Only because of watching poker on TV, do I believe there is Texas Hold’em Strategy.  Even then, I only believe it because the hosts say some sort of strategy is being employed by the players.  Okay, if they say so…it seems there’s an awful lot of luck happening in my eyes!

Strategy Rules

First, when thinking about strategy in doing anything, it’s about planning for the long run. When thinking about basic blackjack strategy, it is based on interpretation of statistical data from playing millions of hands.  There is definitely a blackjack strategy, a correct way to play blackjack.

Unfortunately, poker strategy is not that straight forward.  Depending on who you talk to, or learn from, strategy may vary because there is psychology involved with poker strategy.  Also, strategy is different when you play in a “cash” game, as opposed to playing in a tournament setting.

Poker strategy is more about understanding the odds of ending up with the winning hand at the end of play. 

Hold’em Strategy for Novices

If you try to find basic Texas Hold’em strategy for beginners, what you end up getting is “tips” beginners should follow.  Said in different ways by different people, the best tips boil down to these:

  • Open with a hand that can make money in any situation
  • Correctly size your bet
  • Avoid limping in, it hardly ever works for a novice!
  • Fold appropriately to increase profits
  • Be in the right position for betting

Opening Hands

When deciding to open, not only are the cards you hold important (hand strength), but your position at the table must be taken into consideration.  The closer you are to the Button, the wider the range of hands you can have to open.

The number of players in the hand should also be considered.  Hand value is  less when playing against 1 player, as opposed to 6 players. On the other hand, against 1 player, hands have a better bluffing value.

When deciding whether or not to open with a hand, you need to think if you’ll be able to make money after the flop.  If you can’t see a way that you may make money with those 2 cards, don’t open!

Correct Bet Sizing

Be aware of how the table is playing.  If the pre-flop raise has been 2.5x the BB, don’t try to be clever and raise an unusual amount.  As a novice, it’s best to stay in line with the play of the table.  Odd pre-flop raises will only make players think more about what you may have.  Odd post-flop raises are expected, and won’t draw more than the normal attention.

The size of your bet helps define the strength of your hand.  Your goal is to have your opponents think you have them beat.

NO Limping

If action has been folded to you, it’s better to either raise or fold.  With a raise, you can take control of the pot, and put callers on the defense.  The experienced players can usually smell a limp and will challenge you, so it’s better to fold.

Know When to Fold

Like the Kenny Rogers song, know when to fold’em! Trying to play every hand is a big signal of you being a novice! A vital part of winning poker strategy is to know when to fold!  If you fold when you should, you save your money so you can make bigger bets in more profitable situations. It’s better to play tight, but aggressive.

Bet in the Right Position

Having position over your opponent is a huge advantage in poker. What that means is that they have to make the first move.  Obviously, seeing your opponent’s action first, allows you to react appropriately.  It will allow you to bluff better, value bet more accurately, and basically make better decisions overall.

If you can learn these tips and incorporate them into your playing style, you should definitely see your poker sessions become more profitable.



This variant was first developed in 2011 in downtown Las Vegas.  Burn 20 Blackjack quickly became the “hottest” blackjack game around.  It is of course based on standard blackjack with a few fascinating twists.

The name comes from the fact that the dealer will discard, or “burn,” any 2-card, 10-value, hand that totals 20.  The dealer also burns suited blackjacks. This leaves the player stress-free about having to play against a dealer’s hard 20 (or suited blackjack). The give-back on that is that if the dealer busts with a 22 total, all remaining players push, instead of win.


Burn 20 Blackjack follows standard blackjack rules, with the following exceptions or additions:

  • Six 52-card decks are used
  • Blackjack pays 3-2
  • Insurance pays 2-1
  • No surrender
  • Dealer hits soft 17
  • Can split pairs
  • Split aces get only 1 card each
  • Can double on any number of cards, except after splitting aces
  • If dealer has a 10 up, he will check the hole card and if it is a 10, he will discard both cards and take two new cards
  • If dealer has a 10 up, he will check the hole card and if it is a suited-Ace, he will discard both cards and take two new cards
  • If the dealer busts with a total of 22, all remaining players push, instead of win


When the dealer discards a suited blackjack, and the replacement cards form a blackjack (suited or not) those cards are discarded as well.

After discarding, the dealer will continue to draw cards until he doesn’t have a hard 20 or blackjack.


Fortunately, you should be able to use basic blackjack strategy when playing Burn 20 Blackjack.  However, because you know the dealer won’t have a 20 with 2 cards, you should split 2’s, 3’s, 7’s, and 9’s, against a 10 up.


It is understandable how this became a hot variant to standard blackjack.  The rule changes are not that hard to grasp, as a matter of fact, the changes make it seem that the game is more favorable to the player.  While the house edge is slightly higher in this variant, it creates a fun atmosphere and challenge for players looking for a change.  If you’re a bit bored with standard blackjack, this can be a fun break from that!

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Team Card Counting

As an individual player, you are limited to the number of hands you can play at one time.  However, if you have a group of players looking to beat the house, your odds will go up dramatically.

Probably the most famous blackjack team to be discovered, was the M.I.T. blackjack students, who became the inspiration for the movie “21.”

Common team card counting strategies consist of having different players in the group, playing at different tables, or signaling the team players when to move in with the bigger bets. One advantage with team play is that it allows you to move in with a big bet only when the table is extremely favorable to the player.  As a team player, you can hold back the big bets every now and then, although the table is favorable, because you know your other team players should be making money.

Of course, there are also downfalls to team play.  With many players involved, there is a risk of getting caught, and winnings have to be split many ways.


The Back-Spotter

This is the person who isn’t necessarily seated at a table.  This person watches the tables from a distance and then will signal “The Gorilla” when to sit down at a table.

The Spotter

This person will actually be a player at a table, responsible for keeping an accurate card count at that table.  Because the casinos are constantly looking for betting irregularities, The Spotter maintains minimum betting, but looks to signal The Gorilla or team manager when the deck becomes favorable.

The Gorilla

This person moves from table to table, making maximum bets when the tables are extremely favorable for the player.  Often The Gorilla will be quite boisterous and loud, acting like a high-roller who is willy-nilly throwing his money around.

The Big Player

This person has the job of keeping the rest of the team from getting detected.  He will be a high roller, seated at a table, displaying expert blackjack strategy.  This will attract casino personnel attention. Though it’s not illegal to employ perfect blackjack strategy, a person with a hefty bankroll (like The Gorilla) and game knowledge, will hopefully pull attention away from the rest of the team.


  1. Dedication – Each member should be quite proficient in the art of card counting.  One weak link can destroy a whole hour’s worth of profit. 
  2. Trust – You want to be able to trust each member you’re working with. You want to know they won’t steal from you, as well as trust that they will play the game correctly.
  3. Sufficient Bankroll – Pooled resources allow you to generate more profits in a shorter period of time.
  4. Strong Management/Leadership –  Any size team needs leadership people to make the many decisions and to keep the records.
  5. Fairness – As with almost any team, there will be times of divisiveness where fairness will be questioned.  With a blackjack team, questions about how the bankroll will be split, how often each member will play, how profits will be split and so on.  You don’t have to worry about fairness when you play by yourself, you get exactly what you played for.


Card counting as a team is not easy per se, it takes a lot of practice and dedication. However, if done correctly, as your team starts beating the house, it becomes worth it! 

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The insurance bet in blackjack is easily the biggest sucker bet in blackjack.  In fact, most blackjack books and instructors will tell you that this bet should almost never be taken.

The insurance bet is a side bet that the dealer has blackjack, after seeing that his upcard is an ace.  It usually pays 2-1 odds.

Based on mathematical theory and projections, the dealer will have a blackjack only about 4 times in every 13 times he shows an Ace.  So, if you were to make a $5 insurance bet on 13 different hands, you would win 4 bets, for a total of $40, but lose 9 bets for a total of $45!  In the long run, you’d be losing money with the insurance bet. Think about it, why would a casino offer a bet that they would not have the odds in their favor?

Novice players make the bet because they want to “protect” their blackjack that they have hit.  What they don’t think about is that they will win or lose their hand, with no difference, whether they take insurance or not.  There is nothing to protect!  If you try to protect your 21, and the dealer does have twenty-one, you’ve broken even because you’ve made that second bet of insurance.

A blackjack usually pays 3:2 odds and insurance pays 2:1 odds.  So, let’s say you’re betting $5 and get a 21, but want to make the insurance bet (usually half the original bet) of $2.50. If the dealer does have 21, you win $5 on the insurance bet and push on your original bet. So, you’ve bet a total of $7.50 and got back a total of $10 (original $5 bet and $5 insurance bet win), winning $2.50. Now, let’s say you make the insurance bet and the dealer doesn’t have 21.  You lose $2.50 on the insurance bet, but win $7.50 on the original bet.  You bet a total of $7.50 and got back $12.50, (original $5 and $7.50 win) winning a total of $5.

Why waste the half-bet when it will only win 4 out of 13 times?  If you have 21 and the dealer doesn’t (which is most of the time), you’ve given back half a bet.  Why throw away half a bet? Don’t take insurance!

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Blackjack Plus

This is a variant said to be found only in New Zealand and Australia.  The versions are slightly different, so there are variances in the variant!

The basic rule changes, followed in both versions, that make this variant interesting are:

  • Five-card Charlie (non-busted 5 card hand, automatic win)
  • Blackjack and 21-point hands automatically win
  • Dealer receives one card, until all players actions have been completed (known as European style dealing)
  • Six standard decks are used
  • If dealer totals 22, it is a push for all players with cards remaining
  • Blackjack pays even money


New Zealand Rules

  1. Dealer hits on soft 17
  2. Player can double on any two-card hard total
  3. Player can double after splitting
  4. Player cannot re-split
  5. Split Aces receive only 1 card

Australian Rules

  1. Dealer stands on soft 17
  2. Player can double on any 2 or 3 card hand, totaling less than 21
  3. Player can double after splitting
  4. Player can re-split only once
  5. Player cannot re-split Aces
  6. Blackjacks pay 3-2


Fortunately, the use of basic Blackjack strategy is suggested when playing Blackjack Plus.

Unfortunately, the rules changes in this version actually give “the house” a greater advantage. The house edge in a standard Blackjack game is said to be about 1.5%.  However, because of the rules variations in Blackjack Plus (mainly the dealer “pushing” with 22), the house edges jumps to as much as 6.36%!

Obviously, this makes Blackjack Plus one of the worst variants ever created for a player.


On the surface, the differences appear to be intriguing enough to take the challenge of playing.  However, this variant was created by casinos to fool the uninformed player. The best strategy for a player in this game is to NOT play the game!  I would bet that you would have a lot more fun playing the boring traditional Blackjack and winning, than playing this version and losing quickly!

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