Gambling books and Poker books

Your object in casino blackjack is to beat the dealer. You can beat the dealer in two ways:

  1. When you have a higher total than the dealer without exceeding 21.
  2. When the dealer’s total exceeds 21 (assuming your total has not exceeded 21 first).

In casino blackjack, if both you and the dealer hold the same total of 21 or less, the hand is a push and nobody wins.


Each card is counted at face value. 2 = 2 points, 5 = 5 points, 10 = 10 points. The face cards—jacks, queens and kings—are counted as 10 points. The ace can be counted as 1 point or 11 points at your discretion. When you count the ace as 11 points, your hand is called soft, as in the hand A-7 = soft 18. All other totals, including hands where the ace counts as 1 point, are called hard, as in the hand 10-6-A = hard 17. The dealer must count his ace as 11 if that gives him a hand totaling between 17 and 21; otherwise he must count the ace as 1 point. In some casinos the rules dictate that the dealer must draw on soft 17. In these casinos, the dealer’s ace will count as 1 point when combined with cards totaling 6 points, and the dealer will have to draw until he forms a hand of at least hard 17.


If your original two-card hand contains an ace with any 10 or face card (J, Q, K), the hand is called a blackjack or natural, and is an automatic winner—you’ll get paid off at 3 to 2, or, as in the case in some casinos now, 6 to 5. If the dealer gets a blackjack, all players lose their bets. (The dealer wins only the amount bet, not the 3 to 2 or 6 to 5 payoff that you would receive for a blackjack.) If both the dealer and you are dealt a blackjack, the hand is a push. Immediately turn up your blackjack. When you can, find games paying 3 to 2, rather than the reduced 6 to 5. If drawing additional cards to the initial two cards you’re dealt causes your point total to exceed 21, your hand is busted—it is an automatic loss. Once a player has busted, his hand is lost, even if the dealer busts afterwards. If the dealer busts, all remaining players automatically win their bets.


All bets are paid off at even money ($5 bet wins $5), except in cases where you receive a blackjack, or when you exercise an option that allows you to double your bet. In these instances (doubling and splitting), the payoff is equal to the new doubled bet. Therefore, if a bet has been doubled from $5 to $10, a win pays off $10.


The dealer must play by prescribed guidelines. He must draw to any hand 16 or below and stand on any total 17-21. As mentioned above, some casinos require the dealer to draw on soft 17. The dealer has no options and cannot deviate from these rules.


Unlike the dealer, you can vary their strategy. After receiving your first two cards, you have the following options:

  1. Drawing (Hitting)
    If you’re not satisfied with your two-card total, you can draw (hit) additional cards. To draw a card, scrape the felt surface with your cards, scraping toward your body. In a game where both of your cards are dealt face up, scratch the felt with your index finger or point toward the cards if you want a hit. You’re not supposed to handle the cards when they’re face up, so be careful not to touch them.
  2. Standing
    When you’re satisfied with your original two-card total and don’t want to draw additional cards, that is, you want to stand, you signal this by sliding your cards face down under your bet. When the cards are dealt face up, indicate your decision to stand pat by waving your hand palm down over your cards.
  3. Doubling Down
    Doubling down allows you to double your original bet, in which case you must draw one additional card and cannot draw any more cards thereafter. To double down, turn your cards face up, and place them in front of your bet. Then take an amount equal to your original bet and place those chips next to that bet, so that there are two equivalent bets side by side. When the cards are dealt face up, place chips equal to your original bet next to that pile. The dealer will then deal one card face down, usually slipping that card under your bet.
  4. Splitting Pairs
    If you’re dealt a pair of identical value cards, such as 3-3, 7-7, or 8-8 (any combination of 10, J, Q, K is considered a pair), you can split these cards to form two separate hands. To split a pair, turn the pair face up and separate them, putting each card in its own place in front of your bet. Then place a bet equal to the original wager behind the second hand. Each hand is played separately, using finger and hand signals to indicate hitting and standing.
    If the first card dealt to either split hand has a value identical to the original split cards, that card may be split again (resplit) into a third hand, with the exception of aces. When you split aces, you can receive only one card on each ace—you are not allowed to draw again, no matter what card the dealer gives you.
  5. Doubling Down After Splitting
    You can double down on one or both of the hands resulting from a split, called doubling down after splitting, if it is allowed. For example, if an 8-8 is split and a is drawn to the first 8 to make 11, you may elect to double down on that 11. After placing an amount equal to the original bet next to the 11, you will receive only one additional card. If a 2 is drawn to the second 8, you can double down on that hand as well.
  6. Insurance
    If the dealer’s upcard is an ace, he will ask everybody at the table if they want insurance. If any player exercises the insurance option, he is in effect betting that the dealer has a 10-value card as his hole card, thus making a blackjack. To take insurance, place one-half the amount of your bet in the area marked insurance. If the dealer does indeed have a blackjack, you’ll get paid 2 to 1 on the insurance bet, while losing your original bet. In effect, the transaction is a standoff, and no money is lost. If the dealer does not have a blackjack, you’ll the insurance bet and play continues. Insurance is a bad bet because when you make an insurance wager, you’re betting that the dealer has a 10 under his ace. A full deck has 36 non-tens and 16 tens, a ratio greater than 2 to 1.


Players make their bets, then the cards are dealt. Two cards will be dealt to each player. The dealer will also get two cards, one face down, and one face up. The players in order, beginning with the one closest to the dealer’s left hand, play out their hands. After the last player has acted on his options, the dealer will turn his hole card over so that all players can view both of his cards. He must play his hand according to the strict guidelines regulating his play: drawing to 17, then standing. (In some casinos, the rules state that the dealer must draw to a soft 17.) If the dealer busts, all players still in the game for that round of play win automatically. The dealer will pay off the winners and collect from the losers, and then a new hand will be dealt after the players place their new bets.

About the Writer
Avery Cardoza has written twenty-one books on beating the casino and is the world’s largest publisher of gaming and gambling titles ( Cardoza is also the owner of the legendary Gambler’s Book Club (, home to the world’s largest selection of gaming books. His novel, Lost in Las Vegas, is a critically acclaimed dark comedy about two hapless vacationers who find themselves hunted by the mob, FBI, six killers, and the Rat in a world where nothing is as it seems—and then things go downhill for them. “A fantastic read… The Vegas underbelly as if presented by the Coen brothers.”—Kevin Pollak.