Basic Blackjack Strategy
Blackjack is a card game that pits the dealer against the players. Each player is dealt two cards and may decide whether to hit (ask for another card) or stand (stick with the current hand). The object of the game is to collect a higher total than the dealer without going over 21. The game is played with one or more standard 52-card decks. The value of each card is the number on it, or its face-value if it is a picture card. An ace is special, it can be counted as either 1 or 11.
Each player is in competition with the dealer and not other players at the table. The other players’ decisions won’t influence yours, nor will their bets, says Frank Scoblete, author of Beat Blackjack Now. “Stick to basic strategy,” he advises. “This never guarantees you a win, but it greatly improves your odds.”
Before playing, know the rules of the game. You must always bet the minimum amount to get in, and you can make a maximum bet of as much as your chips will allow. You can also split a pair of cards, or double down on a hand you believe will be strong enough to defeat the dealer’s.
The game begins with the dealer dealing two cards to each player, face up. Most casinos are now moving toward dealing the players’ cards face up as well, which makes it harder for cheaters to peek at their hands.
If a player’s first two cards are an ace and a 10, or a total of 21, they have a “natural” and win the game. The dealer will pay out the player one and a half times their bet.
Hitting – When you’re satisfied with your current two cards, you can signal the dealer that you want another card by scraping your finger on the table or waving your hand over the top of your cards. This will cause the dealer to deal you one more card, but if this causes your total to go over 21, you bust and are out of the game.
Standing – When you’re happy with your two cards, you can signal that you wish to stand by placing a finger on the table or waving your hand towards yourself. The dealer will then place one more card from the shoe on the bottom of your original two cards.
Insurance – If the dealer has an ace as his upcard, he will offer you insurance. This is a side bet that pays out 1:1 on your original bet if the dealer has a blackjack. It isn’t generally advisable to take the insurance bet because it gives the house an edge of over 1%.
There are many ways to improve your chances of winning at blackjack, from studying card counting techniques to learning the best time to hit or stand. The most important thing to remember is that you must be prepared for the unexpected. If you’re not, you can lose a lot of money very quickly.