Blackjack Primer
The Blackjack Table

In a casino the playing table will be a semi-oval shape. The dealer stands behind the flat portion and the players sit around the oval portion. The dealer's back is to a central area between a number of tables called the "pit". This is where various casino management personnel are located including the "Pit Boss".

The number of player's seats range from 5 to 7 and are defined by rectangles on the felt table.

There will be a sign on the table indicating the kind of Blackjack game being played, the table minimum bet, the table maximum bet, blackjack pays 3-2, insurance pays 2 to 1, dealer must draw to 16 and stand on all 17s and other table rules. Different tables within a given pit often have different rules, but usually only the table minimum and maximum change. As the casino becomes busier, especially evenings and weekends, the table minimum may be increased.

! If you are ever not sure of the rules or what you should do, don't hesitate to ask the dealer. The dealer will often suggest a good move or clarify a rule for a novice.
When you place cash on the table, the dealer will exchange it for chips and drop the cash down into a slot. The dealer cannot take cash from your hand. He or she can only take it if you release it and drop it on the table.

On the table is a "shoe", a rectangular device made from wood or plastic, in which the cards are deposited and from which the cards are dealt. The shoe usually holds from one to six decks of cards.

A game will begin as soon as there is at least one player at the table. Additional players can join anytime and sit in any vacant spot. They will not start to participate until the current hand is finished and the player has a bet out.

The cards are dealt clockwise from the dealers left to the dealer's right.

Many players avoid being the last player to receive as that player often gets blamed by the rest of the players at the table by taking a card too many or too few and causing the dealer to win. However, expert players or card counters often prefer the last position because they can see what other cards are being played. The first position is rushed a little more because they have to make the first decision whether to take another card or stay while the other players have a little more time on their hands to look at the dealers card and their own hand.

Remember, you are trying to beat the dealer and not the other players, so the outcome of any other hands being played is irrelevant unless you are counting cards. Neither an inexperienced player at you table or a card counting player will affect your play. Although every card another player takes or does not take changes the card the dealer gets, the dealer still has the same statistical chance of the change being for the positive or as for the negative.

Table Selection

The first step is to select a blackjack table to play at. Your first criteria should be the table minimum, maximum and rules. If you come to the table with a 100 to 200 dollar bankroll for that session, you should probably stick to tables with a minimum of no more then 5 dollars. This way you can ride out at least some of the fluctuations a little longer and get reasonable playing time out of your money.

Remember that one of the reasons that casinos take more money then they statistically should based on the house edge is that they have virtually an unlimited bankroll.

Another important consideration is the number of players already seated at a table. If you are the only one at a table it will be easier to count cards and you do not have to worry about how you play and if you are taking the "wrong card". The dealer is usually also more willing to spend time with you in explaining the game.

If you join a table with players already seated then base your selection on whether they are the kind you wish to play with and whether position you prefer is vacant.

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