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Losing at blackjack is often the result of dumb mistakes. But if you want to take the game seriously, you can improve your chances significantly. Follow these steps:

Use a perfect basic strategy

Play each hand correctly. Playing perfectly in a game that uses six decks, reduces the house advantage six-tenths of 1%. Get a laminated strategy cardfrom a blackjack book or from the casino. It will tell you the best moves to make. Many dealers will let you use it as long as you don't slow the game.

As an example, ask for another card when your cards total 16 and the dealer has a 7, 8, 9, 10 or ace showing.

Avoid the most common mistakes

C Don't play hunches - stick to strategy; deviations lower your odds.

C Follow a set strategy - If you have a pair of eights and the dealer has ten, split them---turn both face up and ask for two cards face down. This doesn't mean you'll win, but it will lower your odds of losing.

Always "double down" (bet more)

Do this when your chance of winning is greater than the dealer's. Follow strategy card guidelines.

Alter betting in selected situations

Betting the same amount hand after hand gives the house a slight advantage. Raise your bets gradually as you win. If you bet $2 and win, bet $4 on the next hand. If you win again, bet $6. If you lose, go back to $2. Conntnue the formula.

Know when to leave a table

After the loss of three or four hands, find a new table. If you're having a cold streak, this prevents the house from wearing you down.

Play in shifts

If you have $100 to play, change tables after losing $20. Keep moving to new tables after each $20 is lost. Your money will last longer and you get a fresh start at each table.

Try card counting

In a game that only uses one or two decks, you don't have be a pro to do some basic counting. It's much tougher in six-deck games. For example, if lots of low cards (two through six) have been played, high cards should follow. Raise your bets. When the opposite occurs, lost of aces and tens, the dealer has the advantage.

Now, you're ready. Don't forget your strategy card.