Reliable way to break even at blackjack?

Memorize the following rules. If you’re dealt a pair, do whatever the first set tells you. If you aren’t dealt a pair, and for all subsequent cards, do whatever the second set tells you.

Pair of 2’s - Split against 3 through 7, Hit against everything else.
Pair of 3’s - Split against 4 through 7, Hit against everything else.
Pair of 4’s - Double down against 5 or 6, Hit against everything else.
Pair of 5’s - Hit against 10 or A, Double down against everything else.
Pair of 6’s - Split against 6 or lower, Hit against 7 or higher.
Pair of 7’s - Split against 7 or lower, Stand against 10, Hit against 8, 9, or A.
Pair of 8’s - Split.
Pair of 9’s - Stand against 7, 10, or A. Split against everything else.
Pair of 10’s - Stand.
Pair of A’s - Split.

Soft 16 or less - Double down against 4, 5, or 6, Hit against everything else.
Soft 17 - Double down against 6 or lower, Hit against 7 or higher.
Soft 18 - Double down against 3 through 6, Hit against 9 or 10, Stand against everything else.
Soft 19 - Double down against 6, Stand against everything else.
Soft 20 or 21 - Stand.
Hard 7 or less - Hit.
Hard 8 (2 & 6) - Hit.
Hard 8 (any other) - Double down against 5 or 6. Hit against everything else.
Hard 9 - Double down against 6 or lower. Hit against 7 or higher.
Hard 10 - Hit against 10 or A. Double down against everything else.
Hard 11 - Double down against everything.
Hard 12 - Stand against 4, 5, or 6. Hit against everything else.
Hard 13 through 16 - Stand against 6 or lower. Hit against 7 or higher.
Hard 17 or higher - Stand.

If you follow these rules all the time, you’ll lose very slowly. Which is the best you can expect in any gambling game.

And now to truly betray my gambling ignorance…

1. What is “soft” vs. “hard”?

2. What exactly is doubling down?

WordMan,

1. “Soft” = a hand containing an Ace counted as an 11. So an Ace + 6 is a “soft 17”. “Hard” = not soft. 9 + 8 = “hard 17”.

2. “Double down” = the option to double your bet after seeing your first 2 cards, at the cost of taking only 1 hit card. You’d do this if you’re holding an 11 (and therefore likely to draw a 10, giving you 21) or if the dealer is showing a 6 or less (and therefore must hit, and therefore is likely to bust). Many casinos only allow doubling down when you hold a 10 or 11.

Soft means that you have an ace in your hand which you can count as a 1 or 11. If, for instance, you’re holding an ace and a six, then you’ve got a soft 17. If you hit and get a ten, then you no longer have the option to call the ace an 11 (that would bust you), so you’ve now got a hard 17.

Doubling down means that you agree to take exactly one more card (no more), and double the amount of your bet. You use it when you think that one more card has a good chance of giving you a good hand. For instance, if you’re holding 11, then the chances are pretty good that you’ll get a ten (or a face card, which is the same difference) on your hit, giving you an unbeatable 21, so you’ll want to have more money on the table in case that happens.

A note, by the way, on the afore-mentioned tables: Memorize them if you want, but do not print them out and bring them into the casino. Counting using just your brain can get you kicked out of the casino, but using any sort of “device” to assist you in gambling can get you landed in jail. Yes, a printout of a table is considered a device, for these purposes.

Thanks for your explanations, I appreciate them. Also, Chronos, thanks for the warning - something must have tipped my hand that I was naive about this stuff, eh? For what it’s worth, I just got a blackjack game for my PalmPilot and I am “practicing” with some of the tables listed above - they really work. Obviously this means I have the tables printed off and next to my Palm as I waste another few minutes of my time. But I did NOT know that I couldn’t bring 'em to a casino - as soon as you mentioned it, however, it seems pretty darn obvious.

Thanks,

Word (Obviously not Blackjack) Man

I think the method is “not to play”.

I am surprised that nobody has mentioned one very simple thing. No matter what rules you decide to play with, always follow your rules. Consistency is very important. If you don’t like hitting 16 against a 7-10 then dont do it. But ALWAYS do it this way. Don’t do it one way one hand, and another way the next hand. I know a very successful BJ player who will NEVER hit a 14. Don’t really know why. It’s a personal superstition of his. But he wont do it. Whatever your rules, set them and follow them.

As for the books, the charts and the authors of said things. You can probably bet on the fact that they made more money off the books than they made playing blackjack.

This is probably true of most casinos, but I have been to some casinos (Tunica, Mississippi, in particular) where they did allow you to have a “cheat sheet” telling you the statiscally best way to play a given hand. (This was in 1995, it’s entirely possible they don’t allow it there anymore).

If you want to test your skills try this. Of course it is not a typical casino setting as it is only you against the dealer.

I’ve never seen a casino that would prevent someone from using a printed-out strategy guide. In fact, most every casino I’ve ever been to sold cards with the tables on them in the gift shop. I know some counters who use them as cover.

Dr. J

The above paragraph is why astorian said “casinos LOVE guys with a system!” You system here is no better than someone’s who bets the same amount each time. And it’s absolutely not true that the odds are that you “WILL” increase your money after a while.

The reason is that the probability of winning each hand of blackjack is time-invariant. Whether you change your bet to 10 after a win or at a random time during the evening doesn’t matter. In fact, at the end of the evening, if you count the total of all the \$5 bets, \$10 bets, etc., that you made, and someone else makes those same bet amounts but in a different order (such as all the \$5 bets first, then \$10, etc.), he would have exactly the same expected value that you had.

Tornado Siren: You really have to stop spreading misinformation. People might actually listen to you, in which case you will have done them a lot of harm.

Consistency is only important in the sense that it’s important to make the correct play every time. Consistently standing on 16 against a 7 is FAR worse than randomly hitting or standing on it, because hitting is the correct play. Of course, the best thing to do is consistently hit.

It sounds like your gambling ‘knowledge’ is a collection of old wives’ tales, money management silliness, and gambling superstition. I’ll bet you think that bad players at the table hurt you, and that 3rd base is the best place to sit because you can control whether or not to give the dealer a ‘bust’ card, right? Do you think a bad player at 3rd base hurts you?

The truth of the matter is that blackjack is a deterministic game. The correct plays are not matters of opinion - they can be calculated with a high degree of precision. There is no room for debate - the correct basic strategy in blackjack has been known since the 1960’s.

This is why I gave up blackjack and moved on to poker. Poker is a game of judgement - blackjack is pure math. A ten dollar computer can play blackjack better than any human in the world, but the biggest computer in the world can’t play poker as well as a good amateur player.

BTW, you claim that counting cards is impossible with more than 2 decks. This suggests to me that you don’t really know what card counting is. Counting multiple deck shoes is MUCH easier than counting single or double deck, for many reasons. The actual act of counting is no different no matter how many decks you use, but to take full advantage of a single-deck game you have to use a complex level-2 count and maintain side counts of critical cards for playing strategy, because it’s much more important in these games. 4 and 6 deck shoes can be counted with a simple level-1 count like hi-lo, because in those games betting variation makes up the vast amount of the profit potential. Also, calculating your true count is tougher when you’re only dealing with a single or double deck - errors in true count calculations won’t hurt you as much in multiple deck shoes.

Anyway, no one has mentioned the single most important factor in card counting - penetration. No, not that kind. I’m talking about how many cards the dealer will deal out of the shoe or deck before re-shuffling. An extra 10 cards in penetration in a 4-deck game can be worth more than switching from a simple count to the most complex count in the world. But if the house is cutting off half the shoe, the game is unbeatable unless you only play positive counts, and that’s a sure way to get kicked out.

Why in the world would you want to break even? If that’s your plan, don’t bother playing. If you want to play, play to win…or just play to have fun, and don’t whine about losing your money.