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The reason for blackjack's popularity

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One of the reasons that blackjack is among the world's most popular games is surely its simplicity. Yet as is the case with many casino games, a lot of potential players stay away from the blackjack tables completely oblivious to just how easy it is to play. Almost everyone knows the basic 21/bust gist of the game, but what about its few intricacies?

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Understanding the best strategy for blackjack can be a lot to handle, but that's what cheat sheets are for. In terms of knowing all the rules, there really isn't much. I briefly went over the blackjack basics in a column a few months back. Now let's strictly take a look at terminology, along with how some of the rules effect the expected win rate.

Following is a list of blackjack concepts that are necessary to understand:

Expected Win Rate - The expected win rate is the percentage of the total amount of money wagered that you can expect to win or lose over time (provided you play perfect strategy). Each of blackjack's rules has an effect on the expected win rate.

Natural - another word for "blackjack," this is a two-card hand worth 21 points, The only way to get one is to be dealt an ace along with a 10 or a face card. Something to keep in mind: a natural typically pays 1.5 to 1. If you find a table that offers 2 to 1 pay-outs for naturals, grab it because your increase in expected win rate is 2.3 percent.

Surrender - This is a rule (not available at all tables) that allows you to bail out of a hand if it looks like you're going to lose. When you surrender, you give up half your bet for the privilege of not playing out the hand. Having the option of surrendering increases your expected win rate by 0.7 percent.

Shoe - The shoe is the box that holds the cards being dealt. Players who count cards in an effort to determine the likeliness of certain cards being dealt have a much higher success rate when there are fewer decks in the shoe. The amount of decks in the shoe typically varies from one to six.

Penetration - This is the amount of cards that are dealt before the dealer reshuffles all the cards in the shoe. The lower the penetration, the lower the chances of counting cards effectively.

Hard/soft Hands - Any blackjack hand that doesn't contain an ace valued at 11 is a hard hand. For example, 8-9 is a hard 17, as is 6-10-A. A soft hand is any hand that contains an ace that's valued at 1. For example, 6-A is a soft 17. In terms of the expected win rate, you want to avoid tables at which the dealer hits soft 17, as the rule lowers the expected win rate by 0.2 percent.

Stand - Standing is when you don't take any more cards.

Hit - To hit is to take another card.

Split - Players can split hands after two cards are dealt if the two cards are of the same value. You automatically double your bet when splitting.

Double Down - This is when you turn your cards face-up, double your bet and receive one and only one more card. The expected win rate increases by 0.14 percent when you're allowed to double down after splitting pairs. You can typically only double down after the first two cards are dealt. Tables that allow you to double down on any number of cards increase the expected win rate by 0.24 percent.

Up Card - The up card is the card in the dealer's hand that is face up for all players to see before they play their hands.

Hole Card - The hole card is the card that's face down. You don't learn the value of the hole card until after you play your hand.

Insurance - Insurance is a side bet that the dealer has a natural. It's only offered when the dealer's up card is an ace. If the dealer has a natural, the insurance bet wins double. If the dealer doesn't have a natural, the insurance bet loses.

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