Basic Blackjack Strategy
Blackjack is a game of chance and skill, with an element of player choice. It is the only casino game where players can reduce the house advantage to a small percentage by following basic strategy. Basic strategy determines when to hit or stand, and when to double down or split. There are slight variations in basic strategy depending on the exact house rules and number of decks in play.
The dealer’s first card is dealt face down, and the second card is flipped over and slid underneath. This enables the players to make an Insurance bet, which pays out one-half of the original bet if the dealer has a Blackjack. This is a side bet and not an integral part of the game, but it is an excellent way to even up your odds against the dealer.
If your hand is closer to 21 than the dealer’s, you win the round and are paid your original wager. If both hands are equal, it’s a push and no bets are exchanged. The dealer’s only hope is that the player busts, but this is rare and the dealer will usually win the round with a higher hand-total than the player’s.
After all the players have made their decisions, the dealer will check her hole card (using a special window in the table). If she has a ten underneath, she has a blackjack and wins everyone’s original bet. She will also pay out the 2-1 insurance bets. If she doesn’t have a ten, the game continues as normal.
The cards are swept up and the next round begins. However, some casinos deviate from this protocol. For example, some dealers will allow players to buy insurance on a soft 17 (Ace + a card whose value is ten). This gives the dealer a 0.4 percent edge and should be avoided. Some casinos will also pay 6 to 5 on blackjacks, which increases the house edge by 1.4 percent.
Many players use a technique called “counting” to increase their chances of winning. Counting involves keeping a running total of the values of the cards as they are played, and is usually done with multiple decks at a time. It is not as easy as it sounds and requires practice to do correctly. Casinos are wise to this and monitor players to look for this type of activity.
Blackjack dealers are required to have a high level of math competence in order to deal cards and communicate the status of a hand to their guests. They often use mental math during the course of a hand to keep a running total and communicate it quickly. This is an important skill, because it enables them to communicate to their guests the chances of each player’s hand beating the dealer’s. This information is very useful to players and can help them decide whether to hit, stand, or fold. Blackjack is a fast-paced game, and being able to count the cards quickly helps to keep up the pace.