is this payout that keeps the game close between player and dealer, as blackjacks will occur about 5 percent of the time.


The key ingredient in playing a powerful game of blackjack is the use of basic strategy. Check out the next chapter, which contains the basic strategies for just about all blackjack games. Don’t panic because they look intimidating—you can photocopy the strategy you wish to use and take it to the table with you.

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