The Basics of Blackjack

Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games and is a game of skill, luck and strategy. Players compete against the dealer in a head-to-head match to make a winning hand of 21 or as close to it as possible. While the house edge for a bad player can be as high as 4-5%, it tumbles to as low as 0.5% for players who follow a sound strategy.

To play blackjack, each player must place a wager on the table before the deal begins. The minimum bet amount varies from casino to casino and is posted on a placard on the table or displayed on a digital sign.

Once the bets are placed, the dealer deals each player two cards. Each player has the option to hit, stand or split their pair. Some casinos restrict the card ranks that can be split and/or the number of times a hand may be doubled.

Hitting is when you ask the dealer to give you another card. A hand of a Ten valued card and an Ace is called a blackjack or natural, and beats all hands except for another blackjack. If the dealer has a blackjack, it is considered a push, and neither the player nor the bank wins the round.

Insurance is a side bet that you can make against the dealer when they show an Ace as their face up card. If they have a ten, your original bet is lost (you are out $10) but you win the money you bet on insurance (2-to-1) from the casino. This is how the casino makes its profit on insurance.

Taking Insurance is not always a good idea. If the dealer has a ten as their face up card and you have a blackjack, they will pay you out and your original bet will remain in play (you don’t lose any money). If you have a seventeen and they have an ace, you should stand. The dealer will bust with any other value and you will have a better chance of beating them with your hand.

The best blackjack players memorize the basic strategy charts. It is not easy to do, but it is essential for improving your odds of beating the dealer. These charts will tell you what to do given the value of your hand and the dealer’s up card. It won’t be 100% perfect, but following the chart will improve your chances of winning more often than not. And it’s much easier to learn than a complicated betting system that requires you to be able to do a handstand in a hurricane while listening to Count Von Count on Sesame Street. This is the type of blackjack knowledge that Las Vegas was built on. It takes intentional practice to commit the rules to memory.