Blackjack is one of the few casino games where skill, rather than luck, can make you a winner. A good understanding of basic strategy can reduce the house advantage to a tiny percentage and turn the game into a real moneymaker for you.
There are a few key rules to remember. First, always hit your total over the dealer’s if you can. Then, split aces and eights, but never split faces or fives. Always double when you have a soft hand against the dealer’s up card, but don’t do it with a hard total of 12 or higher (that would be a bust). And finally, never buy insurance; this side-bet is a big money-maker for casinos and has a negative expected value for players.
Before the deal, the player can choose to either buy insurance or surrender their hand. They are also allowed to increase their bet amount if they wish. They may only ask for more cards if they are satisfied with their total or go over 21 (bust). The dealer will then draw cards until she has a hand of at least 17. If the dealer has a blackjack, the player loses.
Unlike most other casino games, blackjack is played against the dealer, not other players at the table. Unlike other card games, the dealer doesn’t have an upcard or a holecard, and you can’t see their card as they play. This gives the dealer a slight statistical advantage that will play out over the long run, but you can dramatically reduce this edge with a simple strategy.
The ideal way to learn this is by studying blackjack strategy charts. These will tell you the correct plays for every situation in which you find yourself. They will also help you to improve your odds by indicating when it is necessary to hit, stand, double down or split. The charts are based on millions of hands played, so you can be sure that they will work for you in any casino with standard rules.
As you practice, you will be able to memorize the chart and use it instinctively. However, you should remember that blackjack is a game of probabilities, and even the best chart will have small deviations based on the exact rules at any given casino. For instance, some casinos allow the dealer to hit a soft 17 while others require them to stand on that hand. Also, the number of decks used in the game can change the odds significantly.
You can further improve your odds by playing at a table that pays 3:2 on blackjacks, which is the optimal payout. In addition, you should look for a table that requires the dealer to stand on a soft 17, as this will significantly improve your chances. You should also avoid tables that offer a reduced payout on blackjacks (6:5) or even money.