Blackjack tips for the casino bound vacationer

Jul 2, 2012, 9:49 a.m.

If you're looking for easy casino games to play on your Vegas vacation, blackjack is probably your best bet. While many casino games -- such as craps, roulette, or one of the many variations of poker -- can be intimidating to the newbie gambler, blackjack is easy to learn. The best part is, with a little bit of skill you can even significantly boost the odds in your favor.

Blackjack is played with one or more decks of standard playing cards. Cards 2 through 10 are counted at face value. Aces are valued at either 1 or 11 (your choice), and face cards -- Jacks, Queens, and Kings -- are valued at 10 apiece. The object of blackjack is to beat the dealer by getting as close to 21 as possible without busting. Busting happens when the value of your cards add up to more than 21.

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At the beginning of each new hand, the dealer will deal everyone two cards. The dealer also gets two cards, one of which is placed face down so you can't see its value. Simply add up the face value of your cards to see how close you are to 21. If you think you can add another card without going over 21, you "hit." If not, you "stay" and await the dealer's move.

Here are a few tips for blackjack to get you started:

  1. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Blackjack dealers have a vested interest in keeping you playing, which also entails giving you helpful advice and tips for blackjack success.
  2. Blackjack! This is an instant win that happens when you're dealt an ace and a card worth 10 (10 plus 11 equals 21). Most casinos pay 3-to-2 odds for a blackjack, which means if you bet $10 you'll win $15.
  3. Always assume the dealer's face-down card is a 10. With almost half of the cards in each deck having a face value of 10 apiece, this is a relatively safe assumption.
  4. The dealer's objective is the same as yours -- to get as close to 21 as possible without going over. But the dealer can't stop hitting until he or she has reached 17, which improves your odds that they'll bust and you'll win.
  5. Always "double down" if the sum total of your two cards equals 11. When you double down, you essentially double your bet and are given a single card. Since there are more 10s in the deck than any other single value card, the odds of hitting 21 are great.
  6. If you're dealt two aces, "split" them by laying them side by side face up. This move also requires you to double your bet, but the odds of striking 21 are much greater if you're playing two aces.
  7. Insurance is often known as a "sucker bet" and is offered when the dealer is showing an ace face-up. By paying half of your original bet for insurance, you can break even if the dealer wins. If you hit a blackjack while the dealer is showing an ace, you can lay it out and ask to be paid even money.

Before you sit down at a blackjack table, always choose one based on the minimum allowable bet. If you're just learning, it's best to start at a table that offers the lowest minimum bet, which is typically $5 or $10. Most importantly, have fun and don't bet more money than you're comfortable losing. They don't call it gambling for nothing!

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