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Casinos Blackjack Basics by Robert A. O’Quinn Dozens of books have been written on the game of blackjack. The majority are excellent sources of information for the serious student. But to the first-time or occasional player they are often too detailed, and dare we say, boring. So, since you are on vacation, here is our own distilled, reader- friendly, seldom-boring blackjack survival guide for the numerically impaired. The object of the game of blackjack is to get closer to 21 than the dealer. That’s how you win. Sounds easy, but it’s not. Everybody gets two cards, but one of the dealer’s cards is face down. The dealer’s up card determines your strategy, along with the fact that the dealer must con- tinue to take cards until his or her hand totals 17 or more. The casino has the ad- vantage because you must set out on this 17-or-bust trail before the dealer does, and it’s fraught with danger. But that’s where we’re heading – to 17 or bust. 66 Nights Here’s the plan. Look at the dealer’s up card. If it’s a seven or higher, you know your hand must total 17 or more or you’ll have to take a hit (another card). If the dealer’s up card is a six or less, you don’t have to risk busting (going over 21). You’ll only take a hit if your hand totals 11 or less. There you have the basic strategy of black- jack. Just remember, if the dealer’s up card is a two, three, four, five, or six, you will never take a card when your hand totals 12 or more. If the dealer’s up card is a seven, eight, nine, 10-value or an ace, you must hit your hand until it totals 17 or better. Even if you have a 15 or 16, hit it! The odds on busting your 15 and 16 are pretty grim, but trust me, the odds on winning are even worse if you don’t try. Blackjack has a few twists that even a beginner should be aware of. “Soft” hands contain an ace and any other card (the ace can be counted as 11 or one). Always take a hit on a soft hand unless your sec- ond card is a seven or higher. With an ace and seven you’ve reached 18. Just stop. Always hit an ace-six combination. Yes, that’s 17, but it might get better without any risk.