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Blackjack Game Theory

So you've familiarized yourself with the blackjack zone and now you want to sit yourself down and play a few hands of blackjack. Having a good understanding of blackjack game theory is important if you are serious about winning or losing at the game.

Blackjack game theory can be quickly summarized as follows:

The General Game Theory
In blackjack the main aim is to beat the dealer. There are two ways for you to do this - (1) By getting a higher total than the dealer without exceed a total of 21 (face value of the cards) or (2) By having the dealer go over when you don't

The Card Values
One of the first things you obviously need to understand in blackjack game theory is how to value the cards, and thus, how to value your hand

  • Cards 2 through 10 have their face value (2=2, 9=9 etc.)
  • Jacks, queens and kings (face cards) are all valued as 10
  • Aces are counted as either 1 or 11 depending on the player's preference
  • Suits have no meaning

Hand Values
Simply adding the card values gives you the total hand value. For example, a king and a queen is a hand of 20. An ace and a 5 can be either 6 or 16.

Hand Types

  • Blackjack - The most desired hand; a total of 21 in your first two cards. Also called a 'natural', it can only be an ace and a 10-value card. A dealer with blackjack beats everyone at the table, even those with three or more cards totaling 21. Only a player with a 'natural' is immune and that person will tie (push) the dealer
  • Stiff Hands - Stiffs are hands that have a chance of busting (exceeding 21) with one more card. Hands with a total value of 12 through 16 fall into this category
  • Pat Hands - Hard totals of 17 through 21 are considered 'pat'. Players that follow basic blackjack strategy or even simple common sense and logic will not draw additional cards on a 'pat' hand
  • Soft Hands - Remember that an ace can be counted as either an 11 or a 1. Thus, a soft hand is one that contains an ace that can have either value without making the hand bust. So for example, if you are dealt an ace and a 3, you've got a soft hand of 14. If you draw another ace after that, you would have a hand that could be worth either 5 or 15 (ace, ace, 3).
  • Hard Hands - A hand that doesn't have the flexible, dual-purpose ace (either because the ace in that instance can only be counted as a one or because it doesn't have an ace at all) is called a hard hand. So for example, a hand of 9 and 5 is a hard 14. If you were to be dealt an ace after this, you would have a hard 15.
  • Push - is the gambling word for a tie or draw. Any hand of equal value to the dealer's hand is a push and no money is exchanged.
  • Bust - When a hand value exceeds 21, it is 'busted', and it loses

If you're a newbie, blackjack game theory is pretty simple to understand, but we highly recommend that you practice a bit with the American-Blackjack free blackjack game. It's a great way to get some free playing time going to help improve your understanding, strategies and techniques.

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